What Are Job Skills and Why Do They Matter?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

The right combination of skills could be the key to landing your next job.

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Job skills are all the skills you use to complete your work – from workplace skills like time management to technical skills like programming. 

While credentials like degrees are still desirable, more and more employers are turning to skills-based hiring in order to fill positions. According to LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, for example, the company saw two connected trends occur in just two years: the number of jobs that didn’t require a degree grew on the platform by nearly 40 percent between 2019 and 2020, and the number of job listings focusing on skills and responsibilities rather than credentials grew by 21 percent between 2020 and 2021 [1].

Job skills, then, are beginning to matter more and more. In this article, you will expand your understanding of job skills with detailed definitions and examples, learn how to use them on your resume, and find out what the top job skills currently are based on Coursera’s own user research. 

What are job skills?

As noted above, job skills are the entire collection of skills we use in the course of our work. Types of skills that fall under the category of job skills include the following:

  • Workplace skills: The personal skills that ensure you do your job well, such as being adept at teamwork, time management, or solving problems. Occasionally, some refer to these as “human skills,” “employability skills,” or “soft skills.”

  • Technical skills: The skills that relate to technical or job-specific knowledge, such as the ability to code in Python, conduct data analysis, or use specific accounting software. These are sometimes called “hard skills.”

  • Transferable skills: The workplace and technical skills that you can take from one job to another, such as when someone uses their aptitude for teamwork and their ability to code in Python to change careers from being a programmer to being a STEM educator. Transferable skills are any of the various skills that you can transfer between jobs. 

There are many ways to acquire job skills. While in some cases they might simply be a part of your personality, in other cases you may have learned them through formal education or work experience. Whatever your skill level, though, you can always maintain old ones and learn new ones through practice. 

Job skills example

If we do something often enough, it can become so natural to us that we forget it is actually a skill that many others may not possess.  In effect, it can be helpful to read examples of others employing their skills to help you identify your own. 

The following examples describe hypothetical people alongside a list of likely skills that they employ as they are maneuvering their unique life circumstances. As you are reading through it consider what defines your situation you may even be surprised to realize how many skills you already possess. 

ExampleSkills
A high schooler who regularly organizes a weekly schedule and organizes study groups with peersProject management
Coordination
Teamwork
An accountant who goes through cases alone every afternoonAccounting software
Attention to detail
Ability to work independently
A server who works routinely during busy periodsCommunication skills
Ability to work under pressure
Point-of-sale (POS) system
A single parent who coordinates with family and friends to ensure their child is watched while they are workingPlanning
Responsibility
Problem solving
A UX designer who leads a team at a tech startupLeadership
Management skills
CSS

Find out the difference between “hard” skills and “soft skills” and how your transferable skills might be the key to landing your next job.

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Top job skills for 2022

Every year, Coursera compiles a report detailing the top job skills that learners have been developing on the platform. The report describes the key skills that some 92 million learners have been developing over the past year. If you are looking to identify the most relevant skills for the near future, then you will likely find the following job skills lists useful.

The report is broken down into two sections: a human skills section, which describes the workplace skills users are developing, and a digital skills section, which describes the technical digital skills users are learning.  

Top human skills for 2022

  • Communication: The ability to effectively communicate ideas to diverse audiences through various media

  • Change management: Systematically helping individuals or organizations change their processes, goals, or technologies

  • Professional development: Learning new skills or reinforcing old ones to excel in a career 

  • Storytelling: The ability to craft engrossing narratives that engage audiences

  • Planning: The ability to identify goals and create a concrete path toward accomplishing them

  • Influencing: The ability to create change and impact decisions through communication

  • Decision making: The ability to make informed decisions by collecting information, analyzing it, and creating alternative choices

  • Problem solving: Systematically identifying problems and then developing concrete solutions to fix them

  • People sevelopment: Helping other individuals or teams develop their own skills

  • Human resources: Planning and management of an organization’s various administrative functions, such as the hiring of new staff 

Top digital skills for 2022

  • Product design:  The process of developing product ideas and turning them into  tangible products

