How to Stay Competitive in the Job Market of 21st Century – Part 1

We are in the 21st century. Changes in society, lifestyle and technology have had a profound effect on the professional world and job market as well. There’s a wide array of skill sets and technologies that millennials can use in jobs that didn’t exist in decades past. However, the 21st-century job market is an increasingly competitive job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US job market has been tightening since 2017. The Indian job market hasn’t been doing too well and will continue to be tough due to the COVID-19 situation. Things are as unpredictable and competitive as the Game of Thrones (well, not literally). So, how to stay competitive in this tough job market? In a two-part series, I will explain to you the most effective ways to stay competitive in today’s global job market.

stay competitive in the job market

How to Stay Competitive in the Job Market of 21st Century: Part 1

1. Attending a Top (Tier 1) University or College

Many experts and blog articles say that it doesn’t matter where you go to college. I do agree with that as well. You don’t necessarily need to attend an elite college or an ivy school in order to make yourself employable. In fact,  attending an expensive private school with huge debt is not always worth. But, attending a top 200 college does certainly give you a tremendous boost in your job opportunities. There are several public schools and small colleges (that rank among the top 200) that are as good as the elite ones and offer a similar level of education along with excellent faculty and facilities.

Studies have shown that top companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley etc. recruit most of their employees from the top 200 colleges in the US. In terms of international job opportunities, attending a world top 250 (Tier 1 University) can do the same for you, especially if you are looking for your first job after college.

how to stay competitive in the current job market
Image Source: Inc.

One of the biggest advantages of attending a top college is its huge networking opportunities. Attending top universities help you build influential networks that can help you to end up with several open doors after graduation. The faculty members and alumni network are also very useful resources to obtain references and job leads. Besides, while attending a top college you will make a large network of friends who can help you in the future. Additionally, the career fairs, conferences, workshops and seminars at top colleges provide excellent training and networking opportunities for you. Making connections with the right people could lead to internships and full-time jobs.

2. Developing Interpersonal & Transferrable (Soft) Skills

Image Source: Inc.

When it comes to new recruits, hiring managers and HR personnel put a lot of emphasis on the interpersonal skills, such as leadership, teamwork, written & verbal communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Social and analytical skills are very critical for staying competitive in the current job market. Soft skills are the key,  but without social skills, none of it really matters. Skill development is mandatory for staying competitive in the job market for the 21st century.

Image Source: India Today

Some of the prominent employable skills that employers seek are: 

  • Communication Skills (verbal and written)
  • Commercial Awareness & Market Intelligence
  • Attitude towards work
  • Lifelong learning and Continuous Professional Development
  • Teamwork
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Go-Getter Attitude & Taking Initiative
  • Self-motivation
  • Adaptability
  • Stress Management
  • Creativity
  • IT & Computing Skills
  • Emotional Intelligence

Recommended Reading: Emotional Intelligence – The Secret to a High Salary.

3. Making Yourself Employable through a Killer CV and Updated LinkedIn Profile

In order to make yourself employable, it’s very critical to showcase your skillset (technical and soft skills) properly. One of the great ways to showcase your skills is to make a stellar CV (or resume). One of the common mistakes that many fresh graduates and young professionals commit is not putting time and effort at making a properly tailored CV.

In today’s age of competitive job market, you must be flexible with your resumes. Using only one resume will only reach out to one particular industry or job category. Besides, when you are applying for a specific job opening, you need to use a resume that highlights the most appropriate skills that are applicable to that job, and not a general resume.

Image Source: Inc.

Apart from CV, you should also dedicate time to create and maintain an updated profile on LinkedIn. These days, if you are not on LinkedIn, then you basically don’t exist. According to Viveka von Rosen,  98% of recruiters and 85% of hiring managers currently use LinkedIn to find candidates. LinkedIn is a great platform to network with industry leaders, recruiters, and current & former employees of an organization. Know more why LinkedIn is so important for professionals and job seekers.

It doesn’t matter how good are your technical skills or grades unless you make yourself employable by acquiring valuable soft skills and market them through a CV and LinkedIn profile.

4. Putting Extra Effort at Work

Once you get employed, it doesn’t mean you’re employable for the rest of your life. Ideally, you have to work hard to stay competitive so that you remain marketable to your current and future employers. You should practice the following:

Understanding the company culture: a company or organizational culture can be defined as “the behavior of humans within an organization and the meaning that people attach to those behaviors.” So, basically, it involves company vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits. Understanding and adapting to the company culture is quickly proving to be a “must-have” rather than a “nice-to-have” component for staying competitive in the job market. It also involves gelling with your colleagues and understanding the cultural differences. You don’t always need to love or like someone to work with them; only be able to work with them.

Read more about understanding the company culture.

Add Value: You might get hired as a coder to work in a financial services organization. If you understand finance or put effort to learn the basics or the governmental regulations, that’s a great thing for any employer. Likewise, if you’re a graphic designer working for a technology company, knowledge of coding or basic technology will help you to have an extra edge. Your goal should be always be bringing more to the table for staying competitive in today’s global job market.

Take Initiative: Of course, it’s a good thing when you say yes when your manager asks you to take over a new project. But, don’t always wait until it’s assigned to you. Always be open to trying out new things, starting side projects, and taking on additional responsibilities. Not only that will impress your employer, but you will also learn new skills and grow professionally.

Want to check out the most suitable career for yourself? Take the FREE Career Guidance Aptitude Test.

5. Continuous Professional Development

Learning never stops. In order to stay competitive in the job market, you should always remain a student of your industry. Always make a point to learn new skills in order to stay competitive in the job market. You could enroll in online classes, master new software, attend online webinars, workshops, training programs, or get on-job training. Professional skills are often useful to get an edge over other job seekers. If you are working at a startup, you will need to wear multiple hats. On the other hand, MNCs are cutting down on the number of employees with limited skillset. So, it’s high time that you diversify your skillset and stay in the hunt.

Image Source: LinkedIn

Irrespective of the industry and job category, you should take ownership of your career and invest in yourself. Evaluate your skills to ensure you are going to add value to an organization. Continuous professional development (CPD) is not only about technical skills. You also need to broaden your business, management, leadership, creativity and organizational knowledge as well.

Here is a list of some of the top online courses for the job market in the 21st century.

According to the article by James Hayes, “engineers who manage projects not only need to demonstrate technical competence, and identify the same in their team, but also need to know how to manage people and budgets across countries and cultures.” According to the 2012 Learning Survey by Niace (an adult learning organization),  there’s a strong correlation between learning and sustained employment.

Taking online courses is good for your career; besides it’s easier than explaining Game of Thrones to your Family 🙂

Those days are gone when a professional in any field could consider that his/her education and training is over. You must be willing to learn new skills and techniques in order to stay competitive and be successful in your career in the 21st century. Know more about continuous professional development for staying competitive in the job market.

Here are some more courses that you might find useful:

Online MBA – University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Online Master’s in Innovation and Entrepreneurship – HEC Paris

Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

MS Data Science – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Recommended Reading: How to Stay Competitive in the Current Job Market of 21st Century – Part 2


You might also like the following articles:

Top 5 Job Hunting Tips for Fresh Graduates (Freshers)

I am graduating from College in a few months….How do I land my dream job post-graduation?

Top Five Things to Remember In Your Job After Graduation

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