Are you dissatisfied with your current job and want to revamp your skill set to land your ideal role? Or are you having difficulty finding employment, and want to strengthen your skills for future success? Employers in 2023's competitive job market will require adaptable workers willing to upgrade their skill sets.
In this article, you'll find out how developing your hard skills can aid you, whether you're struggling at work or looking to improve your skill set to land your dream job. Everyone recognises "hard skills," such as mastering software programming languages or performing statistical analyses, but how can these abilities translate to actual job opportunities?
Read on and discover what constitutes hard skills, why they can boost your career growth, and how to use them to your benefit.
Hard and soft skills are both crucial in shaping an individual's professional profile. Soft skills, also referred to as transferable skills, are cultivated rather than taught in a classroom setting. These are interpersonal and personal attributes that allow individuals to communicate effectively, collaborate with others, and manage themselves emotionally in a professional setting.
Hard skills, meanwhile, are technical abilities that are essential to leadership, and can be objectively measured. They are typically acquired through formal education, training programs, or on-the-job experience. Common examples include skills related to science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM), finance, and data analysis.
While employers from various industries may look for similar interpersonal skills in job seekers or potential candidates for promotion, hard skills are specific to an industry and profession. They are used to successfully complete tasks or projects such as programming, data analysis, and engineering.
Wondering which type of skill you should focus on? Your interpersonal or soft skills complement your hard skills, so they go hand in hand.
Make sure you are developing both skill types. Remember: The job goes to the person who is proficient at what they do, and is easy to reach out to.
Hard skills are essential to showcase your proficiency and credibility in the workplace. Other than a balance of hard and soft skills, employers are looking for expertise within the field, like a software engineer who’s great at coding. Similarly, they will favour a finance analyst adept at making highly profitable data assessments.
Possessing these skills can make job-searching easier. Honing the ones that are sought after can help you stand out from other applicants or co-workers when interviewing for jobs. It's easy for employers to assess whether you possess the necessary hard skills. They only have to evaluate if your performance meets or even exceeds business goals.
Updating your competencies can also open doors to career advancement opportunities. Expanding your knowledge in specific areas could open doors to promotions or higher-paying jobs.
For instance, if you're an experienced data analyst with extensive statistical knowledge, this could result in either higher-level data analyst jobs or even entry-level data scientist roles.
Your willingness to learn can boost your career success. When you are committed to your growth through learning, you show employers that you keep your knowledge current and hence would make a good long-term investment.
Help them see this clearly by showcasing certificates or learning experiences in your resumé if you're a job seeker, or communicating openly about upskilling possibilities if you're employed.
In the following sections, we will discuss in more detail how doing so can boost your career. We'll also give you tips on how to overcome challenges you may face during this process. Plus, there’s a list of over 200 examples you can add to your resumé, so keep reading!
The first thing to consider is what skills your job needs in particular. The easiest way to find out is by evaluating your current responsibilities. Think about the tasks you do daily. Analyse what technical capabilities are required for each task, and observe where there is room for improvement.
Are you enhancing your skills to change careers? Be proactive and vocal about wanting to pivot your skills to achieve that goal. Tap a person whose job is something you're interested in and pick their brain. Ask them about what they do, and stay curious.
You can also ask your manager for input. They may be able to guide you in the right direction to help you gain the technical knowledge essential for the role. If what you need is beyond their expertise, see if you can ask them to point you to the right person to reach out to.
On top of these, stay informed about industry trends and new technologies. Attend conferences, read industry publications, and follow thought leaders in your chosen field as a way of keeping up-to-date.
Setting career goals helps you visualise the path you must take to reach your dream destination. Have you considered checking with your Human Resources department and managers about using a career map ? This can help you think strategically about your path and the best ways to reach your goals within your current organisation.
Steps involved in developing your career strategy include:
An essential practice of effective goal-setting is setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals. Break down large goals into manageable steps; not only will this keep you focused on one task at a time, but it will also make tracking milestones and progress easier. With your goals and identified skills in mind, it's time to take the next step in developing hard skills.
