Top 15 skills employers look for in 2021

Innovations in video-conferencing technology, supply-chain management, and financial instruments in 2021 have made the type of skills that employers are looking for drastically different.

Thatcher Synder
Last Updated
April 27, 2021
Topics —

The past year has changed the skills employers look for. Our work lives have been transformed by the global pandemic, and the hiring environment is evolving as we speak. Innovations in video-conferencing technology, supply-chain management, and financial instruments have rendered 2021 a year apart. The job market, cocooned for over 12 months, has reemerged as a different creature. And it takes different skills to master.

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The past year has changed the skills employers look for. Our work lives have been transformed by the global pandemic, and the hiring environment is evolving as we speak. Innovations in video-conferencing technology, supply-chain management, and financial instruments have rendered 2021 a year apart. The job market, cocooned for over 12 months, has reemerged as a different creature. And it takes different skills to master. 

These skills break down into two categories: hard, and soft. 

Hard skills mean job-specific, technical expertise. Can you code in Python? Can you translate from German? They are what make a programmer a programmer, rather than a United Nations diplomat.

Soft skills allow you to integrate productively into the workplace. These skills are enduring, transferable. Can you communicate well? Can you work productively with others? 

Employers look for a mix of hard and soft skills. Ideal employees are experts in their chosen fields, as well as well-rounded human beings. 

In your job search, you should try to tick both boxes. 

Here are the top 7 hard skills employers look for in 2021

1. Cloud Computing

The cloud is a miracle. It lets you store and access data across an entire decentralized network. Cloud computing is also much more flexible than traditional hardware-based data storage. As a company scales, they integrate new technologies and structures into their extant systems. This can be a nightmare. Working within the cloud makes it much easier, and much cheaper, for companies to scale. Expertise in cloud computing is a must have for employers in 2021.

Read more about cloud computing: What is cloud computing?


2. Data Analysis

More people are connected online, networked in, than ever before. They communicate across time zones, across continents. This is also true for businesses. The pandemic accelerated the rate of digital transformation. This means more data to interpret. This means more data analysis. Data analysis is the process of cleaning up, interpreting, and transforming data into understandable and actionable insights. It’s essential for any business, especially now. 

Read more about data analysis: Data analysis—what, how, and why?

3. Search Engine Optimization

How do we search for new companies, new products? Predominantly through search engines (like Google). Companies use search engine optimization to make themselves easier to discover. SEO (as it’s often called) is crucial to the viability of a business. 

Ask yourself: if no one can find you, do you even exist?

Read more about search engine optimization: The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.


4. Software Engineering

There’s no internet, no website, no nothing—without code. In our increasingly online world, software engineers are indispensable. They create the products in which we live so much of our lives. Anything on a screen has a software engineer (or a team of engineers, or an army) right behind it. As companies conduct more and more of their business online, they require more and more software engineers. The market, here, is evergreen.

Read more about software engineering: What do Software Engineers Do?


5. Digital design

Companies live and die based upon how well their product works. And it’s the user, no one else, who determines a product’s utility. But the user doesn’t see a product’s backend. They don’t see the majority of the work that software engineers do. They see the storefront, and the products on the shelves. Digital design is the discipline of online beauty, and the craft of product creation. A well designed product sells. Period. Companies can’t get enough of good digital design. 

Read more about digital design: What Is Digital Design and Why Is it Important?


6. Business Analysis

Any successful company needs to keep a level head. It needs to know what it’s doing, and it needs to know what it can do better. That’s where business analysis comes in. Business analysis is about identifying opportunities. It’s about transforming businesses into the best versions of themselves. Business analysis requires vision, and analytical rigor. Employers can’t get enough of it.

Read more about business analysis: What Is Business Analysis?


7. Microsoft Office Suite (or equivalents)

Let’s end with a classic. The bread and butter of so many workplaces. Do you know how to operate an Excel spreadsheet? Can you link a coworker into your word document? The ability to operate the office suite (or a similar multipurpose suite of applications) is an absolute requirement for employers in 2021.

