Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

2019 is shaping up to be the year of the employee. With wages and benefits expected to increase, along with an influx of new positions offering flexible work environments, it's a good time to be a job candidate. But with more opportunities comes new challenges. According to US News and World Report's 2019 Job Forecast, employers are using new hiring tactics—from personality tests to machine learning assessment tools—to find candidates with the strongest hard and soft skill sets.

If your brain just did a double take, here's an explainer: Hard skills focus on technical, practical workplace knowledge—a proficiency in certain technical tools required for the job (anything from Quickbooks to Java). Soft skills, which are becoming increasingly more essential to the global workforce, tend to be more culture-focused—from communication and adaptability to an understanding of a company's core values.

Ariel Schur, CEO of ABS Staffing Solutions, tells US News and World Report that companies are "really delving into a deeper level of trying to discern their skill level and knowledge."

Janelle Gale, Facebook's vice president of human resources, echoes that sentiment. "We actually value skills over experience in the grand scheme of things," she tells CNBC. "Apply if you have the relevant skills even if you don't have the right experience, because we're looking underneath the surface for what's really going to matter here and that's what skills you can bring to the table."

So what skills do you need to land your dream job in 2019? According to LinkedIn's latest survey the top in-demand hard skills include UX design, people management, analytical reasoning, AI and cloud computing. The most sought-after soft skills are creativity, persuasion, adaptability, collaboration and time management.

So how do you cultivate the skills you need to land the job you want? You create your own educational program courtesy of the Internet. Here's your three step program.

Go the Head of the Class:

If you're looking to pump up your hard skills, look no further than your laptop. Online learning courses provide low-cost or no-cost courses and research resources on everything from AI to UX and beyond. Check out MockPlus' list of free online UX Design courses provided by professors from University of Michigan, Georgia Institute of Technology and UCSD. Looking to tackle another hard skill? No problem. Sites like EDX and Coursera allow you to search from a database of hundreds of online university courses—from Architecture to Communication and Data Analysis. If you want to learn while you're commuting or working out, there's an app for that. iTunesU features hundreds of lectures from universities around the country so you can brush up on your hard skills for free, without taking too much time out from your busy schedule.

Hit the Books:

If you want to land a top paying gig, skills like analytical reasoning and people management are key. The good news is that the people who have mastered these skills are eager to pass them along. Check out How To Think: A Complete Guide to Analytical Thinking (free on Kindle Unlimited!). In it, Gary Lorrison, of the Oxford Center For the Mind, covers "all of the essential elements of good analytical thinking from different types of claims and beliefs, via argument structure, fallacies and cognitive biases to sound conclusions and consequences as well as how to compare arguments and the best state of mind to consider problems." When it comes to management skills, there are almost too many books to choose from, but Inc.com narrowed it down with this list of 15 books every new manager should read—from Brene Brown's Braving the Wilderness to Carol Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Watch, Listen and Learn:

When it comes to learning those essential soft skills, mentorship can go a long way. In the digital age that means TedTalks and podcasts with leaders you most admire. If you're stumped by the mystery of creativity—especially creativity under pressure—Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert is here to help. From her life-changing TedTalk (seriously, it will blow your creative mind open) to her Magic Lessons podcast, she is the master of unblocking your brain and thinking big picture. With regards to communication skills, Julia Dhar's talk on How To Disagree Productively and Find Common Ground is a great place to start (in less than 15 minutes!). And don't forget David Pogue's 10 Top Time-Saving Tech Tips for time management insights. For more insights on both hard and soft skills from the masters, check out the TedTalks topic page or subscribe to some of the best career-oriented podcasts out there. Emma Gannon's CTRL ALT DELETE features interviews with thought leaders from every field on navigating career challenges in unexpected ways. The Accidental Creative explores creativity in the workplace and The School of Greatness examines how top leaders have overcome some of the toughest career obstacles.

In today's competitive workforce, it's not only crucial to have a skill set you can list on resume, but one you can prove in practice to your potential employer. Absorbing lessons and insights from the titans of every career field is bound to make you a more valuable employee. All you need is a pair of headphones and an open mind.

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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.