The LinkedIn 2023 Most In-Demand Skills Report is out and while there are some surprises, it also confirms a great many things that I’ve been teaching and talking about on the podcast – It’s not just hard skills and knowledge that’ll get you hired. Human skills are the most important and in demand – Yes, I prefer to call them human skills or people skills instead of soft skills – I think it’s more accurate. So, how can you gain and improve human skills? Stay tuned to find out!
The assumption that most companies and individuals make is that people are hired because of their knowledge and skills for the job, which is partly true. However, there is a vast divide between qualification for a job and the performance of a job.
Let’s look at it this way. When I was hiring into my agency, the first thing I looked for was communication skills. I wanted people who could talk, present, and lead client strategy. This meant that they would have to communicate competently through emails, phone conversations, and presentations in front of internal and external audiences.
There needed to be a competent and dynamic edge and likeability for each candidate, as my goal for them was to be the client-facing representative of my agency. I hired them for those qualities. Those are the people skills that seem to be intangible, but you know it when you see it.
Hard skills, such as SEO, Social Media, Digital marketing, and the associated tactics were all teachable with established methods and frameworks. As long as the candidate was curious, teachable, and an enjoyable member of the team, there was a perfect fit.
But there were some that had the hard skills, knew the industry, and were very intelligent. But if I was not confident that they could give a dynamic presentation in front of a client, then they would be limited in their career. There were some that plateaued in their role, being comfortable, and either refused or resisted change and improvement to their skill set. Of course, this limited their prospects in a dynamic and changing industry.
This is why I look forward to the LinkedIn skills report every year. For starters, it confirms my approach to training and hiring in this industry. It also has been showing, through the years, the changing trend from assessing candidates based on education and experience to focusing more on human skills.
In the overall list of 10 most in-demand skills across all companies in all industries, listen to these:
10 Skills companies need the most
- Customer Service
- Project Management
- Analytics Skills
The people skills, management, communication, customer service, leadership, sales, marketing, teamwork, 7 of the top 10 skills in demand and the classic soft skills – humans skills!
They all involve interaction with people. They involve problem solving, creative thinking, psychology, empathy and intuition. Some of these may take additional training to refine and develop, such as customer service, sales, and marketing. Some require experience to gain insights, such as management, leadership, project management, and teamwork. No one is born with a complete skill set, but each of these can be developed and grown.
Sure, it may be easier for some than others to acquire, develop, and exert these skills. I completely understand that. As it’s said, some people are born leaders, others grow into leadership. My mother always said that I was a born salesperson, as I explored many ways of manipulation, err I meant persuasion, yeah – that the word – to get the things I wanted.
I’ve had to learn the other side of things, like organization, frameworks, systems in order to be a more effective leaser, teacher and consultant. We all have gaps to fill and even the things that come naturally need to be developed and refined.
Of this list, maybe three could be described as hard skills: project management, research, analytics. But even then, I would challenge any notion that makes these a hard-skill only. With any of these areas, you may spend 90% of your time in spreadsheets, data, or process, but ultimately, to be successful, you will be presenting your results to someone. And how you present will influence their judgement of your competency, motivation, and ability. Knowing the data is one part. Communicating it with a clear message and persuasive influence is another.
The industry is hungry for these types of skills. Even looking at non-marketing industries – here are the top skills in demand in the finance, accounting, engineering, Information Technology, project management and sales industries:
Finance/Accounting – Engineering, IT, Project Management, Sales
- Analytical Skills
- Customer Service
Yes, even non-marketing industries that are focused on education, hard skills and process are demanding people skills!
I find it very interesting that analytics skills are consistently appearing in the in-demand skills lists, regardless if industry. They are showing up right alongside communication and marketing skills. At this point, anyone reading through this point can pinpoint the trend: Regardless of industry, this is what employers are looking for: marketers who are proficient in handling data and are able to create and communicate a marketing strategy.
