Even though the job market is booming and unemployment remains at or near record lows, there are signs that this favorable environment may be waning. Automation is accelerating, eliminating jobs that have always been performed by humans. For the jobs that remain, many will become almost unrecognizable combinations of formerly separate positions. A 2019 report from Burning Glass Technologies argues persuasively that hybrid jobs are the future. The good news is that if you can build up the right skill areas, your career will not only survive; it will thrive.
Hybrid Skills Can Mean Job Security
There’s no doubt that the effects of the coming wave of automation will be felt for years to come. All employees will need to learn new skills, but they can minimize their chances of an employment interruption by getting ahead of the curve, acquiring these capabilities before they’re completely necessary. According to Burning Glass, hybrid jobs only have a 12% likelihood of automation compared to 42% for jobs overall.
As technology alters the job landscape, formerly vertical skills are colliding in surprising ways. The technical skills that hybrid jobs demand generally lie in areas such as big data and analytics or technical design and development, but soft skills such as creativity and collaboration are just as important. Instead of learning a single one in isolation, employees who learn complementary skills will prosper in the hybrid job economy.
Taking advantage of the hybrid economy doesn’t have to mean going back to school for another degree, but it does require a strategy—especially to protect the consistency of your personal brand. By following these steps, you’ll expand your brand without losing focus. You’ll also expand the opportunities available to you, and maybe even earn a higher salary:
1. Identify trends in job postings.
Job posting pages aren’t just for job seekers. According to Matt Sigelman, Burning Glass’s CEO, anyone can analyze what top companies are looking for and come away with an idea of the skill combinations that will be in high demand down the road. “In many industries, companies are now trying to hire for combinations of skills they believe they’ll need in the near future and don’t yet have,” Sigelman says. “If you read enough job postings, you’ll begin to see patterns emerge that will show you where to focus your efforts.”
The company’s research indicates that 85% of job vacancies are now posted online, so internet job boards are a great place to begin your research. Decide which fields are a natural match for your authentic brand traits and then read about the combinations of traits that hiring managers are looking for. You can also sign up for notifications about open positions using LinkedIn or follow relevant industry influencers to stay in tune with the latest trends as they emerge.
2. Make collaboration skills a priority.
A key component of the hybrid job economy is the overlap of responsibilities and understandings across teams and departments. This overlap means coordination across teams is critical, so it should come as no surprise that LinkedIn names collaboration as one of “The Soft Skills Companies Need Most in 2019.”
“If intellectual capital powers the knowledge economy, then sophisticated collaboration is how businesses will earn a return on investment,” says James Henry, chief technology officer at PureWeb, an interactive 3D streaming service. Sophisticated collaboration is more than just using a company Slack channel—it’s app developers having design experience so they can better communicate with graphic designers, or data scientists having marketing skills so they can more effectively work with marketing and sales departments.
3. Embrace coding as your new language.
Digital building block skills, such as coding and analytics, are becoming increasingly important because they’re applicable in a growing array of fields. A skill like coding can make you more effective in many different roles. Employers recognize this versatility, and it’s being reflected in the compensation they offer. Skeptical? Bersin reports that marketing managers with a firm grasp of SQL pull in 41% larger paychecks than their less technical peers.
Boosting your coding chops doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Head to YouTube for a free 44-part video series from Microsoft that will teach you the basics of coding in Python, or visit Twitch to watch programmers offer coding tutorials on a livestream. Coding experience will help nontechnical employees communicate with developers and other technical personnel, and this improved communication can help generate better results from a team.
4. Emphasize management skills.
Management and business skills aren’t just a bonus—they’re critical in a wide variety of roles. Citing the Burning Glass research, Bersin notes that business and management skills are essential in one-third of IT jobs and more than half of engineering roles. Even when these skills aren’t required, their value can influence how workers are compensated. For example, employees with project management experience draw a 21% higher salary than those who don’t.
There are many project management methodologies out there, such as Agile and Lean, and you can benefit from exposure to several of them. Once you determine which one is most relevant to your industry, you can delve more deeply by taking a course or pursuing a certification. No matter what route you go, this project management knowledge base will help you perform your role more effectively and may even net you a raise or promotion.
The hybrid job economy is coming, and those who embrace it will enjoy both improved performance and greater resilience in the face of change. Start by dipping your toes into a few complementary skills, and then decide where you want to expand your areas of expertise. Just remember that checking off a skill box isn’t enough; you need to communicate what’s unique about the way you perform that skill, applying your personal brand in a way that no machine can duplicate.