Top 5 In-Demand Job Skills During COVID-19

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Ciera Graham, Ph.D.
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With 11 years of experience in student affairs, Ciera Graham, Ph.D., has supported students through college planning, career development, financial aid, and mental health. Ciera is also a writer, covering topics related to career development, diversi...
Published on November 18, 2020
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  • The economic fallout from COVID-19 has led to record unemployment in the U.S.
  • College students today feel less confident about landing a job post-graduation.
  • Critical job skills for pandemic-era job-seekers include data literacy and cultural competence.

Not only has COVID-19 impacted college and university operations, but it's also changed how many graduates feel about their careers and job prospects. A number of companies have instituted hiring freezes and canceled internships, affecting both students' overall employability and their opportunity to gain valuable on-the-job skills.

Currently, unemployment in the U.S. is dire. Since March, roughly 55 million people have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment. In a recent Indeed survey of over 1,000 soon-to-be college graduates, 54% reported that COVID-19's impact on the economy has made them feel less confident in finding work after they graduate. What's more, one-third believe they'll face challenges getting a job in their chosen industry. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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College students often choose their academic majors based on in-demand industries, but the pandemic has changed which industries are needed the most.

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The abrupt change to remote learning due to the coronavirus — coupled with students' uncertainty about their post-graduation career prospects — can be extremely stressful during a period of immense disruption to normality.

College students often choose their academic majors based on in-demand industries, but the pandemic has changed which industries are needed the most. While COVID-19 has forced many companies to shift their modes of operations, industries like travel, retail, food, and hospitality have been hit hard and are experiencing record job losses.

By contrast, industries focusing on e-commerce, digital media and entertainment, banking and financial services, and cybersecurity have experienced strong job growth and been able to adapt rather quickly to serving consumers remotely.

The future for college graduates isn't all bleak — many companies are still hiring, and graduates will need to think creatively about how to market their skill sets. They may have to work to gain additional skills needed for more in-demand industries.

As students continue to navigate the reality of the ongoing pandemic, we must accept the fact that the skills required to succeed and advance in our current COVID-19 world are going to look very different. To remain marketable and relevant to employers, employees must be committed to reskilling and upskilling.

Here, we introduce five important job skills that have proven to be necessary for success during COVID-19.

1. Crisis Management and Problem-Solving

During a crisis, there's never a clear guide for how to survive. In our current pandemic climate, companies must determine who will manage and solve a problem, and how. Being a good crisis manager means being flexible, agile in the face of changing priorities, and innovative with problem-solving.

According to a 2020 job outlook survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 91.2% of employers desired seeing problem-solving skills on candidates' resumes.

Over 90% of employers want to see problem-solving skills on candidates’ resumes.

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If you're working for an organization, it's important to centralize crisis-management action so that you can report to and communicate with a crisis-management committee or group. Ideally, you'll have a team of people whom you consult about managing crises and who can ensure communication is disseminated throughout the proper channels.

Those who excel at crisis management boast short- and long-term planning abilities and make great proactive problem-solvers; they also possess agility and adaptability and are able to think through all possible scenarios and solutions.

Additionally, good crisis managers understand the importance of sustaining multiple modes of communication with their crisis response team. Being able to leverage phone, email, social media, and text messaging is critical for effective crisis handling.

With statewide restrictions and social distancing, more people are turning to online media to stay abreast of COVID-19 trends. Social media managers play a crucial role in developing and sharing a company's communication plan, and ensuring constituents remain informed.

2. Digital Engagement

Companies around the world have increasingly digitized their operations and processes, Some of the most in-demand computer and digital engagement skills include social media, mobile/video, social media marketing, and content marketing.

A 2019 Pew Research Center study found that 72% of Americans use some type of social media, with YouTube and Facebook being the most widely used platforms. Digital engagement has gained more prominence in society, causing many businesses that initially relied less on digital engagement to focus on ramping up their digital services.

Nearly three-fourths of Americans use some type of social media.

