SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 24 July 2020Soft Skills: Why They are Harder Than You Think and How You Can Acquire Them
Now that you know what soft skills are, it’s time to learn about hard skills (Still don’t know what soft skills are? Brush up by reading part 1 of this three-part series.)
What are Technical skills?
Hard skills also referred to as technical (tech) skills are specific to an individual job, and can typically be found specifically listed out in the job posting. In other words, you either know it or you don’t. Black or white, yes or no. Most of the time you'll have to list out your hard skills when applying for a job, and in many cases, you’ll be tested on your hard skills during the interview process.
Tech skills are often listed in a dedicated skills section on a traditional resume, or alongside soft skills in a functional or hybrid resume. Technical skills are a great way to boost an employer’s confidence in you. These skills allow you to have deeper-than-average knowledge of modern systems and will make you infinitely more desirable among recruiters.
According to Forbes, the top 10 technical skills in demand for 2018 are:
1. Experience with AI
2. Skills To Envision, Design And Develop AR Apps
3. Data Science Talent
4. Mobile Application Development
5. Excellence In Cybersecurity
6. Talent For SaaS In The Cloud
7. Ability To Adapt To New Tech
8. Coding And Engineering Experience
9. Applied Machine Learning
10. Programming Knowledge
Having a range of these skills makes you a well-rounded individual. Most technical skills will only increase in demand. Web development, for example, will continue to grow as many internet users access the Web via smartphones and/or tablets. When asked about web development, Laura McGarrity, vice president of digital marketing strategy with Mondo said,
“This momentum shows no signs of slowing down as the mobile market is in demand more than ever. Developers and responsive designers will be faced with making the mobile device experience both easy to use and aesthetically pleasing to deliver a top-notch customer experience,”
As technical skills become more and more in demand, employers look for candidates that have the right mix of soft and technical skills. It’s important to broaden yourself and become more well-rounded. The whole point of being well-rounded is to gain knowledge, relate to more people and find new interests.
Having multiple skills show that you are more adaptable when tasked with projects that require a different approach than what you are used to and are able to work in new situations and working environments. A few examples
Although these technical skills might sound challenging, they aren’t impossible to obtain. But, how do you learn them?
Building tech skills:
One of the best things about hard skills is that they tend to be much easier to learn compared to soft skills. Technical skills are the tangible and practical skills that you can gain. With the right time and effort, they can be mastered through various channels.
Industries offer classes and certifications that prove you meet a specific level of expertise in a given skill. For example, professionals in the information technology sector would seek out certifications offered by reputable authorities. A network administrator might want to become certified in network administration by Cisco.
These certifications aren’t always free, but they are one of the best ways to gain and prove experience with a particular skill set. Certifications are one of the many ways to gain tech skills but not the only ones. Here is a list of the best ways to gain tech skills:
- Take Classes:
Classroom settings allow you to interact with experienced instructors, have a standardized study plan, access to prepared materials and conversations with other aspiring students. Many universities and community colleges offer courses and programs for technical and business communications, so be sure to make use of them!
- Read Up on Technical Books:
A great way to improve your skills is by reading about the technical skills that you lack. Simply reading about them is a great and cheap way to learn valuable skills that can help set you apart from the crowd. The great thing about these books is that you can choose your book based on your customized level of knowledge. You could either get books from your local library, search for them online or purchase them from bookstores.
It doesn’t just have to be books, try subscribing to technical websites, newsletters, emails, and magazines. This is a cost-effective way to keep yourself in the loop with the latest technological advancements. They help build your knowledge of skills, insights into innovation and give you tips on software. These give you a regular and constant update on the trends.
- Get Hands-on Experience:
Lookout for chances to volunteer on technical projects. Many universities are always seeking volunteers to help with technical projects, this is an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience that will help you learn and give you a better understanding of that skill. Volunteering can give you amazing opportunities to experience projects that you might not normally have access to.
- Go Through Tutorials:
The advantage that tutorials have over books is that they are free and more accessible. You can have access to them anytime, anywhere. Once you find a tutorial that best suits you, try applying what you learned in your everyday life. Because until you have used it yourself, you are only going to have a basic understanding of the concept. The best way to learn is by doing.
- Listen to Podcasts:
There are hundreds of podcasts out there to help build your technical skills. Like tutorials, podcasts can be free and easy to use. You can listen to them while you are cleaning the house, going for a run or eating your lunch. Just simply stick in your earphones and dream into the technical world.
It's not just listening to the podcast and being done with it, but listening with the intent of doing something with that knowledge. Make a goal and apply it. Only then will that knowledge stick, and you are able to start building those skills. Here are a few you can start listening to:
- Start a Side Project:
If you are feeling inventive and want to apply practical skills that you learned from reading in tech books or from listening to podcasts, then start a side project. It doesn't have to be a huge project, It could be as simple as creating an app, vlogging or creating your own website.
Find something that interests you or something you really want to work on and put it to the test. Make sure that you share your project with others so that you can get feedback to help you improve. You might also run into stumbling blocks so getting feedback from your peers will help give you ideas of how to overcome the barriers that will come your way.
- Shadow an Expert:
Whether it’s in a classroom, work or home setting, there are many experts out there that are willing to let you watch them work. By doing so you are allowing yourself to be exposed to the tech world. You can watch, explore and ask questions. This can be one of the best ways to build your skills.
Not only can you build your skills but often shadowing an expert can lead you to future job opportunities. Although shadowing an expert in person is ideal, you can also follow an expert on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Pay attention to what they do and ask questions if needed.
- Online Training courses:
Last but not least, taking online courses is also a great way to learn new technical skills. Online courses such as those found on Udemy, Pluralsight, CodeAcademy or Treehouse are great resources to learn new skills. Whether you want to learn how to code or take better pictures, you can find courses and resources to help you.
These classes are accessible from any computer and will help you boost your resume with a variety of technical skills. They’re also high- quality, informative, and full of useful content. These online courses are easy to use and can be done at your own pace. There are even a variety of homework assignments that will allow you to demonstrate the things you’ve learned from these courses.
For example, if you are working in marketing, you can take a course on graphic design, so you have a better understanding of design and can create your own mockups instead of having to wait for a designer to do it. Or you can take a writing course with the intent of pushing out better content. You could also learn data analytics so you can understand how to quantify your campaigns and online data.
- Additional strategies:
Learn a Second Language: With the world growing smaller every day, learning another language opens up a whole new list of possibilities with jobs that require bilingual or multilingual employees.
Never Settle: There is a never-ending supply of technical skills to learn. You can never have too many technical skills. The more skills you have, the better your chances of getting hired because employers value these skills.
Talk and Share: Talking with people that have a certain set of technical skills that you seek, is a great way to learn the basics of the skills and often, the person can offer insights regarding the best way of learning and continuing growth of that specific skill.
Mastering these new skills is a crucial way to upgrade your skill set and stand out from the crowd. When you limit yourself, you miss out on growing in your career. Don’t stay limited to what you know, make sure to utilize the resources you have available to you to strengthen your technical skills that will come in handy for your future jobs!
Companies value a person who can display a vast variety of technical skills. These skills are just as necessary as that degree you’ve been working so hard for. If you want to set yourself up for success, follow these strategies to master some new skills.
Although this post is about tech skills- don’t forget about those soft skills. Not sure what those are or how to improve yours?
Article Updated 9/28/2018