Adaptability and responsiveness are some of the biggest assets that professionals can possess, especially in the current work environment where change is coming quickly and in many cases, unexpectedly. As such, I have seen several types of skills emerge as crucial to success as a professional - and these are the skills that companies are seeking out in their next hires.

Here are seven of those skills that professionals should cultivate and focus on to remain at the top of the talent pool.

1. Digital literacy

Digital literacy is important, both in terms of basic technology: communication programs, collaboration tools, and software such as Microsoft Office, and in terms of specialised, job-specific technology and software. Companies are rapidly adopting technology that helps automate various tasks, leaving professionals with the task of managing this technology and focusing on the parts of the job that require a human touch. This means that digital literacy has gone from a “nice to have” to an essential part of your ability to do any job.

2. Customer relationship management

If they haven’t already, companies are realising that it’s no longer optional to place the customer and what they want at the very center of their business strategy. As a result, the skills that come along with customer management, such as relationship management, customer engagement and customer experience will help you show the way forward into a new way of thinking in which the customer is the pivot point for business decisions at all levels.

3. Sales and influencing

Even if you don’t work in sales directly, you need to know how to sell: your ideas, your work and your accomplishments to the broader team. Sales and influencing skills include negotiation skills, communication skills and leadership characteristics - all of which will help bring stakeholders over to your side when developing a solution, or presenting your work.

4. Data-based decision making

Companies are increasingly making decisions and creating strategies based on data. As an individual, it’s not necessary to become a data scientist overnight. Data analytics tools are becoming both more advanced and more accessible, allowing virtually any professional to leverage data to make decisions. Make an effort to learn the basics of data analytics as they pertain to your particular job scope and learn to interpret and present data in a compelling way. Your actions and decisions are much stronger when backed by well-presented data.

5. Innovative thinking

The word innovation has become a bit overused, especially in relation to technology, but the concept itself is as important as ever. Innovative thinking is about stopping old practices, being able to approach a problem from a new angle and having the ability to think of solutions that haven’t been tried before. Innovative thinking is the cornerstone for change, advancement and new ways of approaching old challenges.

6. A growth mindset

Curiosity, an appetite for learning and the ability to adapt to new situations are all encompassed in a growth mindset. The growth mindset is based off the idea that even if you don’t have the necessary skills, experience, or knowledge, you have the ability to learn those things and grow into the professional you want to be. This growth mindset ensures that you will never be “stuck” where you are - and possessing a strong mentality that you want to keep learning and growing is essential as the workplace evolves.

7. Relationship management

Managing relationships with agility allows for collaboration, teamwork, and ultimately the ability to influence across different cultures, departments and demographics within any organisation. The human aspects of relationship management will ensure that this skill remains essential through any type of digital transformation - and can be the difference between success and failure in any role.

The importance of upskilling

Upskilling is ultimately about constantly looking for ways to improve your skills through formal education, internal training courses, external training courses or informal training such as working one on one with a manager or a mentor to help you improve.

As the workplace changes, employers begin to expect more from their employees, in particular being open to change, and being able to take on new challenges with ease. Focus on upskilling to keep up with that expectation. Increasingly, companies are hiring as much for potential as they are for hard skills and experience.

This creates an excellent opportunity for you to be hired not just for the professional that you are now, but the professional you know you can become given the right amount of training, experience and overall growth opportunities.

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