Updated Jan. 11, 2023
There’s a truth universally unacknowledged — that some of the people with the most marketable skills have no idea that they have those skills. And if we know we have them, we probably don’t know what they’re worth.
Let me tell you about my ridiculous experience with this. I was working for the government as a policy analyst. I’d broken 6 figures for the first time, and it felt pretty dang good. I mean, I hated the work. But the paycheck felt nice.
But on the side, I’d started this little blog. Writing away, and doing it for free — because that’s what I REALLY love to do.
Fast forward two years later, I make more than double what I made at the government, by doing freelance writing and consulting — basically what I do for fun on this blog. The thing is, my writing was my MOST marketable skill. But I had to actually learn how to use it and how to market it to the people who needed it.
If you’re searching for a job, especially if you’re fresh out of school, it’s hard to know what your most marketable skills are. And if you don’t know, how can you fully demonstrate your value proposition to an employer?
I realized that I was dang good at stakeholder relations, which is number 2 on this list. But I never really knew to call it that. I just thought I was good with people.
If you need to take stock of your marketable skills to become more hireable, this list will help you name and claim some of the skills you probably already have!
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1. Project Management
Although the word sounds intimidating, a lot of jobs require some aspect of project management. I’m not talking about formal project management, say managing a huge construction project, I’m really just talking about the skill that often is required for making stuff happen in the modern workplace.
Project management is big word, and it’s hard to know if it’s something you have. But chances are, if you’ve ever worked on something that has a beginning a middle and an end, you have worked on a project. If you led that project, or some element of that project, bonus points. Even more bonus points if you oversaw or were involved in budgeting for a project.
Look at the work in your life. Have you ever done something that suggests you’d be able to manage a project? Here are a few examples:
- Organizing an event
- Running a school team or campus group
- Overseeing a new SOMETHING at work
- Doing independent research and publishing it
Students and new grads can look to their coursework and culminating activities for project management skills. A master’s or a PhD, for example, usually it’s a project with multiple moving parts, including research, funding, reports, and more. These can be an example of project management.
If you’ve already got some of a career under your belt, even better. Check your resume for the evidence you can manage a project. AND if you want, you can consider taking some courses to solidify this skill.
Project Management Courses
- Project Management Foundations (LinkedIn Learning)
- Scrum: The Basics (LinkedIn Learning)
- Become an Agile Project Manager (LinkedIn Learning)
2. Stakeholder Relations
Stakeholder relations is a highly marketable skill, that sounds way fancier than it is.
Basically, stakeholder relations is just maintaining relationships with people who are important to a company. Usually, this term doesn’t refer to clients, but rather to other people who might have an interest in the work your organization does.
For example, a national association that has dozens of members paying into it needs to do stakeholder relations with those members. Another fancy word for this is member relations, but the skill is usually called stakeholder relations.
Students and new grads may have developed stakeholder relations skills through their time in college or university, for example, through volunteering for an on-campus group that built relationships, or through helping organize a conference that had multiple participants.
As I was writing this post, I was thinking, “Surely there’s no course on stakeholder relations!”
But I was a dummy. Because here’s one from LinkedIn Learning, and it’s really good!
If you have ever been involved in a project to raise money, you probably have some fundraising experience.
The skill of fundraising is important for a lot of nonprofit organizations, including universities. Within this skill, you might also consider donor relations, not unlike stakeholder relations, which means managing relationships with people who mattered to the organization financially.
Students are often asked to make presentations, answer the phone, or just generally be present for fundraising activities. This might be something that you have done.
4. Grant Writing
Grant writing is a really transferable skill. I developed the ability to write grants in grad school, where it won me a lot of money :). I have almost never met a PhD or Master’s grad who hasn’t done some form of grant writing, and most people have won something. But no matter your education level, if you’ve worked in a role that had you working on raising funding (above), you might have written a grant proposal. It’s also a super marketable skill!
And — bonus! — you can slap a number value on this skill too. Your grant writing might have won $10,000 or $200,000, and both are fine. Throw it on your resume!
Writing is a marketable skill. The problem with the skill of writing is that 1. Everyone has it to some extent, and 2. It’s hard to measure how good you are.
The secret to turning your writing ability from a common skill to a marketable skill is to think about your output channels. Nearly everyone has written a paper for school, but not everyone has contributed to published journal articles or been accepted into a newspaper or writing contest. If you can show that your writing is better than the average person’s, you can use it as a competitive edge.
The other trick to turn generic writing into a marketable skill is to write different outputs. Instead of just writing “papers” in school, try your hand at writing reports or blogs. Employers need different kinds of writing, and you can use a portfolio to demonstrate your chops.
Some of the most valuable types of writing are copywriting, ghostwriting, content writing, and writing connected to white-collar jobs like public policy, which I talked about above!
Selling is one of the oldest professions in the world, and good salespeople are NEVER out of style. You might have picked up some selling experience through working a minimum-wage job at the mall. You might have even had a lemonade stand or gone door to door selling chocolate bars, which I did as a kid.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the world’s greatest salesperson, it does mean you’ve done it. It’s one of the most marketable skills, good salespeople can make a lot of money whether they went to school or not.
There are some great starter courses to level up your sales skills on Skillshare too! I just took this short one from Margo Aaron, a self-described “recovering academic,” and found it really great!
7. Data Science
More and more people I meet have some sort of ability in data science– R and Python are especially common languages. Coding data is in huge demand and is a totally marketable skill. Lots of jobs require some aspect of coding. And career track jobs that require coding pay higher on average.
If you can code, make sure it’s splashed across your resume and LinkedIn. You could even link to projects you’ve built on Git Hub just to show off your chops.
If you want to develop your coding chops, you can do that too! Here are some great courses:
- Introduction to Data Science (Datacamp)
- Learning Data Analytics: 1 Foundations (LinkedIn Learning)
- Intro to R (Datacamp)
8. Customer Service
Customer service is still in high demand, and the industry has changed over the past few years from being only 10% remote to +70% remote–which is great news if you want to work remotely too!
You might have developed customer service at your high school job at McDonald’s or working at the library. Any role, paid or voluntary, that required you to interact with customers, help solve their problems, and put a good face forward for the company, gave you customer service skills. And they are foundational to a lot of different careers in industries that serve customers.
9. Event Planning
I guess I never knew this until I end up inadvertently event planning how freaking IMPORTANT this skill is. It’s a form of project management really. Lots of orgs have events, and if you’ve got experience managing them, you’ve got a great skill you can sell!
Even if you’ve done event planning in a non-work environment, let’s say you planned — ahem — a wedding, you’ve probably got some chops.
10. Graphic Design
Okay. Last but not least, let’s talk about visual skills. Graphic Design. Now, there’s a whole range of graphic design, from “I make a mean PowerPoint” to “I can build your company a new brand.” Not all are created equal.
But rest assured, if you have design skills, you’ve got a marketable skill that can take you places.
11. Social Media Marketing
Okay, so let me start by saying this. Social media marketing is a huge range of fields these days. A company who thinks a digital marketer should be able to do EVERYTHING on social is lying to itself. In fact, the best marketing teams hire platform-specific marketers (ie. YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, etc.)
But the fact remains that if you’ve got a decent social media marketing toolkit of some sort, you’ve got a marketable skill to sell to potential employers. And it might even just be that you’ve created a following on a platform.
Most employers won’t care much — it’s not like you go to school for this, right? If you can produce results… interest, conversations, clicks, conversions, you’re golden.
Now Read: How to Get a Job Fast – 7 Proven Strategies