Read more about the Microsoft Office Suite: What are MS Office skills?

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Here are the top 7 soft skills employers look for in 2021


1.  Storytelling

This is the big kahuna. Look around the business world and you’ll see: storytelling matters. But what is it? Put simply, storytelling is the art of keeping people interested in what you find important. Sharpen your storytelling ability and it’ll help you land a job, keep a job, and be more effective at your job. From presentations to product design to statistical analysis, storytelling is what will set you apart from the crowd.

Read more about storytelling: Why Storytelling is a Must-Have Career Skill.

2. Adaptability

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the world can change in a second. You’ve got to be able to adapt to that. Adaptability, in a nutshell, is the ability to transform yourself to fit your surroundings. The market is a crazy place, liable to transform—in any way, on any day—into something totally unrecognizable. Businesses need to be adaptable to be successful. They need their employees to be adaptable, as well.

Read more about adaptability: Adaptability—The New Competitive Advantage.

3. Emotional Intelligence

This one’s become a buzzword, but it’s extremely useful. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence helps you manage stress, anxiety, boredom, anger, irritation, and any other feelings that may get in the way of your work performance. Emotional intelligence tells you when you need a break, or when some harsh feedback really isn’t about you. It helps you see the world more clearly, which makes it one of the top skills employers look for

Read more about emotional intelligence: Emotional Intelligence.

4. Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is huge. Employers are always on the lookout for people who care. They want employees with positive attitudes, employees invested in the work at hand. But enthusiasm goes beyond attitude. As a skill, enthusiasm is about finding things to be enthusiastic about. It goes hand in hand with emotional intelligence. Maybe you don’t care much about, say, selling insurance. But you can get enthusiastic about improving people’s peace of mind. Employers are looking for people who can make themselves enthusiastic. The skill is figuring out, always, how to do so.

Read more about enthusiasm: Enthusiasm and Attitude.


5. Dependability

Dependability means you’ll do what you say. It means you’re consistent, reliable, and honest. An effective workplace is characterized by dependable employees, employees who require the minimum amount of management. Dependability is about trust. It’s one of the major skills that employers look for. If you can demonstrate that you’re dependable, it’s a big advantage in the job market. 

Read more about dependability: Why Is Dependability Important for a Person to Have in the Workplace?

6. Creativity

Like jazz, abstract art, and poetry, creativity is the ability to make something new from the same old materials. Creativity is all about creating connections, discovering new paths forward for a business or product. Employers love creativity. It shows that you bring something unique to the table.

Read more about creativity: Creativity—Definition, Tips, and Examples.

7. Teamwork

It takes many, many people to make a successful company. And all those people have to work together. They have to talk with one another. They have to communicate effectively. Teamwork is the ability to work well with other people. All the work you’ll do will require you to collaborate with others. It’s important to employers that you’re good at it.

Read more about teamwork: Teamwork—The Most Vital ‘Soft Skill’?

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And here’s the most important skill employers look for in 2021


Drumroll please…


It’s Curiosity.

The desire to learn new things. This is the soft skill that makes all the hard skills possible. It drives enthusiasm, creativity, and adaptability. It generates enthusiasm. More than a skill, curiosity is a mindset. It’s what keeps you interested in the world, in the work. It’s the mindset employers are looking for.

Read more about curiosity: Forget Teaching Hard and Soft Skills. Activate Employee Curiosity Instead!

One Last Thing

At Parthean, we’ve created a platform for the curious individual. We know how difficult it can be to learn around other responsibilities, so we’re bringing the learning to you. We curate our lessons to your interests, creating a curriculum so that you can track your progress. Our lessons are paired with our community of dedicated learners. We want you to become part of our community, to add your curiosity to our own. 

Parthean is the most convenient way for you to learn everyday. 


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