Future-Proof Your Career: The Top 10 Skills Employers are Looking for in 2024

Two students in professional attire for a career fair event

In today's rapid job market, staying ahead is non-negotiable. Developing future-ready skills is crucial, particularly as the evolution and integration of artificial intelligence and other technological innovations is redefining the business world (and how we engage in it). Upskilling is no longer a “nice-to-have,” but instead a necessity, to enhance your employability and open doors to higher-paying or leadership-oriented roles.

No matter how the technology changes over time, employers will always seek those with diverse skill sets. Proactively acquiring skills and staying updated with industry trends is imperative for future-proofing your career. Here are 10 skills employers will look for in the coming year:

Skill 1: Data Literacy and Analytics

Finding employees with the ability to make informed decisions is vital for any employer. As businesses continue to amass robust amounts of data, interpreting and analyzing the 147 zettabytes of data expected in 2024 will become more important. Data literacy and analytics isn't just about understanding numbers; it's the ability to uncover hidden patterns and trends, transforming raw data and articulating insights to stakeholders so they can make the most informed decisions—focusing on evidence, rather than intuition.

Skill 2: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Mastering Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is a game-changer in what is expected to be another year with a competitive job market. These skills are not just buzzwords. They're your ticket to standing out on your resume (and in the workplace). As of 2022, at least 77% of businesses have started using or exploring AI. And, if you have the skills to use these tools effectively, you can help streamline operations and increase your personal productivity, putting that time back into growing the business rather than focusing on operations. The beauty of AI and ML skills lies in their versatility. Whether you're eyeing a role in healthcare, finance, retail, or manufacturing, organizations are actively seeking those who can effectively employ these technologies to drive growth and make meaningful contributions to the organization.

Skill 3: Digital Fluency and Technology Aptitude

Digital fluency is about navigating and utilizing digital tools effectively, staying updated on tech trends, and adapting swiftly to emerging technologies. Beyond basic computer skills, digital fluency involves a deep understanding of how technology influences business processes so you can drive innovation and efficiency in your organization. With organizations becoming more accepting of remote work and virtual collaboration, those who have strong digital fluency will have a more competitive edge in the application process, allowing them to seamlessly integrate new technologies, streamline processes, and boost productivity—for themselves—as well as the larger organization.

Skill 4: Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and innovation are skills that never go out of style. In fact, they can be foundational to many businesses. Creative thinking means tackling challenges from unique angles, breaking free from conventional thoughts, and finding unique solutions. When you pair this with an innovation mindset, you can become a standout in the application process. You are more capable of embracing new ideas, taking calculated risks and using strong problem-solving skills to make decisions under pressure and adapt your approach when the time comes.

Skill 5: Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) encompasses a range of skills, including emotional awareness and management. It involves recognizing and understanding your own emotions, as well as being able to empathize with the emotions of others. In the workplace, empathy plays a crucial role in building strong relationships and fostering a positive work environment. When you are able to put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand their perspective, you can communicate more effectively and more easily resolve conflicts. High emotional intelligence also helps you manage your own emotions in a productive manner. It helps you remain calm under pressure, make rational decisions, and handle even the most challenging situations gracefully.

Skill 6: Adaptability and Resilience

While EQ helps you handle situations with grace, adaptability, flexibility, and resilience help you navigate those situations, allowing you to embrace change. Employers are looking for employees who don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk—showcasing these skills under pressure. At the heart of these skills is adaptability, a trait that goes beyond keeping up, but instead is about quickly adjusting to new processes, systems or strategies. You need to be open-minded and welcoming to new ideas—especially in a business environment and market that can move at a breakneck pace. You must also be flexible. This is not just about doing tasks, but doing them exceptionally well when you need to adjust priorities on the fly or have to be open to acquiring a new approach. This ties into resilience, the ability to bounce back and bounce back stronger. Resilient employees can weather setbacks and be determined to thrive amidst challenges and continuing to actively seek solutions when things get tough.

Skill 7: Critical Thinking and Complex Problem-Solving

Employers actively seek individuals with strong critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and decision-making skills. Critical thinking involves objectively evaluating information, analyzing it from multiple perspectives, and drawing your own logical conclusions. It empowers you to question assumptions, identify your biases, and make well-informed decisions based on evidence. Complex problem-solving demands breaking down intricate problems, identifying patterns, exploring alternatives, and being adaptable. It requires creativity in generating innovative ideas and flexibility in adjusting strategies as needed. Mastering critical thinking and complex problem-solving not only boosts your individual performance but also contributes to organizational success.

Skill 8: Leadership Skills and Influence

When employers are looking to fill any position, an applicant with strong leadership qualities, effective team management, and clear communication abilities will stand out. What are the strategies of an effective leader, even in an entry-level position? Effective leaders inspire trust and confidence by embodying qualities like integrity and accountability, fostering a positive work environment. When you set a positive example, you can influence others to follow suit, improving workplace morale and increasing the productivity of your organization or department. Team management is also key; knowing when to delegate tasks, provide guidance, and empower team members. You must have the ability to recognize individual strengths and weaknesses to create a cohesive unit working toward shared goals.

Skill 9: Cultural Competence and Diversity

As the business world gets more diverse, cultural intelligence and competence are invaluable skills. Cultural intelligence, the ability to navigate and communicate effectively across cultures, goes beyond language proficiency. It involves understanding diverse cultural norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors. Cultural competence enables you to build meaningful connections with people from different backgrounds, fostering inclusivity and respect. These problem solving skills enable you to consider multiple perspectives before making a decision, leading to a more productive work environment.

Skill 10: Environmental Sustainability Awareness

With the growing concern for our planet's well-being, individuals and organizations alike are realizing the importance of incorporating eco-friendly practices and green initiatives into their daily lives and their workplace. Organizations are implementing sustainable strategies such as reducing waste, conserving energy, and promoting renewable resources. These initiatives not only benefit the environment but also enhance their reputation as socially responsible entities, as consumers “are more likely to purchase and prefer green items over conventional products when they believe that the companies selling those products take green marketing seriously, are knowledgeable about green products, and share their values.” By developing a sustainability consciousness, you will not only improve business outcomes, you will actively contribute to preserving our environment for future generations.

Embrace the Skills of the Future to Stay Ahead in the Job Market

In the fast-paced professional landscape of 2024, future-proofing your career is not just a choice—it's a necessity. As industries evolve, employers are increasingly seeking individuals with a dynamic skill set that goes beyond the traditional. To not only secure a position but thrive in it, you must learn to leverage these skills so you can continue to be successful even after you land the job. 

St. John’s University will help you develop these skills with our programs that are specifically designed for a competitive job market without neglecting the importance of operating ethically and with a passion for high principles.