What We’ll Cover In This Piece:
- Why consultants need skills that are perennially valuable.
- What skills will always be in demand among businesses.
- Where you can learn each skill.
Estimated Time to Read: 5 minutes
Consultants looking to level up usually ask the same question:
What’s the one skill I could add to my repertoire to be more valuable right now?
They’re interested in the new hot technology, the new trend in business—anything companies will be hiring for over the next five years.
There are certainly a bunch of skills that you can develop to land more contracts in the next several years. Hot areas we currently see in the market include: Salesforce.com, cyber security, cloud migrations, Office 365 implementations, marketing automation, and Workday implementations. Any of these will definitely make you an attractive candidate for the near future.
But what skills are always in demand – no matter what technology or trend is hot?
While having skills that are marketable right now is certainly a positive, it is much better to have skills that are always in demand.
When you have a set of skills that companies are always hiring for, you don’t have to worry about “the next big thing.” You can add new skills if you think it makes sense, but you’ll never be in a position where you have to learn an entirely new skill to get work.
You will be secure.
With that in mind, we’ve broken down seven skills that companies are always hiring for. A consultant with any of these—and especially with more than one of these—will always be able to find work.
1. Communication and Marketing Skills
Communication and marketing is always going to be a part of business. Companies will always need someone to communicate their message to the customers, employees, and investors.
If you become an expert in communication, you will always be able to find contracts as a consultant.
If your degree isn’t in marketing or communication, that’s OK. This field isn’t impossible to break into.
There is also an incredible amount of free marketing courses offered by universities, like this introduction to marketing offered for free by the University of British Columbia. But gaining on the job experience is always best.
2. Project Management
Basically every project (or change) undertaken by a business needs someone who is an expert in project management. These people understand the science (and art) of navigating a change from start to successful finish — and ensuring the “value objectives” are actually achieved.
Having a business degree somewhat helps in developing your project management skills, but just being on projects and learning from their leaders is the only way to get really good.
3. Business Analytics
Being able to analyze all the complex, moving parts of a business, and provide accurate analysis of where the business is and where it is going, is a critically important part of any large business.
Before any major decision, all parties involved want to make sure they have an accurate understanding of what is going on in the business, and that’s where business analysts come in.
You will never struggle to find work as a business analyst, but it’s also a field where more formal training is necessary. A good start is this free course offered by Columbia University.
4. Excel/Powerpoint Skills
Before we get into this, let’s clear something up. Having a basic understanding of Excel and Powerpoint does not mean you have expert level skills.
Consultants and contractors live in Powerpoint and Excel. They are the two tools that seem to run every business (even if they don’t want to admit it).
If you are an expert at either of these pieces of software, there will be a role for you on any project.
Fortunately, there are a ton of courses available for both. Microsoft actually offers an Excel course specifically for business analytics for $49. You can find free courses all over the internet, or if you prefer to learn in person, any local university almost certainly offers training.
5. SAP Development
SAP SE is the biggest technology company most people have never heard of.
They are an exclusively enterprise software company that services large corporations and business entities. Since the 1970’s, they have been the gold standard in the field.
As a consultant, if you understand how to work in this tool, you are valuable to virtually any large business in the world. Fortunately, SAP offers their own learning platform full of courses for anyone interested in SAP development.
6. Process Engineering
Process engineering is the redesigning and optimizing of process and workflows in a business.
One of the more famous examples of process engineering happened with Hallmark Cards.
The card company had a production cycle that took three years for a card to go from an idea to a finished, delivered card. As time went on, executives at Hallmark realized that releasing cards in under a year would allow them to capitalize on niche markets and ultimately increase revenue—they just didn’t know how to do that.
Using process engineering, they deconstructed their production process. While they had assumed that the bulk of the production cycle happened in the printing and editing phase, what they found was that the idea stage was responsible for 2/3rds of the production cycle.
By tweaking the production process, they significantly shortened the idea phase, and brought the production cycle down to under a year.
That’s process engineering, and if you’re good at it, you’re worth a lot of money to any corporation. Any business program will offer courses on process engineering, or you can do an online course like this one offered by ALISON.
7. Java/C++/.NET Development
Java, .NET and C++ are three of the the most widely adopted programming languages in the corporate world.
Becoming an expert in any of these is a guaranteed way to consistently find work as a consultant among corporations, as there is always a need for new solutions to be developed.
There are a variety of free resources to learn online, including Microsoft’s .NET developer’s guide. There are also many development “bootcamps” you can attend to earn a certification in software development with these languages in a matter of months.
Always Ask, How Do I Remain Valuable?
As a consultant or contractor, there’s nothing worse than having a skillset that depreciates in value. As soon as the market decides that what you do isn’t valuable, all the security you thought you had is ripped out from under you.
These are skills that never stop being valuable. Businesses are built on top of them. The more of them you have under your belt, the more relaxed you can feel about your future.
You will always be needed.