Many resources are available for learning hard skills. Inquire within your organisation first, as learning materials may be available for employees. Many companies also offer training programs or tuition reimbursement for employees who want to improve their skills.
The 2020 BCG/The Network survey shows that 83% of Malaysian employees participated in on-the-job training for learning and development, making it one of the top 3 methods for self-improvement, along with self-study (53%) and online education institutions (47%).
You can also research the best resources for each skill you want to develop and plan how to access and use them. These can include online courses, books, and workshops. Find out which self-learning tool works best for you.
Textbooks and webinars are just some of the resources you can learn from. As we've mentioned before, you can reach out to someone who has expertise in the skills you're looking to improve or gain.
If directly communicating with someone you don't closely work with makes you feel uneasy, consider asking someone you're comfortable with if they can connect you to an expert.
Additionally, look into attending conferences and networking events, or joining online communities to learn from experts in your field and survive in the job-hunting “jungle.” They often provide helpful guidance on skill development and building your career. Plus, you can make lasting connections and build valuable relationships.
Practice and application are the cornerstones of skill mastery. As CEO Kevin Kruse puts it, " learning on the floor," or learning by doing, is the future of fully harnessing the potential of your knowledge and skills. Look for opportunities to apply your newly learned hard skills in your current job or take on side projects to hone them in real-life situations.
If your organisation doesn't offer that kind of learning environment, self-directed learning is another option for you.
For example, a software engineer could contribute to open-source projects or design and code their own. Marketers could run A/B tests on marketing campaigns on their own initiative or create personal blogs to practise SEO techniques.
Moreover, one of the best ways to master a new skill is by teaching it. Find someone learning the same or related skill and offer to mentor them. Not only will you expand on your knowledge base, but you'll gain invaluable teaching and coaching experience – which could provide new insights and sharpen abilities.
Alternatively, reach out to your manager and see if teaching the skill as part of workplace learning and development may be possible. This can also be a mutually beneficial experience. It shows your organisation that you have initiative and are dedicated not just to teaching yourself, but also to helping your colleagues develop their own skills.
On top of self-assessment, it's crucial to seek constructive feedback and evaluation from others. Although external input can be conducive and encouraging, be mindful of taking it all in and not filtering out parts that may be unhelpful in your learning process.
Decide which comments can help boost your journey toward developing your hard skills, and prioritise applying them.
If you're anxious about receiving feedback, author, programmer and entrepreneur Scott Young shares, "Feedback is scary. And because it's scary, that can often be the reason why it doesn't work, because we're so afraid of receiving feedback where we react to it so strongly, that we get overwhelmed, and it sabotages our motivation... But somewhat ironically, the way to get over that is to just get more feedback."
His pro tip is to get out there and get used to it. Yes, it may be challenging at first. But in the long run, you'll find that the benefits of getting valuable feedback are worth getting out of your comfort zone for.
Here are 200 examples of hard skills that you can consider adding to your resumé today. To further assist you in choosing the right ones, we'll define the skills by industry, and the benefits of having them.
Project management skills are essential for anyone responsible for making projects happen. Project managers use these skills to determine what needs to be done, organise all the materials required, and keep things on schedule, while keeping an eye on deadlines, expenses, and people to ensure everything gets completed on time and within budget.
Project management is in demand as it can be beneficial across industries – from building something to selling something complex, or any process involving multiple steps. When successfully overseeing projects, professionals often see benefits such as getting more work done faster, producing superior results, and leading happier teams overall.
Here's a quick and concise guide on How to become a Project Manager (plus the list of project management skills you need).
Did you know that in any job interview, even for a non-sales job, you're supposed to be selling? If you guessed that you're selling yourself in an interview, you're right! Much like selling a product or service, an interview gets you to practise marketing skills:
Successful sales and marketing professionals with extensive experience understand customers' needs, cultivate meaningful relationships with them, and show why their product or service is the best one.
For any company selling services or products, these skills are absolutely crucial. Being an expert in sales and marketing can also lead to customer satisfaction and recognition in your field.
