One of the biggest challenges of returning to the workforce is making sense of what skills are currently sought-after in your chosen field. This is especially true for tech careers, because technology can change so quickly. So what’s the best way to figure out which technical skills are relevant to your industry?
There are a few steps you can take:
1. Study job descriptions.
Read through the “skills required” section of jobs you’d like to be considered for. After a few dozen you will quickly pick up a sense of which skills seem to pop up the most often. If you are trying to narrow your focus, take note of the skills that are listed first. Generally managers and recruiters list skills from “most crucial” to “nice to have.” Skills that consistently show up at the top of job descriptions are the most important.
2. Ask people!
Leverage your network and ask people which skills are most in demand in your field. Start by reaching out to former colleagues, then ask them if they can introduce you to a recruiter at their company. Most recruiters will happily spend a little time giving you pointers on the best skills to brush up on.
3. See which classes are most popular.
Many learning platforms will promote the most popular courses. Some even have blogs or resource centers that offer tips on figuring out which class is right for you.
When it comes to acquiring these skills, there are more opportunities for learning today than there have ever been. And many of them are free! Don’t worry about finding the perfect course. Find one that is reasonably priced and convenient for your schedule. Just taking a course will give you a confidence boost and offer you a chance for networking. Ask the instructor what other courses they recommend. Ask your fellow students what other classes they’ve taken and if they recommend them.
Lastly, remember that a lot of skills are learned on the job. Most companies don’t expect every new hire to know everything about the job on Day One. In an interview you can highlight your prior experience and use coursework to demonstrate your ability to learn new skills. It’s a winning combination.
Tami Forman is the founding executive director of Path Forward and a frequent speaker on issues related to caregiving and workforce participation.