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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Over two years into the most momentous event in our lives the world has changed forever … Some of us have PTSD from being locked up at home, some are living like everything’s going to end tomorrow, and the rest of us are merely trying to get by. When the pandemic hit we entered a perpetual state of vulnerability, but now we’re supposed to return to normal and just get on with our lives.

What does that mean? Packed bars, concerts, and grocery shopping without a mask feel totally strange. We got used to having more rules over our everyday life, considering if we really had to go out or keeping Zooming from our living rooms in threadbare pajama bottoms.

The work-from-home culture changed it all. Initially, companies were skeptical about letting employees work remotely, automatically assuming work output would fall and so would the quality. To the contrary, since March of 2020 productivity has risen by 47%, which says it all. Employees can work from home and still deliver results.

There are a number of reasons why everyone loves the work from home culture. We gained hours weekly that were wasted on public transport, people saved a ton of money, and could work from anywhere in the world. Then there were the obvious reasons like wearing sweats or loungewear all week long and having your pets close by. Come on, whose cat hasn’t done a tap dance on your keyboard in the middle of that All Hands Call!

Working from home grants the freedom to decorate your ‘office’ any way you want. But then people needed a change of environment. Companies began requesting their employees' RTO, thus generating the Hybrid Work Model — a blend of in-person and virtual work arrangements. Prior to 2020, about 20% of employees worked from home, but in the midst of the pandemic, it exploded to around 70%.

Although the number of people working from home increased and people enjoyed their flexibility, politicians started calling for a harder RTW policy. President Joe Biden urges us with, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”

While Boris Johnson said, “Mother Nature does not like working from home.'' It wasn’t surprising that politicians wanted people back at their desks due to the financial impact of working from the office. According to a report in the BBC, US workers spent between $2,000 - $5,000 each year on transport to work before the pandemic.

That’s where the problem lies. The majority of us stopped planning for public transport, takeaway coffee, and fresh work-appropriate outfits. We must reconsider these things now, and our wallets are paying

the price. Gas costs are at an all-time high, making public transport increase their fees; food and clothes are all on a steep incline. A simple iced latte from Dunkin’ went from $3.70 to $3.99 (which doesn’t seem like much but 2-3 coffees a day with the extra flavors and shots add up to a lot), while sandwiches soared by 14% and salads by 11%.

This contributes to the pressure employees feel about heading into the office. Remote work may have begun as a safety measure, but it’s now a savings measure for employees around the world.

Bloomberg are offering its US staff a $75 daily commuting stipend that they can spend however they want. And other companies are doing the best they can. This still lends credence to ‘the great resignation.’ Initially starting with the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors which were hard hit during the pandemic, it has since spread to other industries. By September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million resignations.

That’s where the most critical question lies…work from home, work from the office or stick to this new hybrid world culture?

Borris Johnson thinks, “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.” Because his experience of working from home “is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”

While New York City Mayor Eric Adams says you “can't stay home in your pajamas all day."

In the end, does it really matter where we work if efficiency and productivity are great? We’ve proven that companies can trust us to achieve the same results — or better! — and on time with this hybrid model. Employees can be more flexible, which boosts satisfaction, improves both productivity and retention, and improves diversity in the workplace because corporations can hire through the US and indeed all over the world.

We’ve seen companies make this work in many ways, through virtual lunches, breakout rooms, paint and prosecco parties, and — the most popular — trivia nights.

As much as we strive for normalcy, the last two years cannot simply be erased. So instead of wiping out this era, it's time to embrace the change and find the right world culture for you.

What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.

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Did you hear about the Great Resignation? It isn’t over. Just over two years of pandemic living, many offices are finally returning to full-time or hybrid experiences. This is causing employees to totally reconsider their positions.

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