As a tech professional, there’s no doubt you’ve learned a tremendous amount over the course of your career. Perhaps you’ve mastered several programming languages, are a data mining expert, or are schooled on safeguarding networks against the latest cybersecurity threats. While being versed in any of these areas can set you up for a great career, even a skill set that encompasses all of them would still be missing something vital. That’s where soft skills come in.
Hiring Managers Look for Well-Rounded Candidates
It’s true that any tech job candidate must have essential technical capabilities to be considered for a role, but at the same time, 77% of employers say that they value soft skills as much as hard skills. Hiring managers at these companies are shelling out top dollar for IT talent, and they expect a professional who is as well rounded and close to perfect as possible. Unfortunately, tech pros will often focus heavily on their technical skills while a forgotten student organization sits at the end of their resume as the only proof of soft skills development.
Further, the importance of soft skills is not limited to just those tech pros actively seeking a new job. Those trying to move up the ranks, or even those happy with their current position would be wise to add to their skill sets. Refining these soft skills makes tech professionals even more valuable assets to their organizations, increasing job security and ensuring they will not be outshined by fresh, multidimensional candidates. With that in mind, what exactly are the soft skills tech employers are looking for?
Communication and Writing Skills
Research shows that 25% of the requirements in an IT job posting are soft skills, and they almost always include communication and writing. Even though many tech role responsibilities are carried out while sitting alone in front of a computer screen, there are a number of times when that isn’t the case. A tech professional could be asked to describe a problem to management or make a case to the C-suite that an investment in a certain hardware upgrade or new software program is necessary for business success. One could be called on to draft a year-end technical report in layman’s terms or asked to discuss the benefits of a new offering with the marketing department. At the very least, the ability to communicate clearly is what makes teamwork on technical projects possible.
Prioritization and Organization
It’s highly unlikely that, as a tech professional, you only have one project on your plate at a time, neatly set up to be completed in an eight-hour workday. Realistically, you’re juggling a great number of tasks that are in various stages of completion. Many people can sit and focus on tearing through one programming project during a day but far fewer are able to prioritize and switch between tasks often. Business leaders are striving to make today’s technical environments more agile, and that requires tech pros who can go with the flow and change pace at a moment’s notice.
How to Refine Your Soft Skills
The good news is that even if you feel you lack soft skills, obtaining and refining them can be fun. Chicagoland boasts one of the best metropolitan areas in the country and provides a huge number of rich opportunities for rounding out your skill set in this area.
- Networking: Seek out ways to be outgoing and personable, especially in professional settings. Networking opportunities encourage communication, introduce you to valuable career contacts, and expose you to new technical skills. Considering joining a local Toastmasters or Meetup group or attending a tech conference or convention.
- Personal Development/Training: While networking opportunities can offer simultaneous professional development, it’s helpful to think outside the box and look for any soft-skill training opportunity available. The internet provides many convenient opportunities for learning how to grow soft skills, whether it’s through YouTube videos, LinkedIn’s new learning offering, or a Google search.
- Hackathons: While at their core hackathons are based on technical expertise, they can provide fun avenues for working on communication and teamwork with a tech goal in mind. Find one in your expertise, such as this one for App Developers.
- Community Activities: Chicago is a wonderful hub of culture bustling with constant activity and opportunities for civic engagement. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, museum, or other charity. Participate more on your local school board or church; or join a fun yoga, kickboxing, or cycling class. Any of these enjoyable and rewarding activities will place you in low-pressure situations to practice your soft skills.
Soft Skills Matter to Your Tech Career
At the end of the day, what matters most is determining the sort of tech career you want to create for yourself. Then, it’s all about taking the necessary steps to get there. For most IT pros, that means in addition to continually building up technical expertise, working on communication, teamwork, and prioritization is in order.