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Which Skills Will Help You Advance Professionally Or Get a New Job in 2016?

By Steve Morgan

When thinking about your professional development certain job skills are always in demand, especially “soft skills” such as communication, problem-solving, leadership and teamwork. But demand for technical skills varies over time, depending on the state of the economy and specifics of supply and demand. The occupations showing the most current job gains are professional and business services, health care, and financial activities, according to current figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bureau’s long-term projections through 2024 are for the most job growth to be in health care, retail trade and food services, while the fastest growing occupation is expected to be among wind turbine service technicians, followed by occupational and physical therapy assistants, physical therapist aides and home health aides. For those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, the fastest growth is forecast for nurse practitioners, physical therapists, statisticians, physician assistants and operations research analysts. For those with only some college, the top occupations, after wind turbine technicians and occupational and physical therapy assistants, are commercial divers and Web developers.

In 2016 there has been a buzz about “hybrid jobs”—a concept put forth early this year in a report sponsored by Bentley University in Waltham which found that recruiters and hiring managers are looking for combinations of job skills that used to be seen as separate hires but are now needed across many job categories.

“Based on the data analysis, 2016 is the year of the hybrid job—and the hybrid employee,” said Bentley President Gloria Larson in an introduction to the report. “The successful employee of tomorrow will need to combine traditional soft skills such as communication and collaboration with the hard, technical skills that used to belong to a select tech-savvy group.”

Leading the list of key skills for hybrid jobs are data analysis, social media and business development, according to the report. These skills are now needed in many roles—whether in marketing and PR, human resources or sales. A marketing job, for example, may require someone with knowledge of SQL and SAP software; and SQL applicants may need to be skilled in mentoring. Social media skills are now broadly needed across job categories. The full report is at Bentley 2016 Job Skills.

Several other organizations that analyze the market have come up with their own lists of skills key to your professional development and most likely to get you hired in 2016:

LinkedIn looked at hiring and recruiting activity on its website in 2015 in order to find the 25 hottest skills, says company blogger Sohan Murthy. Since recruiting in these skills has continued into the new year, they remain on the website’s list for 2016. The top 10 are skills in cloud and distributed computing, statistical analysis and data mining, mobile development, network and information security, middleware and integration software, storage systems and management, user interface design, algorithm design, Java development, Web architecture and development frameworks.

LinkedIn also found some skills that dropped in the rankings, including game development, digital and online marketing, SAP ERP systems and integrated circuit design. For the full list, go to 25 Skills to Get You Hired in 2016.

Bloomberg, the financial software and media giant, surveyed recruiters looking for MBA talent in 11 industries, such as chemicals, energy, manufacturing and retail, and mapped the findings by how common and how desirable the skills are. While results varied from one industry to another, a few skills showed up in all 11 industries. Among the “least common, most desirable” skills were strategic thinking, creative problem solving and leadership and communication, while the “most common, most desirable” skills were analytical thinking and the ability to work collaboratively. Details are at Bloomberg 2016 Job Skills Report.

Fast Company, which covers tech, business and design, reported on a study done by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International that analyzed 700 occupations. It found the fast-growing fields for job-seekers with a college education are: registered nurses, software developers/applications, marketing managers, sales managers, medical and health services managers, network and computer systems administrators, industrial engineers, computer systems analysts, Web developers, and financial managers.

For workers without a college education, the top 10 are: heavy and tractor trailer truck drivers, food service managers, computer user support specialists, insurance sales agents, medical records and health, surgical technologists, bus and truck mechanics, transportation, storage and distributions managers, purchasing agents and medical secretaries. Details are at Fast Company 2016 Most in Demand Jobs.

What about those of us working in fields that don’t inspire a “hottest skills” list? You can find which skills are most in demand for your particular industry by using the tools available on the Career OneStop website, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. Start here: Career Infonet Skills.

Stephen Morgan

Steve Morgan, a former editor at The Boston Globe and Boston Herald, can be reached by email.

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