12 essential hard skills you need to master

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It’s important to have a wide range of skills in any job, and that includes hard skills – the name given to the range of technical abilities and specialist knowledge that’s needed to carry out a specific role.

It goes without saying that you’ll need some hard skills in any job, no matter the industry and level of seniority, but it pays to look beyond the day-to-day and consider how some core skills can prove useful beyond your current role.

If you master some important hard skills in one position, for instance, you could find yourself using them in another job in the future – or they could help you find another career altogether. And you’ll often find benefits in everyday life thanks to your hard skills: imagine being able to communicate properly when you’re on vacation or helping your friends with house expansion projects.

We’ve taken a dive into ten hard skills that will bring you huge benefits in the workplace and beyond. And if you need more skills help, head here for our verdict on soft skills that can benefit your entire life – and our top communication skills that you need to get right.

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1. Industry certifications

It’s one thing to have the technical skill necessary to get your job done to a high standard, but it’s another to have industry certifications and qualifications that prove to others that you’ve got ability in spades.

If you’ve got an industry certification, you’re able to prove to potential employers that you can get the job done, which will stand you in good stead for future positions. You don’t have to rely on industry certifications, either: a university degree can also demonstrate professional skills.


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2. Language skills

If you speak a second and even a third language, then you instantly possess a hard skill that’s valuable at work and beyond.

Multilingual speakers are more valued by many companies, and being able to speak more than one language will give you more options in the world of work – you’ll be able to apply to more positions and work in different countries.

It goes without saying that linguistic excellence benefits you beyond work, too: it can make communication easier in countries around the world.

3. High-end computer skills

Most people in the workforce these days know how to use Microsoft Word and email clients, but if you’ve got trickier technical skills mastered then you’re ready to find success.  

If you’ve got experience and ability with in-demand areas like cloud computing, networking, information security or programming then you’re always going to be in demand – they’re the kind of hard skills that loads of companies need. Plenty of people even specialise in specific software packages or programming languages, because there’s no shortage of demand for experts in many technical fields.


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4. Data entry and analysis

We’ve never been surrounded by so much data, so if you can work confidently with numbers then you’ve already got a hard skill that can benefit you in work and beyond.

If you can deftly handle and organize large amounts of data then you’ll be valuable to most companies – they’re always looking for people who can improve data efficiency. And if you’ve got the knowledge to go beyond data entry and analyse numbers then that’s even better – companies will fight over themselves to get you on the payroll.

5. Design

This is a broad area, but if you’ve got design skills then plenty of businesses will be interested in what you can offer.

If you’ve got graphic design ability then you can work in web design, marketing, print media or any number of other fields, and web design also involves user interface and experience creation – more areas where your design ability can pay dividends.

The design industry also encompasses product design, video production, typography roles and branding, so there’s loads of scope for loads of different jobs. Hard design skills can pay off outside of work, too: you can use design skills to start your own business, for instance, or create media for your local community or hobbies.


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6. Social media, SEO and content creation

There aren’t many areas of marketing that are more modern and in-demand than social media, so if you’ve got experience and qualifications in this area then companies will want to hire you to run their social pages and interact with customers.

Virtually every company has several social media profiles, so if you’re proficient here then you’ll be able to work in loads of different industries and countries.

Beyond running social media pages, there are loads of connected hard skills that are helpful: if you know about SEO and have the right certifications then you can help companies craft content that’ll rank highly on search engines – another important skill. And if you can create the written and visual content that’s required for articles, blog posts and social media posts, you’ll find yourself in possession of a suite of hard skills that loads of businesses will appreciate.

7. Admin and accountancy

If you’ve got the hard organizational skills needed to navigate a busy office and productive teams of staff then you’ll always be in demand – offices and companies will always need people to point their people in the right direction.

Beyond this, you should feel confident in your options if you’ve got some accountancy knowledge. Money makes the world go round, and if you know your way around accounting software, budgets and payroll tools then you’ll always be able to find work.

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8. Project management

The world of work is undeniably complex, so if you’ve got the hard skills required to navigate long, in-depth projects then you’ll be courted by companies who need a steer in the right direction.

The world of project management requires a diverse but connected set of skills. You’ve got to have great planning ability, top-notch organizational skills, rock-solid scheduling and experience with collaborative software. Budget experience is a boon, and if you can delegate tasks, set goals and manage your staff that’s always welcome.

9. Writing

Mastery of the written word is an important hard skill that can benefit your working life and everything beyond that, too. If you can communicate effectively at work then you’ll progress quickly, keep people on-side and deliver great results.

Writing skills can help you in marketing, management, social media and content roles, and you can move into technical writing and journalism.

Top-notch writing skills help beyond the workplace, too. You’ll be a better communicator in all areas of your life, from interacting with family and friends to helping with community initiatives.

10. Employment law

If you’ve got familiarity with employment law and know about hiring practices then you’re always going to find a place in any number of businesses – no matter the industry, companies will be hiring and firing and they’ll need people to facilitate those processes.

If you’ve got professional certifications, then that’s even better, and knowledge of employment laws and hiring practices can help you and your family and friends elsewhere in life – it’s good to know these things if they encounter employment trouble during their careers.

11. Sales Techniques 

No business will get far if it can’t sell its products and services, so if you’ve got the hard skills to make hard cash then you’re going to be valuable to any company.

There are several key hard skills that can give you a huge advantage when you’re trying to cut deals. If you’ve got the knowledge and confidence to give effective presentations and produce high-quality slides then you’ll impress potential partners and convince them that your products or services are right for them.

It’s critical to have rock-solid knowledge of your products and services so you can answer any questions, and any good sales operator should have product development knowledge too. And, finally, be sure to study the conversational and psychological techniques that you can use to convince people to part with their cash.

12. Coaching Skills 

If you’ve studied coaching and management techniques, you’ll have gained essential knowledge for workplace success. If you’re a manager, then hitting the books will give you invaluable information about keeping your staff happy and motivated – a perfect recipe for getting the best work out of them.

Don’t ignore coaching and people-management techniques if you’re not actually a manager in the workplace, either. That information can stand you in good stead for future promotions. It’ll help right now, too: if you’ve got hard skills in coaching, you’ll be able to navigate workplace politics, get better results when working in groups, and do a better job of climbing the corporate ladder.

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Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.