6 Soft Skills That Every IT Professional Should Have
Long-time IT professionals know that to stay relevant in the tech world you need to work on your soft skills.
Technology changes constantly and the hard skills you have today may be obsolete tomorrow, but most soft skills will last you a lifetime.
Organizations also know this all too well. Data from LinkedIn shows that 57% of company leaders value soft skills over hard skills.
If you want to progress in your current company or land your dream job, you’ll need to work hard on at least two or three vital soft skills.
The following six are crucial for every IT professional.
Effective communication is the foundation for a successful venture in any field of business.
Whether it’s verbal, written or body-language communication, mastering the ability to express yourself will benefit you a ton.
As an IT professional, chances are you’re working closely with a team of colleagues and managers who you communicate with daily. From writing emails, discussing the work process in your meetings or pitching ideas to your team communication principles are vital to achieving your goals.
HackerRank’s 2019 Developer Skills Report shows that poorly written documentation is the number one pet peeve for junior developers and the third biggest pet peeve for senior developers.
Even if you’re a freelancer and work on your own, you still need to communicate with clients. In this scenario, effective communication needs to be a part of your broader marketing strategy, which we’ll cover in the following section.
The problem here is that we tend to take a massive part of our conversations for granted and don’t think about them at all. An easy way to start learning about communication is to focus on one aspect of communication and begin thinking about how you can improve it.
For example, the next time you’re writing an email think about what you’re trying to convey to the other person. You’ll quickly find that some of the words or even whole sentences are either useless or poorly written. Go through this process with both written and verbal communication until you feel comfortable.
Regardless of the context, as an IT professional you need to learn how communication works and use it to your benefit.
If you’ve ever worked on a complex project, you know how fast requirements can change.
Technology is constantly evolving and every company wants to be at the forefront of innovation. At some point, you’ll have to adapt, and your attitude towards change is what’s going to determine your success.
There’s a reason why employers value adaptability so highly and it’s because change is hard. Most people can’t or don’t want to switch gears fast enough to succeed in a new environment. Training yourself not only to expect change but to be ready for it will keep you fresh when the inevitable need to adapt arises.
Another thing you should do is to adopt a new mindset to challenges. While negative reactions to change are unavoidable, especially in the beginning, try to think about how much you’re going to grow as a professional and embrace the challenge with a problem-solving attitude.
There are different opinions on the nature of creativity with some people believing that it’s either you have it or you don’t type of quality and others thinking you can learn it.
There are hundreds of creativity courses online which produce mixed results. On the other hand, neurological studies are still unclear about whether or not you can boost your creativity in some kind of way.
Regardless of your opinion on the matter the truth is most people don’t even attempt to find out if they’re creative. Often our home and school environment zaps most creative endeavors from us at a young age.
That being said, employers in all fields should always value creativity. LinkedIn ranks creativity as the number one soft skill that companies are looking for in 2019. This statistic isn’t surprising considering the fact that all fantastic business opportunities are born out of ideas.
So whether you think of yourself as a creative type or no, you owe it to yourself to at least try and come up with something original every so often.
Salesmanship is a part of communication that will also serve you for a long time if you master it.
Now, you might be thinking: “Why would an IT professional need to learn how to sell?” The answer is simple – because we’re regularly selling something or being sold something without even realizing it. The concept of salesmanship embodies the art of persuasion which isn’t limited to just a few situations.
There are hundreds of daily examples of salesmanship in workplace.
Let’s say you’re getting burnt out and decide to take a short vacation from work. This means that you’ll have to sell the idea of you not being at work for a certain amount of time to your boss, manager, team leader, etc. Yes, you’re not forcing someone to buy from you, but you are persuading them to take a specific action which is the same thing.
The world of tech giants is also filled with examples of how successful salesmanship can yield tremendous results.
Every huge company in the tech world began as a startup. In most cases, someone had to sell investors on providing venture capital for an idea that hadn’t been fully developed if at all. Without the ability of persuasion Facebook or Amazon might not have existed today.
Everyone likes and values a team player. At least, everyone should.
Since teamwork is the backbone of successful projects, the ability to work well with others is invaluable. If you’ve ever worked in a team, you’ve probably seen how team players can vastly improve everyone’s mood, productivity, and creativity.
Teamwork is not one single skill, though. It’s a collection of various abilities like communication (which we already discussed), empathy (which we will discuss in a bit), leadership and many others.
Leadership is in itself a precious skill. That being said, not everyone is fit to be a leader, and not everyone should try to be one. We all possess instincts that guide us toward people we feel are qualified to lead in certain situations.
The ability to be a great team player will depend on your sense of when to lead and when to follow or when to commit to a colleague’s request and when to say no.
There isn’t a short-cut to becoming a better team member. You just have actively try to understand team dynamics and put the interest of the team above your own and your colleagues’ individual interests.
This final skill is a bit more unorthodox, but research continues to show how empathy in the workplace can be vital.
Firstly, empathy is the ability and capacity to understand and/or feel what another person is experiencing or simply, to put yourself in another person’s shoes.
So, why does that matter to IT professionals?
It matters, because not only will you be working with people in your team, but you’ll also work with other, non-IT professionals as well. Since the final product or service will more than likely be produced by multiple teams (like dev teams, design teams, UX team, etc.) your ability to empathize with others will be crucial.
Being a highly-qualified professional can easily lead to the common mistake of believing your work is somehow more important than others’. Don’t fall into this trap. When the time comes to collaborate with people from other teams, remember that other professionals also exist.
It’s also much easier to find some empathy and try to help than to later make excuses about how someone didn’t do their job which somehow affected your work.
How important are soft skills to us personally in how they define us as workers and individuals? Soft skills are becoming even more critical in the tech world today.
Recruiters are vetting them at every chance during the recruitment process and employers are re-evaluating their importance in the workplace.
While they’re not as straight-forward to learn as hard-skills, soft skills can still be mastered. Pick one today, read everything you can on it and start to practice it actively. After a while, you’ll form a habit that can last you a lifetime.