Here’s the thing, I don’t see deep data skill. Very few are asking for data scientists, which is a much deeper level of handling data.
When it comes to analytics skills, I am seeing three areas of demand.
First, is a demand for the ability to understand how to create strategy from organizational objectives and develop clear goals and measurements that support the strategy and show results that directly relate to the objectives.
I’ll break that down even further. If the goal of an organization is to drive qualified leads, then you will be able to define what a qualified lead means, develop a clear strategy to acquire them, define the data that is necessary to measure a qualified lead, and report back the numbers of qualified leads produced.
If the goal of your organization is to drive app downloads, then you have a single number to report – app downloads. No one will care how many likes you got on your social accounts, because likes don’t mean downloads. Understanding that – and all of the activity in between displays your ability to create clear campaigns that meet objectives.
Second, it is an ability to work with and analyze data. Knowing where to find the data you need, how to work with it to ask and answer questions, develop comparisons, connect to value, and find opportunities. This requires not just a data-centric view, but also an understanding of how the business works and what drives revenue or efficiency, and how to optimize for conversions. It’s not just data here, but data plus user experience, user interfaces, usability, accessibility, design and persuasion.
This requires someone who asks incredible questions and is able to find the data to answer those questions, propose optimization and improvements and show the results of the optimization! The ability to diagnose friction in a website, or a process and back it up with data.
Third, the ability to report the data in a concise, persuasive, and compelling manner. No executive has the time to sit through a 100 slide analytics report that features copy and pasted data tables! IN reality, the best data presentations are only a few minutes long because the directly report to the objective and what was done or being done to achieve or surpasses the objective. State the purpose, make your ask clear, show the data and present it as a story with a compelling visual – and be ready to answer questions.
Get familiar with Hillburn’s Law of Data intentionality – there are two main points:
Were you intentional about gathering the right data? This inherently means that there is a specific question that you need to answer. When you know the question, then you’ll, be intentional about the data you need to answer the questions.
Second, are you intentional about how you will display the data? This means that you’ll fcus on how to present the relevant data that answers the question. I love reports that have the question – related to the organizational objectives at the top – and the answer is immediately presented in a powerful , developed visual. You don’t answer questions with copy and pasted dat tables! Very rarely does one data table give you the story you need to tell. No, you need to curate that data to present it in a singular compelling visual narrative – that answers the question.
Now, let’s break down the final category – Marketing careers. What are the top 10 skills in demand in marketing?
- Social Media
- Digital Marketing
- Marketing Strategy
- Project management
- Customer Service
Social Media – which is a phrase big enough to drive a truck through. I think this reflects a number of things – starting with companies that don’t know what they want and using social media as a catch-all phrase. Exactly what are social media skills? Employers need to define this, and do some homework.
But let’s look at it this way – do you want someone who can post on your Instagram, or someone who can develop an audience that is eager to hear and see content from your organization ?
Do you want someone who does TikTok dances to gain followers, or someone who is proficient in developing media and messages that properly communicate the value of your company?
There is so much more to the world of social media and it is obvious that businesses and employers simply do not know how to define the need or show enough understanding of it to ask for a clear skill.
It reminds me of where website marketing was 20 years ago when companies would ask for websites and SEO, and their stated goal was to increase visits. I had to press them to find out the real motivation, nut the unfortunate assumption was that more visits equaled more revenue. It took years of effort to re-educate people that visits is not a direct indicator of revenue – or profit!
We’re back to the same place with social media. There are lots of metrics to distract people, and hiring managers, HR, employers who don’t list a specific social media skill that reflects their goal? – they are equating likes with revenue.
Tnis is where you as a candidate have a chance to shine. Ask the right questions when they ask about social media – what is their goal, how do they wan to achieve it? Is it a direct impact, or indirect? What is the real skill that they are asking for such as audience development, sales, content creation, or video production? Knowing the right questions to ask will make you look the genius, while maybe exposing the lack of social media maturity within an organization.
The third most in-demand skill in marketing is, well, digital marketing.
