Any discussion about college and the failure of young people to enter the workforce upon graduation with in-demand skill sets will give time and space to ambiguous "real skills," but few actually go into what skills are exactly in demand.
Obviously the skill sets in high-demand from employers are going to change between industry and company size. A startup with 5 employees probably is looking for an entirely different kind of candidate than a company with 500 employees, or 5,000 employees.
There are some pretty strong constants, though. Throughout my work, I get to sit down and speak with entrepreneurs and CEOs about what their companies need and which skills they are constantly looking for in candidates. Unsurprisingly, coding and web-based design skills are in high demand:
- Back-end development (Python, Ruby On Rails)
- Graphic Design (Photoshop, InDesign)
- UI/UX Design
What may come as a surprise is that some non-web based skills are also highly demanded. Among these, those based around excellent verbal and written communication rank high:
- Writing (primarily copywriting, but also writing for sales prospecting)
- Sales skills (excellent verbal communication, an ability to think strategically very quickly during sales, and an ability to do prospecting via tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, websites like Fast Company, and CRM management)
Contrary to some of the narrative around extra-college skill learning, you can land a job without knowing much coding skills. Skills in marketing, sales, development, and design are almost always needed.