Soft Skills to Land In-Demand IT Jobs
Information Technology (IT) is one of the fields that is most characterized by shared and high-level technical knowledge. You can't simply be a good talker or salesperson and get a job in IT; you need the education, hardware, software, and network experience. You also, however, need a pretty far-ranging suite of soft skills that help you communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve, among many other things.
With this in mind, we outline some of the most important soft skills that you will need to land in-demand IT jobs right now.
IT professionals need empathy to be able to work not only with teams of people, who may often be from different cultural backgrounds, but interdepartmentally as well. When you work in IT, you aren't just communicating and interacting with people from your shared IT background, but also plenty of people who may not have the insight and understanding that you have.
What you take for granted - whether it's an in-depth knowledge of data science or high-level cybersecurity knowledge - may be completely novel or difficult to someone else, and being a good IT employee means being able to explain things to people in ways that resonate with them as well as having the patience to help people who do not have an IT background.
There are two components to verbal communication: listening and speaking. In order to come up with the correct answer to an issue, an IT professional must be able to actively listen to the demands of others. They must also be able to communicate the specifics of an issue and/or solution to both technical and non-technical audiences. This will make them more approachable and assist them in developing important team and interdepartmental connections with others.
Strong written communication abilities are also essential. Entries in ticketing systems, emails, and paperwork are all part of an IT professional's daily routine, and everyone engaged would benefit from being able to effectively articulate thoughts and ideas in writing. If you want to stand out as an IT hire, ensuring that your resume is clear, concise and free of any grammatical errors is the first place to start. How you conduct yourself during interviews also sheds light on your potential as a communicator.
While a prospective IT hire may be a one-person army who can solve 404s while cranking out strings of code at breakneck speed, they must also know how to work well with others. Because many IT professionals prefer to work remotely, it is critical for each and every member of the team to be able to work effectively with peers who have chosen to work remotely, and perhaps even with people telecommuting from different time zones.
The obvious evidence that this soft skill is lacking in the team is when team members struggle to collaborate while their colleagues are only available via Slack or other digital communication channels. Organizations are looking for IT professionals who signal that they are capable of working off the ideas of others and putting the team effort above all else.
Capacity for Learning
Enthusiasm and passion for learning are especially crucial now because the technology used by developers is changing so rapidly. Cybersecurity threats are another area where change takes place at a breakneck pace, meaning that to be good at your job, you have to be capable of learning and self-teaching to stay on top of the industry's evolution.
Developers must be eager to keep up with the newest trends, adapt to new technologies, and commit to lifelong learning and data specialists need to keep abreast of changes to cloud storage and data management.
In the world of IT, it is not uncommon to make mistakes. Obvious answers are sometimes not always there, and there will be times when you make a bad call. How will you deal with this? Will you admit, 'Oh, I was mistaken?" Or are you someone who will try to hide it, explain it away, or defend yourself? The second option is poison. Being unable to deal with being wrong or, even worse, passing the buck is a surefire sign you are difficult to work with.
This soft skill is often tested in interviews with questions asking you to reflect on times you have made mistakes, after which you are usually prompted to explain how you reacted. Questions asking you to address a shortcoming or a weakness are also usually an attempt to identify accountability in candidates.
Creativity is consistently one of the most in-demand soft skills across industries. Hiring creative individuals who can take a wider business problem and give a technical answer, or who can discuss 'what-if' scenarios and come up with new solutions, is a proven method to establish a team that can work effectively together and toward the bigger picture.
If you want to impress during an interview, don't be afraid to let your creativity shine through. Even if your interviewer doesn't agree with you, or informs you that that is not the way things are done at that particular company, showing that you have unique thoughts and potential solutions to problems makes you an instant standout.
This is the ability to think in an ordered and rational manner in order to understand relationships between concepts and facts. A person's critical thinking ability can be gleaned through simple interactions and questions, but as an IT professional, you will often be asked to demonstrate it by complete cases or simulated scenarios. These are designed to test how well you can think critically about real problems that you are likely to encounter in your daily work.
IT isn't just about your hard skills (although you will certainly need that base). IT managers and companies want to see that you have the soft skills to thrive in a constantly changing environment, working with people who may be quite different from yourself and often spread out around the world. All of the above soft skills will help you thrive in modern IT divisions and will be looked upon favorably by hiring managers and your colleagues.
About the Author
Alex is a freelance writer and researcher who has been covering the Education/HR space for the past 5 years. His work appears in publications and blogs all over the internet. When he is not researching for an upcoming project or working on a first draft, you can find him doing yoga, or reading in a quiet corner of the park.