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Healthcare providers, for example, now offer telehealth appointments, while grocery stores and restaurants have expanded their contactless and delivery options. Meanwhile, schools are figuring out how they can give students an equally satisfying and engaging learning experience online. Company recruiters have also had to think creatively about the ways they interview and engage with prospective candidates using web conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

The rapid shift to digital engagement not only forces us to advance our digital literacy and proficiency, but also reminds us to heed the potential consequences of digital services, such as data security (e.g., how are you protecting customer data?), scalability (what are the consequences if 100% of your engagement is virtual?), and customer usability (what is the user experience for virtual platforms?).

Those interested in improving their digital engagement skills can check out HubSpot Academy's free online courses.

3. Emotional Intelligence

Business leaders have been heavily tested by the pandemic, having had to completely revamp company operations, manage teams virtually, and deal with staff shortages and revenue losses. Many feel their on-the-job stress has intensified due to COVID-19, with a number experiencing heightened anxiety, anger, sadness, and/or depression.

Emotional intelligence is responsible for close to 60% of a worker’s job performance.

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Having emotional intelligence as a leader is critical for building and sustaining key interpersonal relationships. Research by TalentSmart determined that emotional intelligence is responsible for close to 60% of a worker's job performance. Moreover, 9 in 10 top performers were found to possess a high level of emotional intelligence.

And colleges and universities are paying attention to these findings. In 2013, the Yale School of Management added a test of emotional intelligence to its admission process. Workers who display emotional intelligence are more perceptive and aware of their emotions, and more likely to excel in leadership positions.

To enhance your own emotional intelligence, try journaling, taking breaks throughout the day, or seeing a therapist so you can talk openly and honestly about your emotions.

4. Cultural Competence

Millennials are the most diverse generation yet. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2060, racial and ethnic minorities will make up 57% of the country's total population.

As businesses and organizations become more diverse, being able to work with employees who have different social identities (e.g., religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, race, etc.) has turned into a highly valuable skill. Workplace diversity also has many benefits — it's been shown to improve collaboration, productivity, revenue, brand reputation, and overall competitiveness.

Cultural competence is critical to understanding consumer behavior.

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In the marketing world, cultural competence is critical to understanding consumer behavior. In order to attract customers, business and finance professionals must understand how their products are perceived and utilized by different groups; they also need to know how to tap into markets to reach diverse consumers.

Businesses that understand and embrace their consumers' diversity will have an advantage in developing more inclusive products and services.

Cultural competence has become increasingly important in healthcare, too, since being aware of your biases can heavily impact the patient experience. By showing increased respect toward and understanding of racial and cultural differences, as well as language barriers, you can help prevent healthcare disparities among historically disadvantaged populations.

5. Data Literacy

Data literacy means being able to ask and answer questions about data and share conclusions with others about what those findings represent. Someone who's data literate can comprehend data, accurately interpret charts and graphs, and understand analytical methods and techniques.

In a 2020 survey by Sapio Research, 80% of decision-makers believed having access to data had a positive impact on their organizations; however, just over half of respondents reported employee resistance to using data.

Data plays a huge role in many positions and industries.

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Knowing how to work with data isn't just a necessity for data analytics teams. Nowadays, data plays a huge role in many positions and is heavily utilized in industries like technology, hospitality, and education.

Since so many perceive data as something confusing and convoluted, there's a greater need for people who can be "data communicators," i.e., those who can make data more visually appealing and easier to understand. In fact, data visualization has been ranked a top-five tech skill. People who are competent in data visualization can help by transforming this resistance to using data into eagerness and acceptance.

In 2012, the National Center for Education Statistics spearheaded research on the data interpretation and problem-solving skills of adults aged 16-65 in 23 countries; the U.S. ranked 21st. This means a vast percentage of the workforce needs to enhance their data literacy skills.

If you're interested in improving your data literacy skills, check out Tableau's free data literacy program.

Staying Competitive During a Pandemic

The fact of the matter is that COVID-19 is changing our workplaces as well as the skills desired by many employers. Are you ready to be more marketable in a COVID-19 economy? Upskilling and reskilling is an important part of professional development — it builds confidence and provides you the opportunity to learn, be intellectually curious, and innovate.

It's important for all of us to heed the important lessons COVID-19 has taught so far. In the end, we must be ready to adapt and learn new skills to increase our marketability.

Feature Image: Luis Alvarez / DigitalVision / Getty Images is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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