Five key skills in 2021 blog header

By Anissa Ljanta

The world sure changed last year. We’re in a tentative new normal where the only thing we know for sure, is that we could be in lockdown again at any time. This impacts every aspect of life and looking for a new job is no exception. Given these unprecedented times, what areas would it be wise to upskill in? We take a look at the trends and needs of the not-for-profit sector in the immediate future, and how job seekers can best position themselves to meet these needs.


Looking ahead into 2021

It’s been reported that while unemployment levels aren’t great (sitting at about 150,000), they aren’t as bad as projected and New Zealanders spending is up. We’re entering the new year with a more robust economy than predicted. We can say that NZ is in a tolerably good place, in a dire international situation. How this will impact on employment this year is still a mystery. So far, so good.

The for-purpose sector has seen an injection of funding as part of the government’s COVID response. There’s a flurry of incredible work being done in the food security field (Hello NZ Food Alliance, FairGrow, The Kai Collective and the host of other projects providing emergency food to the many people who need it). This has resulted in some great roles being advertised in the last 3-6 months.


So, what are employers in the sector looking for post-2020? What areas can you invest time and money to upskill in?


Top of our list is:

#1. Creative problem solving!

Employers appreciate people that can roll with the pandemic-punches and general curveballs. You can bet there will be questions about how you pivoted in the workplace around lockdown in your next job interview.


 #2. Communication skills.  

An oldie but a goodie. This one is never going to go out of style. If clear communication and confidence in navigating your way through conflict in the workplace doesn’t come naturally to you, now is the time to upskill. Let’s face it, this is a key competency in any role, but especially in management. Be pro-active and get better. Working remotely and times of high stress both call for good communication.


#3. Data. Data. Data.  

Many for-purpose organisations need a helping hand to get their data collection and analysis up and running. Funding bodies and donors are super keen on data impact statements. Integrating snippets of powerful data into your organisation’s comms storytelling has been a big trend in the last few years.

Sustainable Coastlines does this well. 224,423 kg’s of litter picked up from NZ beaches sounds incredible. This number means that their national operations are feeding data back to HQ, where the content people are working their magic. The public gets a sense of an effective organisation behind the scenes, and funders get a clear data impact statement.

If you are a data whizz, make sure you wrap this into your cover letter. Yes, even if it’s an admin job.


#4. Wellbeing. Don’t roll your eyes! Beyond the buzzword is the key to a healthy work-life.

Nothing like a pandemic to shine a light on which organisations value their staff’s wellbeing. And to shine a light on employees who need to take care of their wellbeing. Prospective employers like a sense that you understand your strengths and weaknesses and how these present in your work life. Do you go for a walk at lunchtime, to get some exercise and fresh air? Organise a weekly lunchtime yoga class on zoom? How do you cool down when there is a conflict at work?

One practice we like is to take turns selecting a wellbeing quote of the month or week to remind staff of the importance of integrating wellbeing into the workplace.

Read more in our blog from 2020 on Prioritising wellbeing here.


#5. Emerging technologies and productivity apps.

There are many apps and other technologies to support our work life these days. Demonstrating openness to change and being an early adoptor of emerging technologies are key in the future of work. On the applications front, from the bog-standard Office 365 to Google Drive, Doodle to Asana, if there’s a need, there’s an app for it.

Confused by some of these? You might want to check out our blog on some of the tools of the Do Good trade here.

It’s pretty certain most people will be familiar with Zoom these days! Showing you are proficient in some key apps and are enthusiastic about learning more can be a deciding factor in a successful job application. Mention this in your cover letter. Especially if you are an older worker. There’s a myth that the 40+ set are tech-shy rather than savvy, front foot that to prove them wrong.

Not many organisations have a professional development budget line but even if you’re footing the bill yourself, upskilling doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of good courses online, books in the library and mentors out there.

Read more in our blog on Self-directing your learning to advance YOUR career, for free


So, there you have it. Five key skills the do-good sector and its people need. Make a commitment to learning in these key areas in the New Year as an investment to a healthier, more balanced you and an awesome work life. Here’s hoping 2021 is a smoother ride, but we know we can do hard things now. You’ve got this!



About Anissa Ljanta

Anissa is an online content and comms specialist with a long history in the not-for-profit sector both here in NZ and internationally.   She is on the board of her small local community library, is part of a delightful book club, several writers’ groups, and her idea of a fun Saturday night involves writing and wine. Words, social change and deep ecology are at the centre of her life.

Anissa can be found (and hired for word geekery) at

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