How the digital skills gap is hurting your job hunt

The only way to stay competitive in today’s job market is to constantly be learning. Here’s why – and how to get ahead.

What can damage the candidacy of an otherwise worthy applicant in today’s job market? A lack of solid digital skills.

Unfortunately, this lack of digital skills is the reality for an overwhelming majority of today’s workers. According to a poll by Harris Interactive, only one in 10 professionals consider themselves ‘very proficient’ with the digital tools they use every day. In many cases, the laborer is not fully to blame. Employee training has been lacking for decades, to the point where even President Obama has acknowledged its urgency, setting aside $600 million to offer more apprenticeships and technological training for future workers.

The fact is, a professional who fails to upgrade their digital skills will simply fall behind — and fast. A recent study conducted by Deloitte states that the rapid pace of technological change in the workplace can lead to a skills half-life of only 2.5 years. This means that even the most adept employees will see a lag in efficiency if they aren’t keeping pace with advancing technology.

So how can busy professionals keep up with digital trends?

The silver lining is that training solutions have been developed — short, succinct micro-lessons, typically delivered via 60-90 second videos, accessed on one’s own time on the internet — that can deliver timely content to those who need it most. This method of training, known as micro-learning, is digestible in focused bite-sized units, addressing the needs of the technologically deficient by aiding engagement and retention, and teaching skills that facilitate digital apprehension in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Regardless of specific content or format, a well-designed training program can greatly improve speed and productivity, increase job satisfaction and repay the time invested tenfold for highly applicable digital skills essential to the current job market. Below are the eight digital skills proven to be most prudent for a professional to comprehend in order to succeed as a member of the rapidly evolving workforce. I suggest finding micro-lessons for all eight, even just to brush up your skills.

Digital Documents: Digital documents are used to store data, conduct analysis and communicate ideas and outcomes within almost every field of business these days.

Communication Management: Email is now the primary medium for interaction in business. According to McKinsey, we spend 28 percent of our workweeks reading, writing or responding to emails.

Project Collaboration: Companies are increasingly implementing project management software like Basecamp and Asana to help employees collaborate across departments, and with colleagues who work remotely.

Online Research: The growth of the Internet and the digitization of archives have literally transformed the way in which individuals and businesses conduct research across the business world.

Attention Management: Attention management skills are the soft skills employees need in order to focus on high-priority tasks without the distraction or loss of productivity.

Platform Flexibility: More and more workers are expected to be comfortable using a plethora of hardware and software platforms across multiple operating systems and devices.

Digital Etiquette: As social media and digital communication grows, inadequate control given to individual employees can leave businesses open to great risk unless users are properly trained.

Privacy and Security: Security threats to individuals and businesses are becoming increasingly sophisticated as the market becomes more and more digital and the impact from human error can cause security breaches of increased severity.

Considering that the U.S. Department of Labor has announced that the number of job openings across the country is at its highest level since January 2001 — 4.8 million — the time is now for job seekers to brush up on the digital skills imperative for becoming and/or staying employed in the 21st century.