  • Plotting data: Visually representing data by plotting them on graphs

  • User experience design: Subset of design that specifically focuses on the ways that users interact with the product

  • Statistical visualizations: Graphic representation of statistics through graphs and other visually descriptive media

  • Security strategy: Identifying and detailing security threats alongside ways to deal with them

  • Cloud infrastructure:  Software and hardware that supports cloud computing

  • Supply chain system: Organization and management of the supply lines that move goods from suppliers to customers

  • Social media: The various online platforms that allow individuals and communities to share information among themselves and one another. In business, they are often used for marketing purposes

  • Operations management: The practice of managing and designing business processes and operations to maximize efficiency

  • Business process management: The practice of optimizing a business’ various processes, such as onboarding new employees, through a range of research, analysis, and modeling methods 

Adapted from Coursera’s Job Skills of 2022 [2]

Job skills for resumes 

Job skills—both workplace and technical—are very important to employers as they are looking to fill positions. Many employers are increasingly concerned with finding applicants with relevant skills rather than those that simply possess credentials [3]

In part, this may have to do with the increasing sense that many college graduates are not well-prepared for the working world. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, only 34 percent of college graduates strongly believe that they have the knowledge and skills required to be successful in the job market [4]

As many graduates enter the workforce with impressive credentials but little confidence in their own abilities, hiring for the right skills has become increasingly important. 

Resume screening: Job skills as keywords

To deal with the large number of job applications they receive, many companies today use automated systems to pre-screen resumes. These systems, sometimes called applicant tracking systems, scan through resumes using unique parameters to identify qualified applicants, particularly by identifying keywords describing relevant job skills. 

Unfortunately, while the systems are well-suited to efficiently parse large numbers of applications, they also have been found to disregard qualified applicants that have not optimized their resumes for the system [5]

Try to use the same phrasing or keywords that employers used in their job listing to describe your particular job skills. Follow these steps to help identify keywords and phrases to use on your resume:

1. Find a job listing that appeals to you and read through the job description.

2. Identify the specific skills you have gained either through prior work experience or education that are relevant to the job based on the description.

3. Adapt your resume to the job by using the exact keywords and phrases to describe the job skills that you already possess. For example, if you see a job posting asking for an applicant adept at “conflict resolution,” then you might use that phrasing to describe your skill set rather than the similar phrase “dispute resolution.”

4. Make sure your resume is easy to scan by using a clean and straightforward layout. While it may be tempting to use flashy graphics, many systems struggle to read overly designed resumes; thus, they can inadvertently overlook important job-relevant information. 

Consider putting a job description into an online word frequency program to identify the skills that are repeated throughout the listing—these are likely the most important skills to an employer. 

Some free online text analyzers include Lexicool and Online Utility.

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Next steps 

Whether you are looking to switch careers or further the one you already have, you might consider taking a flexible online course to expand your skill set. Depending on your goals, Professional Certificates can act as a way to build skills in fields like social media marketing, project management, and data analysis for high-demand jobs. 

Related articles 

Article sources

1. Harvard Business Review. “You Need a Skills-Based Approach to Hiring and Developing Talent, https://hbr.org/2021/06/you-need-a-skills-based-approach-to-hiring-and-developing-talent.” Accessed December 17, 2021. 

2. Coursera. “The Job Skills of 2022: The Fastest-Growing Job Skills for Institutions, https://www.coursera.org/business/ebook/job-skills-of-2022/.” Accessed December 15, 2021. 

3. Harvard Business Review. “You Need a Skills-Based Approach to Hiring and Developing Talent, https://hbr.org/2021/06/you-need-a-skills-based-approach-to-hiring-and-developing-talent.” Accessed December 17, 2021. 

4. Gallup. “Half of College Students Say Their Major Leads to a Good Job, https://news.gallup.com/poll/225446/half-college-students-say-major-leads-good-job.aspx?g_source=ALL_GALLUP_HEADLINES&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles.” Accessed December 17, 2021. 

5. Harvard Business School. “Hidden Workers: Untapped Talent, https://www.hbs.edu/managing-the-future-of-work/Documents/research/hiddenworkers09032021.pdf.” Accessed December 13, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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