What are the most sought-after skills for expats in 2023?

  • people at work
Published on 2023-01-27 at 14:00 by Ameerah Arjanee
The MOOC-provider Coursera recently published its Job Skills of 2023 report. The report says that digital skills, especially in data science, together with soft skills in management and storytelling, are the best career skills to have in 2023. This should not be surprising in a marketplace where hybrid work has become the norm. 

The way people work has changed since the pandemic 

The pandemic has durably changed how people work. As explained by McKinsey, “the pandemic accelerated existing trends in remote work, e-commerce and automation.” Businesses have had to move online, triggering a twofold to fourfold growth in e-commerce in various countries (e.g., 4.5x in the UK in 2020 and 3.3x in the US in the same year).

McKinsey also predicted that even after the pandemic abates, these patterns will continue, even if less intensely. Indeed, the videoconferencing company Owl Labs showed in their State of Remote Work 2022 report that, among the global workers surveyed, 62% were still working in a hybrid way and 16% fully remotely far into 2022, even after the social distancing measures in most countries have long been lifted. As for e-commerce, the co-founder of Shopify, Michael Keenan, told Forbes that it's forecasted to keep increasing this year and soon represent nearly 21% of all retail sales.

Another major change in the way people work has been the boom in digital nomadism. MBO Partners found that there has been a 131% increase in the number of digital nomads since 2019. This upward trend is expected to continue as more countries (e.g., Portugal and Spain) launch their own digital nomad visas.

Digital skills, from data visualization to UX design, are in great demand

All of the aforementioned changes in the way people work have naturally affected the demand for certain skills on the market. Coursera's Job Skills of 2023 report shows that the digitalization of workplace culture and business during 2020-2022 has turned various tech skills into the fastest-growing skills. 

The report lists scrum software development, data visualization, the use of Customer Success softwares (CSMs) and Customer Relationship Management softwares (CRMs), e-commerce, UX design, agile software development, software framework development, system software development and search engine optimization (SEO) as the most sought-after digital skills of 2023. In Forbes, the technology advisor Bernard Marr makes the same forecasts about the top in-demand tech skills in 2023. He added cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) to his list.

The market intelligence firm IDC estimates that, by 2025, there will exist 175 zettabytes of global data that is generated by all the digital things in our lives. Coursera's report quotes The Harvard Review, where Josh Bersin and Marc Zao-Sanders say that data science is now important to any organization and that the ability to extract and analyze data has become important even in non-technical departments. As Patrick Jones says in The Science Times, workers who are not IT specialists also now need some grasp of data science to be able to create and present reports with complex information (i.e., data visualization) or come up with marketing/customer service strategies after having analyzed data.

Scrum software development illustrates the demand for IT skills combined with improved management skills in the world of hybrid/remote work. Scrum software development is a project management framework for software development: it merges both hard and soft skills. Like Coursera's report says: “In 2023, human and digital skills will only become more interdependent.” Agile software development is also a software development methodology that prioritizes flexibility and collaboration. Ray Arell, the Director of Agile Transformation at Dell Computer, says in an article on Agile Alliance that, since 2015, agile software management has allowed large multinational teams to collaborate remotely. 

Coursera emphasizes that these IT management skills help governments, businesses and educational institutions adapt to fast-changing and fluctuating economic conditions. Expats often work remotely/in a hybrid way or have to communicate regularly with their company's office back in their home country. This makes learning skills that blend tech and management skills particularly important for them. 

Storytelling, change management and upskilling are essential in 2023

As previously mentioned, human skills need to go hand-in-hand with technical skills. Coursera ranks storytelling and change management as the top human skills of 2023. Furthermore, plenty of opportunities to learn new skills or top up pre-existing skills, that is, to reskill and upskill, are now within expats' reach.

In communication, storytelling is the use of relatable narratives to convey corporate information in an emotionally compelling way, and it is often used in branding and marketing. Coursera says that the various health, political and economic crises of the past few years have made media and public narratives very polarized. Strong storytelling and communication skills are a must to be able to make one's business or institution navigate this turbulent world. Middle managers in all kinds of organizations have also had to re-adapt their management style during the pandemic. As a result, they need new skills in change management.

It's good to know what skills are sought-after in 2023, but how can expats acquire them? Especially if they already have busy work and family lives. There are various MOOC (massive open online course) platforms which offer verified certificates in these skills in a flexible, part-time way. Coursera is one of them, but there is also EdX, Udemy, Miriadax (in Spanish), FutureLearn, Canvas Network, and multiple others. Many other institutions, from community colleges to open universities to coding bootcamps, can also reskill or upskill expats in a flexible way. These exist in all countries – one only has to ask around or do research to find them.

In the LinkedIn News newsletter The Work Shift, Taylor Borden said in November 2022 that skills are becoming more important than degrees. College enrollment, at least in the US, is on the decline, and an increasing number of employers are now looking at tangible skills rather than degrees. So, in order to remain competitive in their international assignments, expats can benefit from gaining or sharpening new skills through continuous education.