I just ranted about social media being a stand-alone category, and now we have this. What comprises digital marketing? Technically social media falls into that, but also content marketing, search engine optimization, conversion optimization, paid media, paid social, email marketing, website design, app design, usability, accessibility… oh – and the ability to persuade people to do something through all of this. So that means sales, writing, design, promotion, persuasion – there’s a bit of everything wrapped up on someone who says digital marketing…
But let’s look at this another way.
Let’s look at it in terms of perceived organizational needs that a company is attempting to fill through hiring.
They have needs in social media, digital marketing, analytics, customer service, project management advertising, and strategy.
They want these needs to be filled by people who have management, leadership, communication, and sales skills. Does that make more sense? This list is not just a list of skills, it’s a description of the ideal candidate and what they bring to the table for a company. It’s needs of a company and the desired capabilities and qualities of a candidate who has skills in those needs.
It looks to me that most companies describe their ideal candidate as poorly as their last RFP. Undefined, unclear, and full of jargon.
But here’s the good news. This allows you, as a candidate to distinguish yourself. IN your interview, you have the chance to define what all of this means. Start simple – what do they mean by digital marketing skills, what do they mean by analytics skills – what analytics are involved, what is the objective, what kids of data are being acquired, analyzed, reported, what is the objective of the company?
Ask enough of these questions and you should be able to determine the culture of the company within minutes. On the good side, you may be creating a position and creating value for your knowledge and people skills. ON the downside, you may realize that this is not a good fit for you – but hey – that is also a god thing to know that a presented opportunity is not always a good opportunity, which gives you the confidence to walk away from a potentially bad situation.
Before I close this podcast, there was a part of the skills report that I wanted to highlight. It was a major heading a a quote. The heading was this: “Don’t overemphasize university education.”
Wow. I don’t think that could be said any clearer. University education is not as valuable as it used to be, and it has shown to be deficient in digital marketing. This is why I usually went for people with a background in PR or Journalism – those who learned to write well and put ideas into words – that is a primary hard skill that can be used across a variety of jobs. Digital marketing – by itself, well….it gets dated, quickly. And those with a digital marketing degree were already behind when they hit the job market, as most undergraduate programs suffer from the inability to update content.
Here’s the quote, from Yscaira Jimenez Chief Innovation Officer, Opportunity@Work
“Too often, people leaders and hiring managers confuse formal education with training and skills. Industry certification is often more relevant than a college degree from 20 years ago. For both internal and external candidates, people leaders must prioritize what’s required, what’s nice to have, and what’s trainable. –
I love this. Industry certifications are highly valuable – but research all your options before you commit. Not all programs are the same, and not all teach with the same methods. Being in the training developing industry, I’ve provided content to nearly all the major training companies. And here’s what Ive found:
- Most are video-only platforms; pay your money, watch videos, take a multiple choice test. Completion rates for these courses are 1% or less. Why? because watching videos is boring.
- Content updates. Some of the largest training companies haven’t updated their content in years. They may promote themselves as having expert instructors and the latest up-to-date content, but chances are those instructors created that content 5 or more years ago, and updates are patched like band-aids.
- Course advisors. Again, some of the major training companies realized that completion rates are low and have attempted to fill this gap by retaining advisors or expert instructors to give feedback and project assessments. Again, they will advertise having big-name expert instructors, but the teaching assistant or advisor probably has 2-3 years’ experience. None of these companies offer a competitive or reasonable retainer for advisors, so you typically end up with someone with ittle experience who is willing to work for rates well below the industry average.
If you are seeking a certification, or considering one, check out my OMCP certification course at learn.sitelogic.com. I get around all of these pitfalls by being the one who develops the content, updates it, and coaches each student. I evaluate all of the assignments and provide personalized feedback.
Of, and those assignments are designed to give you practice in presenting information and recommendations within your organization, because it’s not just the hard skills, but your human skills in presentation, both written and spoken that are critical for your career advancement.