Upgrade: The No. 1 ‘soft skill’ you need to compete in today’s job market

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Creativity counts.

And it may help you more than many skills succeed in today’s job market — at least according to career site LinkedIn, which examined data from its users, as well as more than 20 million job postings, to create its list of the most in-demand jobs skills for 2020.

Creativity topped the list of the most important soft skills for 2020, as it did for 2019, with LinkedIn noting that “organizations need people who can creatively approach problems and tasks across all business roles, from software engineering to HR.”

(Soft skills — as opposed to hard skills like knowing Microsoft Word or JavaScript — are things like personality characteristics and behaviors. Experts say they are very important traits to have to succeed in today’s economy, with the Pew Research Center, in a study about the future of jobs, noting that: “soft, human skills were seen by most respondents as crucial for survival in the age of AI and robotics.”)

“Creativity is very important because it is a soft skill that gives organizations their edge … Good companies know that they need fresh ideas to remain competitive,” says Cheryl Palmer, founder of Call to Career, a career coaching firm. Thus, she adds: “An employee who brings creativity to the table can be quite an asset to an organization looking to gain and/or keep an edge in the marketplace.”

Plus, creativity may be good for the bottom line, as the World Economic Forum highlights: “Between 2002 and 2015, the global market for creative goods – dominated by design, fashion and film – has more than doubled in size, from $208 billion to $509 billion.”

Wondering how to boost your creativity? “Challenge yourself. And no, not by taking more online quizzes, but by learning a new language, taking a cross-country bike ride, volunteering, reading harder books, stepping outside of your (unhappy) rut, and doing the one thing that forces you to live on your nerves,” says NYC-based career strategist Carlota Zimmerman. “That experience will cause you to think differently, to make mistakes, to be honest with yourself: all of that will become your creativity.”

The No. 2 skill on LinkedIn’s list was persuasion: “Leaders and hiring managers value individuals who can explain the ‘why,’” LinkedIn writes.

Persuasion is a “critical soft skill because good ideas are not necessarily implemented merely because they are good ideas. Someone has to sell those good ideas, internally and externally. Being able to articulately explain your business case has the potential to be a real career builder. Your good ideas, coupled with a persuasive argument, can position you for greater responsibilities,” says Palmer.

And adds John Roccia, a career specialist at career coaching firm Ama la Vida: “It’s a win/win skill because it helps a company have more persuasive people on the team, but it also helps you personally navigate your career track.

Indeed, other research previously covered by MarketWatch indicated that many people who went on to become billionaires and multimillionaires had sales jobs before or during their climb into the 1%. And sales jobs, of course, require high levels of persuasive soft skills.

Want to become more persuasive? Zimmerman points out that you could take a class at your local community college on persuasion or related topics like public speaking, and Palmer says there are many online courses too; LinkedIn Learning offers some, as do Skillshare, Udemy and Coursera. Other things you can do: “Carefully observe persuasive people. You can watch videos of public speakers who are very persuasive. You can pay attention to body language and intonation to help you learn from them,” Palmer says.

5 most in-demand soft skills

1. Creativity

2. Persuasion

3. Collaboration

4. Adaptability

5. Emotional Intelligence

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