The Top 3 Skills Employers are Looking for Right now (that you can learn for free)

Blog Post created by dianemelville Employee on Jun 19, 2014

The competition to find a job after college is rough. In 2012, The Washington Post reported that 53% of recent college graduates were unemployed or underemployed. That kind of statistic could turn your senior year of college into a real downer if you’re unprepared. If you are prepared, however, there are strategies to give you a better shot at post-college employment. What if you could learn the skills that very few college graduates have, but that are in high demand amongst employers? What if you could start learning these skills for free right now? Well, you’ve come to the right place. 

Technology is improving and changing extremely fast. So fast, in fact, that higher education has essentially failed at keeping up with the technology needs of employers. Meaning, there are entry level skills that employers are hiring for right now that are not taught formally in college.  I’ve listed three such skills below. Take a look, if any of these skills are either related to your major or sound interesting, then you should definitely check them out. It could be the very skill that lands you a sweet gig after college.

Digital Marketing

Advertising on the web is entirely different than traditional advertising. Thus, companies are searching for people who specialize in the specific marketing strategies required to attract customers online. Those marketing strategies include search engine optimization, search engine marketing, email marketing and page optimization.  Luckily, becoming a digital marketing expert doesn’t require a college degree! Most digital marketers got their start by creating their own websites as a way to self-teach and experiment with digital marketing.

What does it pay? Entry-level digital marketing jobs start at around $40,000 depending on your location. To land an entry-level digital marketing job, you should be able to showcase some examples of your skills. You can do this by creating your own website or volunteering your services to a few businesses to build up your portfolio.

Where can you learn it for free? There are many free resources to learn digital marketing strategies. I’ve included Moz.com and Optimizely as two prominent resources to learn search engine optimization and page optimization. Understanding these concepts is key to becoming a successful digital marketer.




Front-End Web Development

Think of your favorite website. Everything you can see and click is considered the website’s front-end—it’s the design, layout and interactions (such as what happens when you click a button).  The back-end of a website contains the rules that handle the relationships of all of the data on the site. It’s just like a theatre performance: the dancing performers (front-end) are on stage, while a lot of other processes are happening behind the curtain (the back-end). In recent years, demand has grown for people who specialize in the front-end of a website. Specifically, people who specialize in front-end programming languages and frameworks such as javascript, HTML, CSS, Angular JS, etc.  Yes, that may all sound foreign to you, but I promise it’s worth your time to research the opportunities in these fields.

What does it pay?  Depending on your location, a senior front-end web developer can make upwards of $125,000/year. Many programmers and designers will often work as freelancers where they have the potential to earn more than the average salary. 

Where can you learn it for free? There is no all-in-one solution for learning any programming language. However, Code Academy makes it easy and fun to get a taste of what front-end programming is all about. Check out the two interactive classes below. The first link teaches you HTML/CSS (these languages control the layout and design schemes of websites) and the second link teaches you Javascript (the language that controls the actions of a website, including what happens when you click a button, etc.).




Data Analysis & Statistics

Technology allows us to have access to more information than ever before. More information enables companies to better understand their customers, helps researchers find patterns in large data sets, and allows you to do something as simple as finding the best price on a flight. Knowing how to analyze and manipulate large amounts of data is a highly sought after skill. Job titles such as data manager, data analyst and digital analyst are relatively new, but quickly becoming more common in certain cities. Your job will most likely include staring at large spreadsheets or databases and analyzing their data to help inform the company’s decision making.

What does it pay? These jobs are relatively new and, thus, it’s difficult to find historical salary data. However, based on my conversations with people in this field, I would say that the starting salaries are similar to that of digital marketers.  I will note that colleges do offer degrees in statistics and data analysis, but I included this field on this list because it’s still a relatively unpopular major with lots of entry-level employment opportunities.

Where can you learn it for free? Coursera is by far the best free resource to learn data analysis and statistics. The link below has over 45 courses!


Having a strong foundation in any of these skills as a recent college graduate (digital marketing, front-end development, and data analysis) will open up real job opportunities that most college students are not qualified for.