Alison Garwood Jones

What Employers Are Looking For

November 20, 2023

Opera glasses illustration by Alison Garwood-Jones

This morning, a smart student reached out and asked if she could join me for Office Hours later this week. She wants to know, “What are employers looking for right now?”

People who sign up for my digital strategy and writing courses quickly learn that I believe in the Church of Creativity and Eternal Learning, but I suspect she is reacting to those times in class when I let honesty get ahead of hope with nakedly chilling statements like:

“Marketing is an absolute mess right now.”


“You’re here because you know that writing is the best way to assert your agency and figure out what you know. And if you feel a bit sick right now that’s because AI has turned both of those things upside-down.”

By the way, it doesn’t feel right calling this colleague “a student,” although she is enrolled in my “Writing Digital Content” course at the University of Toronto (SCS).

And, while I’m technically the instructor, the only thing I’m in full control of right now are the admin settings on our recurring Zoom meetings.

As for knowing what the future applications for writing and content marketing will be, no one individual or institution is hoarding all the answers, although some pretend to judging by their ads.

Here’s what I do know: you can proactively research what needs are not being met in companies, pick one, and get really good at that. Before you know it, you’ll be standing in front of them shaking your Christmas bells and singing, “I’ve got a tool that can transcribe that podcast for you in less than a minute. Next, have you considered …?”

Your can start your research here.  Last week, Deloitte’s Future of Canada Centre dropped a report — Digital Equity: Empowering All Organizations to Succeed in the Digital Era — citing a list of needs employers are having a tough time filling.

The report, conducted between August 2022 and March 2023, interviewed 804 Canadian senior business leaders in the private, non-profit and public sectors, with special attention on small and medium-sized enterprises.

It asked leaders what their biggest ongoing employee challenges were. Remember, those challenges could be your next job. All you need is the courage to put in the prep work, then pitch yourself as the solution (even when you don’t feel ready yet):

Job Opportunity # 1:
67 per cent of organizations with over 10 employees say hiring digitally skilled workers is somewhat or very challenging, which rises to 70 per cent for medium (100-499 employees) and large organizations (500 employees or more).

Here’s Your Chance to:
Enrol in university continuing ed classes to keep improving your digital literacy and your mindset towards tech. Remember to showcase your updated certifications on LinkedIn while you are pitching future employers. And if you are currently enrolled in classes that teach you how to update and expand your digital skills, well then, you are ALREADY DOING what future employers need you to do so they can hire you! Remember: companies today are hiring for skills, not degrees (my two degrees are in Art History, for crying out loud).

Job Opportunity #2:
A majority (58%) of survey respondents say uncertainty about which technologies would be most beneficial to their organization is somewhat or very challenging. Challenges include a lack of in-house specialized tech experience to shape digital strategies in areas like SEO, Data Analytics, and AI apps that improve customer insights and decision-making.

Here’s Your Chance to:
Fire up your research and writing skills and commit to building a list of the SAAS products currently trending your industry. Do you have your eye on company with a mission you admire, but whose tech know-how may need updating? The answers to who this company is, what they need, and what SAAS tools might serve them best is a LinkedIn, ChatGPT and Google search away. Reach out and find out how their tech transformation is proceeding, and offer your help. BTW: People who come to my classes identifying as Writers and Comms Professionals have their eyes opened during sessions on Generative AI use cases, SEO tactics, navigating Google Analytics 4 and a sprinkling of UX design. Yes, we talk specific tools.

Job Opportunity #3: 
The report says companies who are having troubles finding and retaining digital talent need to think strategically about their talent value proposition and how it can speak better to digital and tech talent – including by being purpose/mission-forward.

Here’s Your Chance to:
Remind yourself what SMART objectives are, how you set them, why they are essential to business growth, and why you should ask a company to share its business objectives with you. Do they align with your values and what impact will this work have beyond the company? My Digital Comms Strategy Course tackles SMART Objectives and demonstrates how they provide a road map to help navigate people, processes, and systems.

Job Opportunity #4:
The Canadian Federal Government has funding to help support digital adoption in the workplace, but companies aren’t accessing it, either because their programs were never marketed properly, their webpages weren’t optimized for search, their application process wasn’t sufficiently streamlined, or All of the Above.

Here’s Your Chance to:
Build a Google Doc linking to all the current available government funding programmes, and make it public. Then pitch the development director or CFO of a non-profit you’d like to work at and find out if they are aware of this cache of untapped funding? Your research and reporting abilities could get you in the door.

Job Opportunity #5:
Progress is lagging on laws and policies that accelerate digital adoption.

Here’s Your Chance to: 
Think about a career in public policy at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). IP law, with a focus on AI and copyright, will also provide you with years of opportunities.

The report goes on to show opportunity gaps in other areas including: data protection and privacy, cybersecurity, and connectivity in rural and low-income communities. I’ve only highlighted a few to get you started.

In the meantime, keep your mind and heart open and look for ways that workplace knowledge and operations are falling behind.


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