With these benefits that surely bring in higher business revenue, it's no wonder there's a high demand for this industry. Jobstreet's Job Outlook Report 2022 for Malaysia shows a 27.6% increase in industry job ads from 2021, making sales and marketing the top specialisation according to job ads volume. In 2022, 48,600 job openings were waiting for sales and marketing employees!
Before we give you a list of skills to put on your resumé, check out this guide on how to become a marketing manager.
Legal skills are crucial to anyone working in the legal industry, from lawyers to paralegals. These involve researching and analysing complex legal issues, drafting documents to meet deadlines efficiently, and staying on top of changing regulations and laws.
Strong legal skills improve client results while increasing job satisfaction and professional recognition. A good reputation in the industry is always a great way to attract employers.
Look into the law industry with these quick and easy guides:
Technical skills refer to skills or abilities used for carrying out practical tasks in science, arts and sciences, engineering, and mathematics. Technical abilities involve using technological tools or equipment to complete tasks. These range from easy, fundamental skills such as using a keyboard and mouse, to advanced abilities such as troubleshooting machine issues.
Tech is one of the most advanced fields to work in and earn a living, both in terms of career prospects and working conditions. The industry is always in a state of evolution due to rapid advancements. This is one of the reasons why it can be fulfilling to be a part of it, as it puts you at the forefront of innovation.
So far in 2023, US tech companies have laid off around 136,569 workers due to high inflation rates and excessive hiring, Crunchbase News reports.
It's understandable for Malaysian job seekers in the tech industry to be concerned about how this may translate to job opportunities. However, Malaysia is unlikely to see mass cuts at tech firms, especially since Malaysia started rolling out its 5G mobile network in the past year.
Jobseek reports in What Jobseekers Wish Employers Knew: Unlocking the Future of Recruitment that the job market in Malaysia seems a little less active than the global average, but close to 80% of employees in digital, IT, and media roles receive multiple job offers. Additionally, Jobseek's Job Outlook Report 2022 shows a global shortage of IT talent.
This report further tells us that the 55.3% increase in computer and IT job opportunities in the last quarter of 2021 resulted in more job ads than job applications, indicating a high demand for IT employees.
This data is a good cause for optimism, but on top of that, tech as an industry will stay relevant. Those with the necessary technical hard skills and the willingness to keep up-to-date with tech advancements can enjoy career stability in a market where some jobs are threatened by automation.
Manufacturing skills involve the ability to operate machinery, read technical drawings, and perform quality control checks. These include the manufacturing of materials, goods, and products. Processes such as research and development (R&D), design, assembly, packaging, and delivery are all included in this field.
Good manufacturing and production professionals can identify and troubleshoot problems, follow safety procedures, and work efficiently to meet production goals. Having strong manufacturing and production skills can benefit you with great outcomes such as increased productivity, quality standards being met, and reduced waste.
Manufacturing is also a high-demand industry to get into, with a 32.9% increase in job ad volume from 2021 to 2022.
Interested to find out if this is the job for you? Here's a guide on how to advance in the manufacturing industry. Make no mistake, the title sounds like it's only for those who are already in, but our tips can definitely help even if you're starting from scratch.
Leadership involves guiding and managing a group of people. To do so successfully requires you to possess the necessary skills and qualities that enable you to influence, motivate, direct, and inspire those you lead.
Good leaders possess strong interpersonal skills to make difficult decisions while managing resources efficiently, setting clear goals, articulating them clearly, and providing direction for their team or organisation.
Best-selling author Vanessa Van Edwards shares, "You do not have to be leading a company or president of an organisation to be considered a leader. Leaders in both work life and social life are able to get buy-ins, rally teams, and generate camaraderie."
Leadership skills are not only for managers and executives; they are important for anyone who wants to have a positive influence on their workplace or community and lead others towards a common goal.
One key benefit of strong leadership skills is increased productivity. When employees feel inspired and motivated by their leaders, they are more likely to work harder and be more productive. Strong leaders can also create a positive workplace culture that encourages collaboration and creativity, leading to better results.
Another benefit of having a strong leader is employee satisfaction. When employees feel that their leaders are supportive, respectful, and empathetic, they are more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs and remain loyal to their employer. This can lead to lower turnover rates and a more stable workforce.
