It’s important to recognize what skills are in demand approaching 2016, as those entering the job market with these skills will undoubtedly have an easier time getting hired and choosing their employer out of a myriad of options. The reason for this is the economic law of supply and demand.

In addition to an emphasis on technical job skills, it’s important to remember the timeless value of communication, business strategy, time management, teamwork and other traditional "soft skills." Excess demand for the following skills in the upcoming years renders them extremely valuable to job applicants.

How to Add Value in a Technological Age

It’s no shock that the top skills in demand for 2016 derive from STEM education-oriented initiatives (science, technology, engineering and math). Everywhere we look we see the influence of rapid technological advancement. Big data and computing systems pervade all aspects of our lives, enticing us to buy, visit, and act in certain ways. Ongoing acceleration of the tech industry is a main reason why tech skills are in demand. However, it’s not just the software and mobile app startups that are searching for tech-savvy talent. Almost every company needs these kind of skilled people, and usually it’s the traditional companies that look to hire millennial-aged workers to enhance social media optimization, data analysis and the like.

It’s important to stay up-to-date with the technology industry, as it's constantly evolving and improving. Many tech skills have a high turnover rate, meaning a skill learned last year might be absolutely useless tomorrow. A study by Research in Labor Economics concluded that approximately one-third of tech skills learned a year prior lacked value today. On the bright side, the introduction of new systems gives way to a dearth of people who understand how to navigate them, and a great opportunity to be one of the first in the game.

A study by Foote Partners and CIO.com, “16 of the Hottest IT Skills for 2015” points out that since many companies have adopted data aggregation and digital marketing strategies, they increasingly need individuals who can sift through the data to analyze and manage it. Database and big data skills such as data management made their list of most valuable tech skills, along with cloud computing, data architecture, applications development, SAP and Enterprise Business Applications, security and project/program management skills. (See also: E-Careers That Didn't Exist 10 Years Ago.)

Many free online resources exist to learn tech skills such as coding. Try Code School or Hour of Code to start. Other options include platforms such as General Assembly, which trains individuals on in-demand skills in order to enter, or re-enter, the work force in their field of interest. Courses also arm entrepreneurs with the tools necessary to launch their businesses. (See also: Top 5 Coding Camps To Launch Your Career; The 10 Best Tech Jobs).

Time’s Are (Not) A-Changin’

In a world where less people interact in person and more business is done over the web, those few times that face-to-face communication occurs are very crucial. Virtual meetings are nice options but will never take the place of traditional physical meetings.

Furthermore, talking over email, or whatever communication system a business uses, relays only a fraction of the necessary information. When responding to questions and concerns, tone of voice matters, as does speed and efficiency. A differentiator for many prospective employees is the ability to work a room and stand out from more introverted prospects.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is a leading source of information about the employment of college graduates. As a matching agent for college career placement programs and employers, they conducted a survey named “The Skills/Qualities Employers Want in New College Graduate Hires.” Out of the 260 surveys that were returned from across the U.S, the largest segment of respondents (77.8%) reported that they valued “leadership” and “the ability to work in a team structure.” Communication, problem solving skills, work ethic, and analytical/quantitative skills were next on the list. (To read more, see: The 7 Most Universal Job Skills.)

The Bottom Line

Start beefing up the skills listed above in order to differentiate yourself as a valuable asset to your prospective employers. As many would guess, tech skills hold great weight in deciding which employees are valuable to a company, including traditional companies attempting to evolve, or new startups based on high-tech systems and big data. This tech influence is evident in the fact that many schools and after-school programs focus on the enhancement of STEM education. However, traditional people skills such as communication, leadership and teamwork should not be downplayed. The ability to light up the room and network your way through a crowd continues to be the most invaluable asset you can bring to an employer, and is the first step to launching your own business.

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