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How to Future-Proof Your Career: Start with Hybrid Job Skills

Gloria Larson 

Throughout my tenure as a college president, one of the most pressing issues I have hoped to address is the perceived skills gap for new college graduates. The global economy is evolving and progressing, and here at Bentley University, we’re searching for trends and patterns to keep our graduates ahead of the curve. For the past decade, we have seen that every industry, and particularly the growing technology sector, seems to have an ever-increasing need for specialized or niche skills and a lack of qualified candidates. Now, a new labor market analysis commissioned by Bentley has found that in 2016, for many industries, specialty skills that were once assigned to dedicated positions are now expected and required across several job categories. To flourish in today’s economy, universities must adapt and prepare students to be a ‘master of many’ skills in order to start filling the growing list of requirements of the Hybrid Job.

A Hybrid Job is one that requires a variety of skills, and not necessarily ones that have traditionally been associated with one another. The rise of the Hybrid Job is changing the criteria employers have for its employees, and how job seekers look for their perfect match.


 

Social media is a good example. Several years ago, when Twitter and Facebook were first making an enormous impact on the way companies engaged with consumers, marketing departments everywhere were in desperate need of social media experts to launch and maintain their online social presence. Fast forward to 2016, the skills of a “social media strategist” are expected and required of almost every position, inside and outside of a marketing team. According to our new data, job postings for social media strategists have fallen 64% in the last five years, even as the skill of social media strategy has skyrocketed in human resource jobs (+376%), sales jobs (+150%), and marketing and PR jobs (+117%). What was once seen as an innovative skill is now a decidedly mainstream expectation in a job posting.  

But it’s not just social media. In fact, 71% of in-demand skills are required across two or more job categories, and fall into the hard and soft skills categories. Have you brushed up on your SQL knowledge lately? Seven job categories, including Research and Analysis, Management and Operations, and Marketing and PR include demands for hard-skills in SQL—that accounts for 726,698 job openings across the country. Equally in demand are soft-skill abilities like decision-making: seven job categories are in search of this skill to fill more than 200,000 job openings.  

Successful employees will need to have an ability to wear multiple hats. He or she will combine traditional soft skills such as communication and collaboration with the hard, technical skills that used to belong exclusively to a select tech-savvy group. Jobs are becoming more dynamic in our new-age economy, and those who are preparing to enter the industries of tomorrow need to be equally as versatile. 

So how does this change my job as a college president? A gigantic transformation in our economy must also spur an evolution in higher education practices. Schools must find creative ways to integrate traditional liberal arts strengths with cutting-edge technical skills. Higher education leaders must see education as interactive, experiential and connected to the outside world.  It is about incorporating specific skills into courses that are needed in a highly competitive marketplace – which can also mean we may need to take some business classes to the next level.  They need to be a combination of hard and soft skills where students can use tools such as R and Python, but also learn how it fits within the overall business process and have the ability to communicate its role in a strategic plan.

It also means working closely with corporate partners to stay current on which skills are needed.  This doesn’t compromise a liberal arts education, it enriches it by infusing courses with practical applications so students can understand how to act on their knowledge in a real world setting.

This is the way we need to teach and work. It is vital if we want our students to be well-prepared for life and success after college. We must develop their ability to view opportunities, challenges and problems through multiple perspectives. It is this type of change that will drive innovation, and drive our economy forward.