January 29, 2008

What are Marketable Skills?

Ready for the market?
What are Marketable Skills?
If you are in the market looking for an opportunity or are just exploring - marketable skills will take on a new (and urgent) meaning. The market will ignore your current title, job definition and position but fixate on your marketable skills. So what are these skills?

In Demand
Marketable skills are skills or competencies, which are in demand (or conversely the supply is low) - today! I emphasize today because times change and what was in vogue two years ago maybe obsolete today. Different factors affect this dimension, including industry (consider an auto worker in Detroit), location (an IT developer in India), economy (construction worker in Florida), obsolescence (travel agent) and technology (Web2.0).

To manage the demand factor, an astute worker must be aware of market conditions. Awareness comes from constantly being engaged with the market by reading, conversing, listening and exploring. In other words read a trade journal, surf the web, visit job sites, meet industry experts and stay in tune with the market.

A good manager in one company will usually be sought after in another company. A subject matter expert in a company specific application will have a tough time selling his expertise to another company. Programming is a transferable skill whereas COBOL coding is a specialized competency.

When you think transferable - consider abstractions that apply in most business settings. Management, sales, analysis and testing are typical functions in most IT shops. You substantiate these functions by having relevant tool and industry knowledge but the starting point is an easily transferable role that the market readily recognizes.

Depth in your subject area will create credibility. Credibility about your skills and accomplishments is a big selling factor. A manager can extend his credibility by being a certified PMP or a technical architect can confirm his credentials by having relevant industry certification. In the end - there is a premium attached to competency and that makes it a marketable commodity.

Invest in training and education to round off your competencies. Seek industry standard certifications and credentials to showcase your competency.

Having marketable skills is not a short-term endeavor but a consistent and intentional approach towards career management. Keep in touch with market conditions to create an edge - you will need it.

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