Regardless of where you apply for a job these days, tech skills can set you apart from other candidates.
But what does that blanket term “tech skills” actually mean?
We’ve put together a guide that breaks down the best software and technology to learn in five skill areas, so you’ll know exactly which tech skills will help you stand out from other job seekers, move your career forward, and grow your paycheck.
We preview the top tech skills for roles across five skill sets:
General computer skills aren’t always necessary for warehousing positions, but they can help set you apart from other job seekers. Being comfortable around technology and eager to learn any system you encounter will help you get a foot in the door, and on the ladder toward a promotion.
LEARN MORE: To find out more about career growth in warehousing, see a previous article on the subject, How to Build a Career Starting in the Warehouse.
In addition to preferring candidates possessing a working knowledge of basic technology like smartphones and computer operating systems, a lot of warehouse managers expect their employees to use order-picking software to speed up order fulfillment and manage inventory.
Even seasonal or temporary warehousing positions usually include on-the-job training, which can help differentiate you from other candidates as you proceed to future positions. At every step of your job search, ask prospective employers about opportunities to gain familiarity with technology such as order-picking software, barcode readers, conveyor belts and forklifts.
For nearly all administrative or office roles, Microsoft Office proficiency and general computer skills are a must. This especially includes advanced-level understanding of Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word, as well as proficiency with Microsoft Outlook or Google-based email. Depending on your role, Microsoft PowerPoint may be helpful as well.
LEARN MORE: Check out 5 Surprising Things that Job-Seeking Office Workers Should Know for some under-the-radar tips for setting yourself apart from other candidates.
Many in administrative positions work alongside people from all levels and departments of organizations recording and communicating important information, so employers value your ability to type with accuracy and speed. Be prepared for pre-employment assessments that measure your typing ability and familiarity with Microsoft Office.
Free tutorials are available online to help you prepare – and none are as trustworthy as those provided by Microsoft.
If you want to study the next level of software proficiency, explore opportunities to gain experience in any that will help you edit common file types, such as .pdf or .jpg files. Gaining experience with web-based or app-based communication software such as Slack or social media can also help you stand out from other candidates.
Many companies prefer candidates with general computer skills, especially Microsoft Office.
The ability to support customers and their wants and needs is far and away the most sought-after hard or soft skill for customer service representatives, but technology comes into play when managing the experience of so many customers.
LEARN MORE: If you’re considering a jump to customer service, read up on a prior article - Ask Aerotek: New Careers and Opportunities in Customer Service – to find out if you’re on the right track.
Comfort with customer relationship management systems (CRMs) – the software used to record service rep interactions with customers and access customer records – is an added bonus. CRMs are platforms where customer service reps record interactions with customers. Top systems include Oracle, Salesforce and SAP, and there are some great free tutorial videos on YouTube that can really help you get comfortable with these platforms.
Even candidates without experience using CRMs can set themselves apart by showing a familiarity with the systems and an eagerness to learn. Typing quickly and accurately also comes into play when recording interactions with customers.
Technical manufacturing roles
Depending on a manufacturing facility’s setup, robotics and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) may be used to control many of the plant’s processes, making today’s manufacturing jobs a far cry from the manual assembly lines of the past. Experience with PLCs and robotics is an increasingly important prerequisite for manufacturing jobs.
LEARN MORE: For further insight on just one of the many candidate skillsets needed by manufacturers, check out How Electricians Can Find the Best Jobs.
But what software and equipment do prospective employers use most?
PLC software produced by Allen-Bradley is used in many, and robots on American assembly lines are often made by FANUC or ABB Robotics.
As you might imagine, learning these systems is a bit more involved than watching a YouTube tutorial, but if you’re interested in jumping into the world of automated manufacturing, training can pay dividends – according to PayScale, the average salary for a qualified PLC programmer is nearly double that of the average manufacturing worker.
There are numerous classes, courses, certifications and education in PLC software and robotics systems. Check your local schools, unions, community colleges and independent programs for certification and training, and always make sure to ask about on-the-job training with new employers.
Top software for architects
Most modern architectural design is done digitally, using 3D modeling software, so familiarity with at least one computer-aided design (CAD) software platform is a required technical skill for jobs in this field.
LEARN MORE: Now’s a great time to pursue a career in architecture. To find out why, see How an Architect Builds a Career.
Autodesk’s AutoCAD has been regarded as an industry standard (and remains so in many industries outside of architecture) since its introduction in the late 1980s. But employers have recently shown a greater demand for candidates with proficiency in a newer 3D modeling software called Revit, also from Autodesk.
If you want to get some experience with Revit, you can download a free trial from the Autodesk website so you can familiarize yourself by working through the tutorials available from Autodesk. If you’re serious about learning Revit, however, you’ll probably want to take a class online or in-person at your local community college or trade school.
Experimenting with new, cutting-edge software is always helpful, even if you don’t end up using it on the job. Since clients of architecture firms may insist on their own preferred software, employers seek architects who can easily adapt to different technology. This means that any time you spend learning how you learn new software is as potentially important as learning each system.
For the future
Today there are virtually no jobs that don’t require some level of technical skill. Whether you’re working in a warehouse, an office or in a retail environment, chances are that interacting with a computer or automation system is something you’re going to have to do every day.
When searching for a new position, review the job requirements. If you notice any software programs or technical skills listed that you aren’t familiar with, a quick online search may lead you to free tutorials and other resources.
From these, you can get a sense of whether the new software seems relatively similar to others you’re already familiar with, or if learning the new system will require more training.