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Five Skills to Learn if You're Looking for a Job

Here are five skills in key fields that could help set you apart in a competitive job market.

It's becoming harder to stand out from the growing pile of resumes in today's tough

job market

. If you're unemployed, consider learning a new skill to gain an advantage.

"First, look at your strengths to see how those might cross over into other fields or


," says Diane Brennan, an Arizona-based career consultant. "Then decide what other skills you need to succeed in that area and work on developing them."

Here are five skills that might give you an advantage over other

job applicants


Project management:

If you're unemployed and have management experience, consider getting certified in project management.

The Project Management Institute

certifies people with at least three years of experience in the field or 35 hours of related education.

"Project management is a major area of opportunity these days," says Steve Armstrong, senior vice president of the technical services group at Michigan-based

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. Certification costs between $200 and $300.

Human resources:


Society for Human Resource Management

offers courses on conflict resolution, recruiting and salary analysis. The trade organization also offers a certification exam that involves 24 to 36 hours of classroom instruction.

Search engine optimization:

Web developers rely on "search engine optimization," strategies designed to help sites rank higher in searches, to boost traffic to their pages. As more people find information through


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, search engine optimization, or SEO, has become an important marketing skill.

Many colleges and trade organizations offer SEO courses or workshops that cost less than $100 and take a few weeks to complete.

Public speaking:

Consider polishing your presentation skills by joining your local chapter of

Toastmasters International

. The organization brings together groups of 20 people or fewer, who meet weekly to practice speeches and get feedback.

"It can help you in a future job but it will also improve your networking and help polish your pitch to prospective employers," says John McKee, founder of the Colorado-based consulting firm


LEED certification:

Want to get ahead in real estate or construction? Consider seeking certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the

U.S. Green Building Council

. Applicants must learn about sustainable building and energy and water management to become certified, which costs $200.

Home sellers hire LEED-certified real estate agents to help them value eco-friendly improvements they've made. LEED-certified builders are tapping into demand for green development.

Peter McDougall is a freelance writer who lives in Freeport, Maine, with his wife and their dog.