March 10, 2015

One inescapable fact of IT career advancement is that as you advance further down a career path, technical, hands-on skills and abilities often take second place to soft skills. That’s because the higher you climb, the more important it becomes to work with others, teaching and telling them what they must do, what tasks they must accomplish, and goals they must achieve. The very soft skills that so many often try to avoid become increasingly important as your ability to train, manage, and work with other people takes up larger portion of your working life.

The concept of emotional intelligence has picked up support in the past decade, especially in the IT industry. As the demand for IT talent rises, those who compliment their technical knowledge with exceptional soft skills will see greater long-term success.

Hiring for and Measuring Soft Skills

While “hard skills” can make a good impression, they won’t necessarily close the deal. Though there are several great tools available, DiSC profiling does a great job of measuring personality and behavioral style. We utilize DiSC profiling here at York during the hiring process and we even hold DiSC events for clients who are looking to improve communication with their departments. So, I guess you can say we’re a huge proponent of it!  Utilizing this assessment tool during the hiring process offers deeper insights into your own strengths during an interview and can help determine some of the best approaches for working with a new manager or new team.

Another useful way to measure the soft skills is through Competency-Based Interviewing, a style of interviewing that requires you to give specific examples of times in which you demonstrated particular behaviors, skills and attitudes. It’s important for your company to assess the agility of candidates on how they perform and deal with situations in the workplace.

If you haven’t already, consider implementing training in soft skills to help your current executives and management team gain the business skills they need to thrive, even in the most stressful situations. The right combination of soft skills on your team will give you the competitive edge needed succeed in the IT industry.

So, What Skills are Most Important?

As companies continue to place a high value on soft skills for IT professionals, you’re probably wondering which skills are most important. Such skills can easily differ depending on the culture of the organization, but here are four that are sure to make its way onto each list:

  1. Communication

Being able to express your thoughts clearly and articulately is extremely important. Regardless of whether it’s verbal or written, IT professionals need to be able to communicate well with all levels within the organization, from help desk assistants and PC end users to company executives. For those aspiring to be leaders, you must be able to effectively pass on the vision, mission and goals of the company to your team and other stakeholders.

  1. Teamwork

Teamwork is essential for sharing knowledge, establishing and building relationships and supporting all the people involved on a project. Demonstrating compromise and cooperation are essential to honing this skill.

  1. Adaptability

Change is constant; therefore, it’s important to have a good attitude whilewelcoming the unexpected. The willingness to get out of your comfort zone and learn continuously, as a way of adapting to changed surroundings, marks a key difference between successful and unsuccessful leaders

  1. Creativity and Problem Solving

Creativity and problem-solving skills are highly valued because they are hard to develop; but, like others, you can develop them if you work to do so. As an IT professional, you must be able to define problems in a timely manner, identify the root causes, and then gather relevant information to find appropriate solutions. Furthermore, you may also need to suggest enhancements to existing procedures and processes to deliver a better product and improved services.

Consider networking, finding a mentor, or volunteering as practice opportunities for enhancing your soft skillset and building relationships. It’s those relationships that allow people to participate fully in team projects, show appreciation for others, and enlist support for their projects.

How important do you think soft skills are for IT professionals?

Posted By: Ariana Hampton-Marcell

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