Employers are having a hard time finding the right people to bring on board today. One big reason is the unemployment rate: Most professionals with in-demand skills already have jobs, and competition is fierce for those relatively few who are looking for work. But I believe another reason employers are challenged is that many are no longer satisfied to hire workers who are good at doing just one thing. More and more companies are looking for professionals who have specialized skills in more than one area to fill so-called hybrid jobs.
Let me explain by way of an example …
The merging of finance and technology
I recently participated in a conference for internal audit professionals, and one of the hottest areas of discussion among executives I spoke to was somewhat surprising: IT. Several of my fellow attendees mentioned the need within their organizations for finance professionals who have strong backgrounds in technology. Data analytics kept coming up again and again.
Companies need accounting and finance staff who can take large data sets, or data sets that were not previously accessible, and pull out meaningful insights to inform strategic guidance. The professionals who do this work — financial analysts and business analysts — have true hybrid jobs.
And these hybrid professionals are very hard to find. In fact, 90 percent of finance leaders report difficulties hiring staff with business analytics experience, according to a study we developed with the Institute of Management Accountants. Financial executives said the biggest skills gaps among their teams include the following:
- Identifying key data trends
- Data mining and extraction
- Technological acumen
- Statistical modeling and data analysis
Technology driving the demand for hybrid jobs
More than any other force, changes in technology, from the increasing reliance by companies on big data to the emergence of the Internet of Things, are helping to fuel the demand for hybrid jobs. As business and technology become increasingly intertwined, there will be a need for professionals in almost any type of job to apply technology in ways that create new value and insights for the business.
Consider the creative technologist. As Joseph Corr explains in a post on the TCG Blog, a creative technologist is “a developer who understands the creative process.” The person who fills this hybrid role can bring both creative and technical skills to bear on a project. The creative technologist is able suggest new ideas for marketing or advertising campaigns, develop and test these ideas, and then use analytics to refine them.
Positioning yourself for hybrid jobs
How can you position yourself for a hybrid role? My advice: Learn all you can.
If you’re still in school, take courses outside of your focus area. I’ve long advocated that college students enroll in philosophy or logic seminars to learn the critical thinking skills that employers place high value on today.
Also look to take courses in statistics or analytics, even if you are a liberal arts major. Knowing how to read, mine and manipulate data will serve you well, no matter what career path you choose.
Programming classes can be beneficial, too. Many employers seek business professionals who know how to code. With a foundational understanding of popular programming languages, you can create data visualizations and perform in-depth analysis. Knowledge of design and web development tools like HTML 5 is also highly valued by many employers.
If your career is already well under way, don’t worry. As hybrid jobs emerge, businesses often turn to current employees first to fill these positions. A strong desire to learn and a willingness to embrace change are two traits that can serve you well when looking to expand your skill set beyond your traditional area.
The Internet has also made it easy to learn hybrid job skills. Online learning platform Udacity offers “nanodegrees” in fields such as web and mobile development and data analytics. These types of resources can help you build your skill set relatively easily and without having to take a major career detour.
Another way to build skills for hybrid jobs, especially if you are an experienced professional with in-demand expertise, is through project and consulting work. Exposure to new projects at different companies can help you round out your abilities. Many project assignments — such as business systems implementation, conversion and integration initiatives — require that individuals use, and build on, their specialized business, accounting and technology skills.
Even if your current position doesn’t call for hybrid job skills, chances are good that it will in the future. Embracing the idea now that you should strive to become a multifaceted specialist, and committing to continually expanding your skill set, can help you succeed in the world of hybrid jobs.
Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half. He writes and speaks frequently on hiring, workplace and career management topics. Over the course of more than 30 years in the recruiting field, McDonald has advised thousands of company leaders and job seekers on how to hire and get hired.
McDonald joined Robert Half in 1984 as a recruiter for financial and accounting professionals in Boston, following a public accounting career with Price Waterhouse. In the 1990s, he became president of the Western United States overseeing all of the company’s operations in the region. McDonald become senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources in 2000, and assumed his current role in 2012. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from St. Bonaventure University in New York.