7 Ways to Identify In-Demand Skills and Hiring Trends

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On a recent Job Search and Career Development training, we asked the poll question "In terms of overall skills development and career mapping, which of these areas do you want to learn more about?"

We provided 8 options, and were surprised that 75% of respondents selected 'How to identify skills/trends in demand.' This was considerably higher than the second highest area of 'skills development opportunities outside the office,' with 44% of respondents selecting.

We had two takeaways from this poll. First, this is one of many examples on why polls are incredible as they challenge our assumptions. In this case, we thought that most people knew how to identify trends in what managers/employers are looking for! Second, we should write an article on our key recommendations for how you to best learn what's "trending" related to your current and target roles and skill sets!


Check out our seven recommendations:

  1. Evaluate job postings

    Even if you are not in the job market, how often are you simply looking at a couple job descriptions that might interest you? Are you paying special attention to the list of 'Requirements' and any 'Preferred Qualifications' and identifying patterns in what those are mentioning? One of the specific job seeker strategies we love is having an email dedicated to your job search, such as [email protected], and having job alerts set 24/7 to go to that email. Then you will easily be able to go to one place to skim through job postings/descriptions and quickly review the responsibilities, requirements, and pluses. As you are reviewing, write down or capture the common technologies, tools, or other skills that are mentioned across several job descriptions!
  1. Ask Recruiters

    We often say that Recruiters can be your best friends during your job search, especially if and when you find a few that focus primarily on supporting (i.e. staffing) the types of jobs within your area! For example, at Apex Systems where we work, we have a dedicated 'Data/BI Recruiting Practice' where our Recruiters in that practice typically recruit on the Data jobs/requisitions that we are supporting for our clients. If you identify a 'Data/BI/SQL Recruiter,' consider asking them any of the following questions:
  • "What trends are you seeing with your clients in the Data/BI space?"  
  • "I want to understand what companies are using in my world, and therefore, anything else I should be learning. What tools and technologies are you hearing a lot of requests for related to _____?"
  • "What technologies should I be learning right now? Also, what versions of those technologies?"
  1. Trends reports

    There is no shortage of free resources online to help you get a pulse on trends. Some of our favorite resources include: annual Dice Tech/Salary Trends report, ThoughtWorks Radar, Gartner insights, and CompTIA Trends report.
  1. Topics at conferences/Meetups/SQL Saturday

    You know what rarely happens at your local Meetup or SQL Saturday, or a conference? Sessions that are around obsolete technologies/concepts. No, it's quite the opposite, where the organizers are lining up sessions on "hot topics" or "trending technologies/concepts." Therefore, in addition to signing up for events and sessions that interest you, keep an eye on the session topics and capture any trends in what you keep seeing.
  1. Crowdsource by asking or polling your local Community/Meetups

    Are you in a local Meetup/User Group? If you aren't, it's a good idea to join one and start attending their monthly/quarterly events. One of the many benefits of being in a group, such as your local 'SQL Server Meetup' or 'Power BI Meetup,' is that it gives you access to a community designed to help each other learn. As a member of several Meetups, it gives me joy to see members leveraging the discussion board to learn and help each other! A recent Junior Programmer posted something along the lines of "I've been learning AngularJS and React, but I've also heard that I should be learning Vue. What does everyone think? Are Dev groups starting to use Vue more?" Within an hour, there were several comments and recommendations. Not only does that help you, but that answer probably helped other people who either have been pondering the same question, or hadn't even heard of that technology and now realize that it should be something they should be aware of, and time permitting, starting to learn! 
  1. Follow Influencers - both individuals, companies and conferences

    Which individuals do you admire the most? Have you read a book/article that you loved? Taken a training you got a lot out of? Saw a speaker at a local Meetup and thought they were fantastic? Identifying these individual "thought leaders" or "influencers" is a great strategy for identifying trends, because same as above, these are typically the folks on "the bleeding edge of technology." Identifying who these folks are, and making a list, is step one.

The second step is to then 'Follow' them via your platform of choice. Most speakers/authors are active via social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, and many post via their own podcast, website, newsletter or YouTube channel. Take your list of 'Influencers I Admire' and look them up on the main platform you are active on. See if they have their own website, and then you can determine their preferred social platforms, which is usually on the main page of their website. You can also check if they have additional places they share resources such as a podcast or newsletter! 

Who are the corporate influencers in your space? Companies and individuals should be separate items on your 'Identifying Trends Checklist.' Most companies now have dedicated social media and content teams, and have a goal to put out 'Thought Leadership' in the form of case studies, how-to videos, additional training, and more. Make a list of the companies in your space who you admire, and then follow them or subscribe to their LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and/or Facebook pages or channels. This could include companies who release products you use, sponsor your local community group or conference, or others who are perceived as a leader in a specific area or technology! 

Last but not least in this area of 'Influencers,' what are the conferences that happen in your space? While it may not be feasible to attend all the conferences you want, due to time, budget, travel, etc. you can always scope out the sessions being offered. This offers great insight around what is truly trending and "the tech or concepts of the future!" You can also watch any of the sessions which are recorded, and there are a lot of them! Many conferences have their own YouTube channels, or upload the sessions to their website or other channels.

  1. Additional Social Media Strategies

    Have you ever asked folks on your team, in a local Meetup, or others something like "How do you use social media for learning about in-demand trends, learning/training, or anything else related to career or skills development? What's your go-to platform, and do you have any specific people/handles/companies I should follow?" For example, I am an Administrator for the Twitter of my local PMI Chapter (Project Management Institute), and I have identified influencers/thought leaders and created a list where I added all of their handles. I then scroll through for about 15-20 minutes a week to check out articles, a lot of which share trends insights. Consulting with others who are social media savvy can give you another idea or two that you may not have thought of before!
Next Steps

Here are 3 exercises to capture current trends related to your skill set:

  • Exercise #1: Spend 30-60+ minutes to set up your Social Media Trends Strategy, where you think through and/or research to identify the 4 core types of influencers to follow: Individuals, Companies, Meetup groups and other Communities, and Conferences. Then on your social media platform of choice (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.), look up each of those influencers and follow, and then add to a list (if via Twitter) or Subscribe/Follow!
  • Exercise #2: Take 15+ minutes and review the Meeting topics/titles of the last 12 months of a relevant local Meetup, and jot down the topics or technologies that might relevant to your current or target role. These are great additions to add to, or validate, your 'Skills/Tech to Learn List!'
  • Exercise #3: Spend 30-60+ minutes simply reviewing job descriptions and requirements, and identify the technologies you repeatedly see. Write those down on your 'Tech Trends / Skills to Learn' list/s. If you don't have a dedicated email for job searching, consider creating one and signing up via job alerts through at least one major channel/site, such as Indeed, Dice or LinkedIn.

After you complete these exercises, make it a continual practice. Block off at least an hour every 3-6 months to 'Identify Trends/Skills In-Demand' for your primary skill set and role using any of the 7 recommendations above, but as with most things in life, we suggest using at least two sources and strategies!

As a follow up best practice exercise, once you identify the trending skills/technologies, engage in building your knowledge and skills in the top two to three areas you discover are trending that you do not have knowledge and experience in yet!

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Erica Woods Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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