Why you’ll need more than tech skills in 2021: Part One


Digital skills are increasingly essential in the modern job market, but even those with their heart set on a career in coding will need a broader set of skills to succeed.

That’s why ‘soft skills’ such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity – alongside digital skills – are essential elements of our skills programmes and the associated work experience projects we incorporate into our curriculum.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the skills we help you unlock and ways you can develop them.

1. Adaptability

If you have ever wondered about the importance of adaptability, look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants and shops developed delivery and click and collect services, GP consultations went online, and workers everywhere embraced remote working. Where feasible, the organisations that adapted quickly to new ways of working are fairing better than those less able to adapt.

This has meant adopting different work patterns, learning to communicate in new ways and dealing with a changed environment where work, home and (for many) school all merged into one.

But pandemics aside, being adaptable can help you stand out. Whether that’s by keeping abreast of rapid changes in technology, putting your hand up for a new challenge or getting stuck into help another colleague complete a task, your ability to identify when a change is needed and adapt to accommodate will mark you out as an asset in any team.

Top tips for developing your adaptability:
  • Challenge yourself to read or listen to an opposing point of view and be open to new ideas
  • Be spontaneous – say yes to a last minute opportunity or change of plan
  • Do the same thing, differently. Think about something you always do in the same way, such as making a particular meal or keeping in touch with a friend. Try sending a postcard instead of a text. Or add a new ingredient to your recipe. What difference does it make? What other changes could you make?

2. Communication

Effective communication skills have always been important – but now we’ve thrown more challenges into the mix with so much communication taking place online. We often talk about the importance of eye contact and a confident handshake, but with webcams and screens often misaligned, and handshakes virtually banned, we have a new set of skills to master.

Written, spoken and aural skills will continue to be important in the workplace but now we have to think even harder about the best way to deliver a message. In our course, we cover all the essential skills you need for great presentations. That includes thinking about how to engage your audience virtually, and the importance of timing and breaks to avoid screen fatigue.

Communications tips:
  • Be a sponge: Take time to notice how other people communicate and what works well. What makes one Zoom call engaging and another one flat? How do you feel when you receive a text versus a like on social media? When does face to face communication really matter?
  • Develop your style: There may still be some set rules when it comes to communication in the workplace but the advent of social media has given organisations the chance to be a little less formal. Have a look at how companies you admire communicate and use what you learn to develop your own communication style.
  • Play with presentation: Gone are the days when PowerPoint was your only option for presentations. We still use it and it’s great in lots of cases, but it’s worth checking out other options such as Prezi, Mural and Haiku Deck. Challenge yourself to get your point across using images only, or try out some fun tools to encourage audience participation.

3. Negotiation

Negotiation is a combination of persuasion, influencing and confidence, but it’s also about being able to empathise with the person you are negotiating with and understand their perspective.

Whether you’re negotiating a pay rise, the price for a car or trying to sell your skills to a potential employer – you will need negotiation skills throughout your life and career. Despite this, it’s rarely taught in school or even at university.

Lacking in confidence can have a huge impact on your negotiation outcomes… Those who show a lack of confidence are more likely to give in or cave too quickly during a negotiation, pursue a less-aggressive ask, and miss out on opportunities by not asking in the first place”. 

Katherine Knapke, Communications & Operations Manager at the American Negotiation Institute.

Our skills programme includes a course with Phil from The Negotiation Club to practice and hone your negotiation skills in a fun but in a safe environment, which helps you gain confidence and assert yourself – a great asset in helping you secure your next job and in handling day-to-day issues. 

Negotiation tips to try at home:
  • Try your hand at haggling: It might be awkward, but haggling is often worth the effort. Next time you have to renew your phone contract or buy a new piece of tech, see if you can secure a bit of a discount. Past episodes of The Apprentice can be a good way to learn how – and how not – to do it!
  • Negotiate better chores: Is there a chore you hate? If you share a house with family members or friends, why not negotiate a chore swap and see how much you can work this in your favour. For me, I’d much rather walk the dog – and have some time to myself – than unload the dishwasher so that’s my negotiation challenge.
  • Get something for nothing: What can you get without opening your wallet? Here’s a clue – if you live in the West Midlands, you can sign up for our funded Skills Programme and it won’t cost you a penny!

These are just a few examples of the skills you will be taught not only to unlock, but to harness, on our skills programme.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in which we explore other key skills that you will need in 2021 – and in the meantime, get practicing with our free downloadable resource! View all of our downloadable resources here.

For more careers and skills advice and tips direct to your inbox, subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter The Stride here.

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Published by Peter Cripps

Software architect, digital activist, blogger and photographer.

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