Finally, strong leadership skills are essential for effective decision-making. Leaders who can delegate responsibilities and empower their team members to make decisions can make better decisions themselves. They can also gather input from different sources and make decisions based on various perspectives.
Financial skills involve managing money and other financial assets. They include various activities such as budgeting, investments, and retirement planning. The field of finance includes areas such as banking, accounting, taxation, and insurance.
If you are financially literate, you can identify growth opportunities, reduce costs, and communicate complex financial information to others. The benefits of strong financial skills include increased profitability, improved financial health, and better investment decisions. Well-informed financial decisions can make or break the future of an organisation or business.
Are you interested in joining the world of finance but can't decide which role to go for? Get compact guides on these finance-related jobs and make your choice:
Analytical skills refer to your ability to develop solutions or deduce information based on available data. This involves collecting, organising, and analysing information from various sources in order to reach a logical conclusion. Furthermore, critical thinking skills help identify problems and provide creative solutions.
Having analytical skills can help you in many aspects of life, from your personal relationships to your professional career. In the workplace, most tasks are performed according to set guidelines, and many decisions are made guided by learnings from past experiences.
But what happens when one-off situations arise? How do you solve an issue you've never experienced before?
Unexpected situations are where your problem solving and critical thinking skills will be tested. Demonstrating your analytical skills can help you to not only get through tough situations, but also to stand out from your peers. There is a great demand for analytical thinking, as it shows your employer that you can:
Did you know that analytical thinking is an important skill you should have to get that in-demand job? A great way to showcase your experience using these types of skills is by using the “STAR" method:
Nurses, doctors, administrators, and others working in the healthcare industry require healthcare skills. If you're a healthcare professional, you have to be familiar with the processes of diagnosis and treatment, providing care and support to patients while adhering to safety protocols, and using technology for patient care.
Healthcare skills involve providing compassionate caregiving, understanding the treatment options available, and making informed decisions regarding those treatment options.
Effective healthcare providers require a lot of soft skills, but must go beyond these to communicate well with both patients and colleagues, utilise technology to optimise patient care, and remain up-to-date with continuous regulation changes.
For success in the industry, your key is strong healthcare skills to provide the best care to your patients. Teamwork is also key if you want optimal patient outcomes.
Another piece of good news is that healthcare is also included in the top 10 industries with increased job ads in 2022. Look into these 20 types of nursing specialities in Malaysia and see if any pique your interest.
Effective communication is of paramount importance in all areas of life. It forms the cornerstone of relationships and can make or break business deals.
Communication skills allow individuals to clearly convey their thoughts, ideas, and feelings in an organised fashion to others. These skills involve listening, writing, or even body language awareness as means of effective expression.
Although communication skills are usually considered soft skills, we've added them to this list as they greatly complement many technical skills. They can have numerous advantages, including increased productivity through collaboration. When colleagues can work together more efficiently, they can also quickly complete projects. This often results in greater job satisfaction as individuals feel proud to show off their work.
Good communicators can navigate difficult conversations and devise solutions that meet everyone's needs. Strong communication skills can have such a significant impact that business magnate and CEO Warren Buffet believes they can increase your future earning power.
No surprise there, as non-verbal cues, active listening, and the ability to empathise are all highly sought-after communication skills that can help you advance in your career.
The idea of developing hard skills for career growth can be exciting. However, it can also prove to be challenging. Here are some common challenges in developing hard skills:
Remember to communicate your desire to learn, and see if your manager or leaders can help you get the training you need. If you can't find enough support, self-studying with the tools available to you is a great way to start.
Hard skills are fundamental aspects of any job. Without them, you can't do the job you were hired for. If you want to get ahead and get promoted, move careers, or simply stay as a valuable asset in your current position and organisation, it pays to work on improving your hard skills.
It's also important to know which skills you have and can use to excel in your field, so remember to check out the 200+ examples we gave you. Fight your way through any challenges and fears you encounter on your journey to enhance your hard skills and find the career of your dreams.