Learning these skills can make you more marketable during your job search – and you can apply them to a variety of careers, too.
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After four (or more) long years, you finally graduated from school and have been thrust onto the mean streets of the job market. Sure, you took all the necessary courses and credits to get your trusty diploma, but there are some skills your professor may not have taught you.
These aren’t skills like mastering biology or economics, nor are they touchy-feely soft skills like learning how to get along well with others and communicate. Instead, these skills often fall under the radar but can drastically increase your professional street-cred. Best of all, you can apply them to a variety of careers.
Adopt ‘em, adapt ‘em, and, young workers of the world, give yourself a marketing edge.
Skill #1: Web design
If you don’t have a web presence, you’re missing out on opportunities to build your personal brand. Even if you’re a techphobe and stick to learning basic web design skills, you can still set up and host a simple web page.
At the very least, this cyber destination should be a place where visitors can go to get the quick and skinny on what you or your company does and can point people toward other related pages, like Yelp, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter or Pinterest. If you’re self-employed, consider this your rent-free virtual storefront.
For companies, web design can be an attractive skill, especially when combined with knowing how to code. It gives your employer another option to promote itself and its product, which ultimately means more profit. (Bosses like profit.) If your boss knows that he or she can call on you to make quick changes to the company’s website, it avoids having to hire a (costly) dedicated web person.
Skill #2: WordPress
If you’re creating a website or blog, knowing how to navigate WordPress can be a nifty skill. This free open-source platform can be used to build everything from a simple blog to a comprehensive e-commerce site. Its dummy-proof 5-Minute Install makes setting up a website easy; you can be up and running in 2-3 hours. And thanks to thousands of plugins, you can tweak your site to do exactly what you want.
WordPress powers 14 percent of the internet, so the odds are pretty good that if a company has a blog, it’s being powered by this popular platform. If you’re in the market for a job, it may give you an edge to start a personal blog and hone your writing skills for a web audience. If you can help build community and bring more visitors to a website, those skills may be marketable to companies, especially small business that don’t have big advertising budgets.
Skill #3: Learn a language
English may be spoken all over the globe, but Spanish and Mandarin still rein supreme for business interactions, with Arabic gaining momentum. Enrollment in Arabic classes jumped 127 percent from 2002-2006, making it the fastest-growing language at U.S. colleges.
Of course, unless you’re planning to jump into a new country and culture and fully immerse yourself, learning a new language is a big commitment. But if you’re looking to work overseas or pursue a position that requires foreign travel, knowing how to speak the local language will be an attractive quality for potential employers. Being able to communicate without a translator means fewer words get lost in translation, and more cultural understanding could mean more business opportunities.
Skill #4: How to sell
Whether you’re selling a concept, product or yourself (and not in the Pretty Woman sense), knowing how to pitch has endless applications in the business world. From convincing your boss to give you a raise to cold calling clients to bring in commissions or revenue, solid selling skills are invaluable when dealing with customers.
If you know how to sell, you know how to ask the right questions and provide service, and that looks good to a potential employer. Sure, it can be nerve-wracking, but with some practice, you’ll gain confidence (another marketable skill that stands out!). If you’re stuck, try recording your voice and pitch and play back for a friend for honest feedback.
Skill #5: Social media
In the old days, a business had to pick up the phone or send a fax or snail mail to reach its audience. Now, a company can connect with a targeted audience 24/7 with a click of a mouse. And don’t you want to help companies do that effectively?
Social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn and blogs greatly influence consumers on trends and ideas, with the ability to reach anyone virtually around the globe with an internet connection. If you can help a small business connect with audiences and create visibility – both online and mobile – these skills are marketable, especially for time-crunched or techphobic employers. Social media is here to stay, and learning about its rapidly-changing landscape is one way to stay relevant.