20 March 2021

The most desirable skills in the pandemic context (what to learn to make yourself employable)

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced millions of people around the world to completely change the way they work. Entire countries and technologically underdeveloped job sectors have had to implement a digital revolution in a short time range. Office workers, self-employed, entrepreneurs have been confronted with a huge sea of new information and skills to be developed in order to keep their productivity stable.

In the face of all this we can ask ourselves many questions, including one of fundamental importance: what are the most fundamental skills to develop in remote work? Which of these skills can be reused in future and present digital work?

First of all, it is essential to make a distinction between hard skills and soft skills:

  • hard skills directly concern the field of education, language, technical and professional skills. Everything that represents the candidate's educational, academic and working background and can be certified. Thus, education, masters, specialisation courses, qualifications, technological and practical skills;

  • soft skills are personal abilities and characteristics that go beyond the job itself. They influence the way we interact and relate to the demands and issues in the work environment. A good employer can recognise them in the attitude with which a task is carried out.

Lockdown and remote working have definitely made clear the importance of a broad and specific knowledge of digital skills. They are not something new in the European environment. One of the first definitions was given by the recommendation of the European Parliament of 18 December 2006 concerning key competences for lifelong learning:

Digital competence involves the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure and communication. It is underpinned by basic skills in ICT: the use of computers to retrieve, assess, store, produce, present and exchange information, and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet. [...] Digital competence requires a sound understanding and knowledge of the nature, role and opportunities of IST in everyday context [1]

Digital Hard Skills are the basic, specific, technical digital competences that define a professional figure. They can be acquired at school, at university, with masters and advanced courses, but also in the workplace. Hard Skills are quantifiable digital competences, and are among the skills to be included in the curriculum, such as knowing how to use computer programmes and packages, and knowledge of programming languages. For example in the Big Data world, there is a great demand for data management and analysis figures. In the field of social networks, you need to be aware that ways of communicating and collaborating are constantly changing. Social media managers need a constant updating process regarding the new technological tools to pursue a social strategy in line with the business model.

Soft skills are characteristics and practical tools that allow each individual to find his or her place in a changing labour market. Furthermore, they are elements through which the employer can assess the competence of the employee.

Of all those represented in the image above, the most decisive, particular and difficult to manage is creativity. Sometimes it is an integral part of a person's skills, sometimes it has to be conquered and trained. In any case, possessing it means providing others with innovative approaches and suitable strategies to solve current or upcoming problems, to improve existing ideas and to make problems clearer.

The ability to work in a team, to be able to communicate, to be curious, to have an open mind, to manage emotions and stress, to be dynamic, to know how to delegate and manage conflicts, to compete healthily: these are all key factors that the employee of the future must have. These are often innate characteristics, but a good employer will be able to extrapolate them in the best possible way. Soft skills are basically responsible for the quality of your daily work.

Developing hard and soft skills is not easy. People need an incentive to do it, a head start. Our brains are naturally resistant to the effort of abandoning habit, which is the path that requires less energy. The lockdown has triggered in some people this stimulus allowing them to increase their knowledge. Despite the immense physical and psychological difficulties, the pandemic period must be approached with the right attitude. We cannot waste an opportunity for self-improvement. Everything we learn today, both soft and hard skills, will be useful not only when we are going to apply for a job, but also for living a better life.


[1] RECOMMENDATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning (2006/962/EC)