Professional Development

Top 5 hard skills companies need most in 2020

Written by Kate Lopaze

You may be hearing about how it’s a big trend for employers to zero in on soft skills when hiring. People skills! Leadership skills! Emotional intelligence! Those are indeed important, but when you’re on the job hunt soft skills aren’t the only ones you’ll need to get to the interview (and beyond). No matter what job you have, you’ll need some measure of hard skills as well. According to a recent LinkedIn study, these are some of the most crucial hard skills that employers are seeking this year.

What are hard skills?

If soft skills are all about how we work (like organization, management, or creativity), hard skills are about the work itself—what we work on and what tools we use. Hard skills are specific, quantifiable skills that allow someone to do highly specialized job functions. For example, for someone working in a bilingual community, being fluent in more than one language is a hard skill.

A hard skill is usually one that you can learn by taking classes or doing specific training. Using the bilingual example, you can build this hard skill by taking Spanish lessons or using an app-led learning program to develop your language skills. And once you’ve learned it, it’s something you can demonstrate in a concrete way.

What are the top hard skills right now?

As we look to 2020 and beyond, the hard skills that employers want right now are largely based on data analysis and technology. More than ever, companies are getting huge amounts of data and using tools to translate that data into business insights or decisions.

1. Blockchain expertise

Knowing how to wrangle cryptocurrency (mining it, validating it, storing it, or moving it) is not yet a super-common skill—but for those who have it, it’s immensely valuable. To build your blockchain skills, you’ll also need a solid base of coding and software development skills. There are courses online that can help you develop those base needs; then you can move on to blockchain-specific coding skills.

2. Cloud computing

These days, everything is backed up in “the cloud.” Many companies are running their entire business out of cloud-based data and applications, and all that data needs advanced engineering and management—so cloud computing is one of the hottest skills going. In fact, according to PC, cloud computing was the highest-paid IT certification of 2019. To hone this skill, you can take online courses to earn certification.

3. Analytical reasoning

If you’re not necessarily interested in the nitty-gritty engineering aspects of tech, just about every single company out there is looking for analysts who can take endless amounts of data and help turn it into predictive analytics, or insight that can guide business decisions. Basic courses in data analytics and strategic thinking can help you get started in this skill area.

4. Artificial intelligence

As companies look for ways to support and refine their workforce with machine learning and data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI) is an incredibly powerful option. Whether it’s business analysis, predictive algorithms, and metrics, or interacting with customers, AI is really the future of business across all industries. Those who can help develop more intuitive AI systems and harness the power of machine learning (while hopefully avoiding a Terminator-like future state) will continue to be in high demand.

To develop expertise in artificial intelligence, online courses in AI basics are widely available. Data analysis skills are also a valuable starting block if you’re interested in building your AI skills.

5. UX design

You may not spend a lot of time noticing what your specific user experience (UX) is when you use an app, but you probably do notice when it’s bad, or slow, or clunky. With so much of commerce and business conducted via online platforms, those who can design and refine a good user experience are a hot commodity for most companies. Classes in software and web design are a good start here, including specific platforms like Adobe.

Hard skills are often dependent on a specific job or company’s needs, but if you’re looking to broaden your skill base these five areas are a good place to start. These hard skills are future-facing and will also help you develop plenty of soft skills (like creativity and innovation) along the way.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.