What Are Job Skills and Why Do They Matter?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

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

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Job skills are the various abilities you use to complete your work—from workplace skills like time management to technical skills like programming. 

Employers still value credentials like degrees, experience, and skills, which are vital in securing a position, at times, more than qualifications. This is especially true in technical roles where trends and innovation move so fast that skills gained from hands-on experience are important.

Job skills, then, 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 user research. 

What are job skills?

Job skills are the entire collection of skills you use to complete your work. They typically comprise the following:

  • Workplace skills: The personal skills that ensure you do your job well, such as 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 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 a programmer to a STEM educator. Transferable skills are any of the various skills that you can transfer between jobs. 

You’ll find many ways to acquire job skills. In some cases, they may be a part of your personality. In other cases, you may have learnt them through formal education or work experience. Whatever your skill level, you can constantly strengthen your current skill set and acquire new skills through practice. 

Examples of job skills

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

The following examples describe hypothetical people alongside a list of likely skills they employ as they maneuver in their unique life circumstances. As you read through it, think about the many skills you already possess. 

ExampleSkills
A learner who regularly organises a weekly schedule and organises 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 waiter 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 start-upLeadership Management skills CSS

Top job skills for 2024

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 some 92 million learners have evolved over the past year. If you want to identify the most relevant skills for the near future, you will likely find the following job skills lists useful.

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

Top workplace skills for 2024

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

  • Change management: Systematically helping individuals or organisations 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 fascinating 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, analysing it, and creating choices

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

  • People development: Helping other individuals or teams develop their skills

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

Top technical skills for 2024

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

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

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

  • Statistical visualisations: 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: Organisation 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 maximise efficiency

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

Adapted from Coursera’s Job Skills of 2023 [1]

Job skills for resumes 

Job skills—both workplace and technical—are very important to employers looking to fill positions. Many employers are increasingly concerned with finding applicants with relevant skills rather than simply possessing credentials [2]. It's important to showcase your unique talents on your resume. Let's review one of the key ways to do that.

Job skills as keywords

To deal with the large number of job applications they receive, many companies today use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to pre-screen resumes. These programs use algorithms to scan through resumes and identify qualified applicants by identifying keywords describing relevant job skills. 

Unfortunately, while the systems are well-suited to parse large numbers of applications efficiently, they also have been found to disregard qualified applicants who have yet to optimise their resumes for the system [3]. 

Try using the same phrasing or keywords employers use in job descriptions to highlight your 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. Take note of any required or preferred skills an employer wants candidates to have, and consider how your skill set fits.

3. Adapt your resume using the exact (or similar) keywords and phrases in your job description. For example, if you see a job posting asking for an applicant adept at "conflict resolution," then you might use that phrase to describe your skill set rather than the similar phrase "dispute resolution."

4. Make sure your resume is easily scanned using a clean and straightforward layout. A chronological resume is often best suited for this purpose. While using flashy graphics may be tempting, many systems need help to read overly designed resumes and may inadvertently overlook important information. 

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

Some free online text analysers include Lexicool and Online Utility.

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Next steps 

Develop or strengthen your skills by earning a Professional Certificate from industry leaders such as Google, Meta, IBM, Salesforce, and more on Coursera. Programmes take between four and seven months to complete, depending on the time you're able to dedicate, and are designed to teach you career-ready skills. You can learn more about social media marketing, project management, and data analytics, among other topics.

Give your team access to a catalogue of 8,000+ engaging courses and hands-on Guided Projects to help them develop impactful skills. Learn more about Coursera for Business.

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Article sources

1. Coursera. "Job Skills of 2023: The Fastest-Growing Job Skills for Institutions, https://www.coursera.org/business/ebook/job-skills-of-2022/." Accessed March 4, 2024. 

2. The Times of India. “Why Skill is More Important Than a Degree?, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/auykblogs/why-skill-is-more-important-than-a-degree-49093/.” Accessed March 4, 2024. 

3. Harvard Business School. "Hidden Workers: Untapped Talent, https://www.hbs.edu/managing-the-future-of-work/Documents/research/hiddenworkers09032021.pdf." Accessed March 4, 2024.

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