Tech jobs took a heavy hit in 2022. According to Layoffs.fyi, 424 tech companies laid off 120,253 employees in the first two months of 2023. But it might not be as bad as it sounds. "This kind of realignment happens regularly, and often companies take the opportunity to do this under cover of an economic downturn," explains Rachel Bellow, a cofounder of Bonfire, a talent development accelerator for the rising generation of women in the workplace.
“If we examine hiring and firing numbers over the past 24 months, we see that companies like Meta, Salesforce, Microsoft and others have hired far more employees than they have fired, sometimes by a factor of 10.” But according to LinkedIn's February Workforce Report, the industries that have seen the biggest declines since last spring are technology, information, and media (down 41 percent). To stay competitive in those fields, job seekers must keep their tech skills strong.
Whether you're looking to stay relevant in your current position, survive a company reorg, or secure a new role, continuing to grow intellectually and emotionally will serve your career well. We asked career experts and tech veterans to weigh in on the skills you need to succeed in tech in 2023; as it turns out, some aren't very techy at all.
“Since the world—and the way we work—has forever changed, how we define terms like management, communication, and leadership must keep up with the times, because so many of our before-Covid ways have become obsolete,” says workplace happiness expert Jenn Lim, CEO of Delivering Happiness and best-selling author of Beyond Happiness. “It's time to remind ourselves we can be wise about how we choose to grow, develop, and reskill, and if we get better at something automation will never replace—being human—then the likelihood of us staying relevantand valued will always be there.”
LinkedIn's 2023Most In-Demand Skills Report is a solid place to start when assessing your experience and where you might need to bolster your skills, but it continues beyond there. “Companies aren't just looking for software developers; they're looking for developers who can weave in their knowledge of finance, sales, operations, and cloud computing too,” Lim says, “Companies are looking for people with an array of skills.”
Twenty years ago, people were told to be specialists, but that's risky these days when a skill may become redundant or automated. “To succeed in tech in 2023, talent needs to have T-shaped skill sets,” says Danielle Boris, CEO and founder of Sandbox, an HR technology company dedicated to leveraging and motivating talent. “People should have a breadth of knowledge across their disciplines and depth of knowledge in one area, making them more valuable to organizations, especially ones continuously adapting their workforces,” Boris explains.
The current job market constantly evolves, and many employers have shifted to a skills-first mindset when hiring. "Weighing a candidate's skills just as much as a degree or previous experience levels the playing field for millions of folks, explains Andrew McCaskill, LinkedIn career expert and creator of The Black Guy in Marketing newsletter. McCaskill suggests considering your skill set as your “career toolkit,” highlighting the skills you already have and making a list to build the ones you don't. “Leaning into a skills-first strategy can give you the confidence to navigate the job market, particularly through turbulent times,” he says.
Like LinkedIn, Upwork released its list of most in-demand skills for 2023 and data showing that 60 million Americans (39 percent of the US workforce) performed at least some freelance work in the past 12 months. Success for freelancers also means having a complete toolkit. “I developed most of my technical skills through self-teaching, via sites like the Microsoft 365 channel on YouTube and through trial and error,” says Ryan Clark, Upwork freelancer and founder of Mr. SharePoint. “The more high-quality skills I possess, the more marketable I become, so I consistently stay motivated to learn and be on the cutting edge of technology.”
Career coach Kelly Donovan, principal of Kelly Donovan & Associates, a firm that works with job seekers nationwide, says that skills in automation, AI, and digital marketing are critical in the coming months and years, and there's also a growing need for cybersecurity experts. “The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 35 percent job growth for information security analysts from 2021 to 2031, and many of the same skills that are beneficial in web development and software development are also of value for cybersecurity—like Java, C++, and Python,” Donovan says.
To build tech skills quickly, Donovan recommends inexpensive, low-pressure self-paced options like those found on Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, edX, and Coursera. But while online courses are a great way to learn new skills, Donovan warns that if you're doing an online course without a live instructor and homework, you should find ways to practice the skill to truly learn it. “Look for programs through extension programs of major universities, major tech companies, and edX and Coursera,” Donovan suggests, Coursera and edX both partner with many big tech companies to provide credentials.
"As employers drop degree requirements, they're putting more stock in industry micro-credentials like these," says Marni Baker Stein, chief content officer at Coursera, where 5,500 courses can be audited for free. Some of Coursera's most popular tech courses in 2022 were Foundations of User Experience (UX) Design (free and offered by Google), Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) (free from the University of Michigan), and Algorithms, Part I (free from Princeton University).
As AI accelerates and puts more jobs at risk—leadership is increasingly important, and in a newly launched course from the University of Michigan, students immerse themselves in a real-life scenario to practice giving and receiving feedback. “Leaders are the ones who help employees navigate and even thrive during change,” Stein says, “It's a uniquely human skill that AI will likely never replace.”
"The biggest conversation in the technology industry right now is the future of AI and what implementing tools like ChatGPT into the workplace looks like for tech workers," says Akhila Satish, an award-winning career expert, scientist, and CEO of Meseekna, where she's worked with employers such as the US Department of Defense, NASA, Eli Lilly, and Credit Suisse to assess and improve employee performance. Satish notes that two essential skills for staying ahead of AI and thriving in the tech space have nothing to do with programming and coding—those skills are creativity and innovation.
“Artificial intelligence performs nowhere near a human level of creativity, which is why it's important to cultivate your own innovation, since AI isn't replacing it anytime soon,” Satish says. Although we typically use tech to learn more about tech, Satish offers a very analog way to boost creativity–she looks at common, everyday items and thinks about the process of creating that thing. “Let's say your object is a desk chair—how did they decide the height of the chair? The material? The flat back? It seems silly, but your brain needs to exercise its innovation muscle, and this trick is actually backed by 60+ years of research in the ‘how’ of thinking,” she says.
As it turns out, how you think might be worth more than what you know. “All research shows that EQ is more predictive of performance than IQ,” says Celine Floyd, accredited industrial psychologist and VP at global talent acquisition and management firm Cappfinity. Cappfinity's research reports that skills like resilience, agility, self-insight, and inclusive leadership are critical for tech job seekers.
“Maintaining resilience and drive means you can weather storms, you're a source of stability and positivity for others, and you can adjust to new environments. Everything points toward resilience being one of the ‘meta skills’ of this decade for the tech industry,” Floyd says. "Inclusive leadership is the capacity for someone to see the value in, and draw on, the diversity of others—and diversity should be viewed in the sense of not only ethnicity or gender, but also neural diversity, personality diversity, and background diversity."
“All the tech skills in the world won't move the needle on your tech career if you're not emotionally fit,” says Emily Anhalt, a clinical psychologist and cofounder and chief clinical officer of Coa. Anhalt teaches that trying to be sustainably successful in tech without working on things like communication, resilience, and self-awareness is like an Olympic athlete trying to be successful without eating well and getting enough sleep.
To develop these skills, it’s imperative to have an ongoing, proactive practice, and Anhalt recommends emotional pushups. “An emotional pushup is any small emotional exertion that puts you just a little out of your comfort zone so you can grow,” she says.
“Just like you shouldn't wait until you have early signs of heart disease to do cardio, those interested in leveling up in tech should begin doing their emotional pushups now,” Anhalt says, “To foster these skills, take a class at Coa, think about starting therapy, and find your community, because emotional fitness is an individual journey but a communal pursuit.”
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