Technical skills are a highly sought-after skill set desired by many employers. When you demonstrate technical skills, you show you're qualified for jobs that require the use of physical or digital tools. Understanding what technical skills are and when they are required could be important to your next job move or promotion. In this article, we explore the variety of technical skills you might need in your career path, as well as how to improve them.
What are technical skills?
Technical skills are abilities that allow you to perform certain technological or physical tasks. There are many different kinds of technical skills. Traditionally, people working in mathematics, computer science, mechanics and information technology mostly made use of technical skills. Today, however, many industries rely on employees with technical knowledge in various areas. Computer programmers, customer service representatives and even public positions, such as teachers, often need technical skills to perform the essential duties of their job.
Why are technical skills important?
Technical skills are important because many different types of jobs rely on different digital tools, programs and processes. If you have sought-after technical knowledge and skills that are common in your industry, you make yourself a more competitive candidate. For example, while a welder may have a positive demeanour and excellent customer service skills, which are good examples of soft skills, their skillful handling of a torch is crucial to their technical and practical success.
Examples of technical skills
The type of technical skills that you may be required to know or learn depend on your field. However, there are several technical skills that are common across different industries.
Here are a few examples of different technical skills you may see listed on job posts:
- Productivity software knowledge
- Social media management
- Project management
- Big data analysis
Programming is the practice of using a coding language to create applications, develop websites and produce digital content. In addition to software engineers, there are many jobs today that require programming knowledge. If you're looking for a job as a writer, for example, you may be required to have some basic knowledge of HTML. Other highly sought-after programming languages may include the following:
In the workplace, those with programming skills usually develop applications and websites for employees and customers. In addition, proper programming is frequently a core component of a business. This is especially true for digital businesses that reach customers through virtual methods such as video conferences and phone calls. Because programming, whether for customers or employees, is important to many businesses, employers seek people with strong programming skills.
Productivity software knowledge
Many industries productivity software, which is software designed to help get work done faster and more efficiently. Most commonly, this includes word processing, spreadsheet, databases and presentation software. These are the basic tools that many people use to do their jobs.
Productivity software is usually a suite of tools and resources that provides the functionality you need to perform the essential duties of your job. This includes responsibilities such as composing letters and emails, deploying databases and calculating formulas. These tools are important in many areas of work and are widely used by most professionals, so a strong knowledge of productivity software is often essential to display on a resume or in an interview.
Social media management
Social media management is the process of managing and maintaining a company's online presence. This includes everything from preparing the right content and understanding what hashtags and keywords to use to scheduling posts, interacting with consumers and posting content and images that are reflective of the brand.
In the workplace, social media management is used to draw in new customers, re-engage old customers and communicate with your target market. It is often part of a marketing generalist position, like a marketing coordinator role, but it can also be its own position. For example, social media managers focus much of their effort to ensure that a brand's social presence is continuously effective. Because social media is important to growth, employers often look for people who possess social media management skills.
Project management is the unique combination of knowledge and proficiency of tools and skills that allow a company to meet project goals. Project managers specialize in mobilizing project teams, ensuring the team meets set milestones, creating timelines and navigating projects through to completion. They are often assisted by project management tools that allow for greater communication, tracking and collaboration.
Employers look for employees with project management skills to assist with the completion of project-related activities. They often look for these skills when hiring for a project manager or operations manager role.
Big data analysis
Big data analysis is the process of drawing conclusions, making inferences and identifying trends from data that has volume, velocity and variety. Big data is an essential component of many businesses that rely on it to do everything from targeting new customers to making business decisions about products, finances and more.
Data scientists, data architects and analysts all use big data to reach conclusions and create plans toward specific business outcomes. Big data analysis allows professionals to model data, turn it into visualizations and offer vital insights to business leaders. For this reason, employers look for people who have strong experience with big data to offer insight into the decision-making process.
How to improve your technical skills
If you're changing industries or positions, you may need to consider improving on or acquiring new technical abilities. Here are some steps you can take to improve your technical skills:
- Enroll in courses for different skills. You can learn many technical skills through a dedicated training program or class. Depending on the type of skill, you may be able to learn it by taking one or more courses, either online or in person. You might also be able to take an advanced course and earn a certificate in your chosen field of study.
- Use a self-study training program. You can often acquire different skills through self-study programs. These could include how-to books, self-paced online lessons or free training materials available from different sources.
- Learn from a professional. You can often find a professional who already possesses the technical skills you want to learn. If so, that individual may be able to teach you the skills you're looking for, either for free or for compensation.
- Learn on the job. Some employers may be able to provide on-the-job training. If you do not have certain technical skills an employer desires, make it known that you are eager and willing to learn whatever skills are necessary to effectively perform the job.
- Keep your skills current**.** Once you've successfully obtained a job, keep updating your technical skills. Use them as frequently as possible, and refresh those skills with continuing education. In many cases, the tools or programs you commonly use will change over time, so the technical skills you possess now may need to be enhanced with new knowledge.
Best practices for highlighting technical skills
When applying for jobs, you can use both your resume and cover letter to highlight your most important and relevant technical skills employers may find valuable:
Technical skills for resume
Your resume should include a skills section that highlights your most valuable technical skills that are relevant to the position. Maintain focus on the technical skills that the employer is looking for that make you a competitive candidate. For some jobs, you may want to list fewer common technical skills that the potential employer would assume every applicant already has—such as proficiency in an email platform—and focus predominantly on very specialized skills in your field.
Technical skills for cover letter
In your cover letter, you should mention a few of your most valuable skills while keeping the cover letter focused, clear and brief. Your cover letter should give the employer a solid and accurate introduction to who you are, but it should also explain what you know about the company, its values and how you make a good fit for the company's vision.
Technical skills for the interview
When you prepare for an interview, be ready to talk about your technical skills. It's common for employers to ask at least one question such as, "What skills do you possess that are most important to this role?"
When crafting your answer for any question about skills, be prepared to talk about technical skills like project management, software proficiency and more by practicing your answer in advance of the interview.