Looking to advance your career in information technology?
Honing your technical skills can help qualify you for your dream job, but putting a focus on developing your soft skills is what can set you apart from your peers.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are the personal qualities, attitudes, and social traits that help you work well with others and positively contribute to the organization you work for. Also called “transferable skills,” soft skills can transfer from one position to another, regardless of the job or company. Common soft skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Time management
- Conflict resolution
- Presentation proficiency
Soft skills like the ones listed above may or may not be specifically mentioned in a job posting, but hiring managers are definitely looking for them in candidates.
Why IT Professionals Need Soft Skills
IT professionals are commonly known to be more introverted than extroverted, with various studies and the Meyers-Briggs personality model supporting this typecast. What does introversion have to do with soft skills? Introverts may be less likely to possess some innate soft skills, especially the ones that require interaction with people, so they often need to focus on further developing these skills in order to set themselves apart in the job market.
Mastering the following soft skills will help set you apart in the IT job market:
- Communication. It’s easy for people in IT to get caught up in technical jargon. The key to being a well-rounded IT professional is the ability to effectively communicate technical information to non-technical people, especially peers on the business side or executives in the C-suite.
- Teamwork. The stereotype is that introverted IT folks prefer to hide behind their computers in their cubicles all day long, but the reality is that working in cross-functional teams is becoming the norm. Knowing how to contribute to a team and work together on a shared goal is important in today’s business world.
- Enthusiasm. Introverts like to think things through before speaking, unlike extroverts who appear to “jump in” to new things more quickly. Because of this, it can be hard for an IT professional to portray a “can-do” attitude when presented with new ideas. Optimism and a willingness to try new things will get noticed by leadership and help the overall culture of the workplace.
- Adaptability. Since most introverts prefer to focus on one task at a time at a deliberate pace, the ability to go with the flow and quickly switch courses may also be a challenge for some IT professionals. It’s rare in today’s business world that projects go exactly as planned, so being able to adapt and shift gears is key.
- Presentation proficiency. Presentations aren’t just for business teams anymore! IT professionals need to be comfortable presenting to groups of their peers, leaders, and cross-functional teams.
Some soft skills come naturally to most introverts, such as critical thinking, time management, and written communication. The key is having a well-rounded set of soft skills that set you apart from competitors in the job market.
How Can You Develop Your Soft Skills?
To round out your technical skills with polished soft skills, IT professionals can explore the following options:
- Pursue an online degree. It may seem counter-intuitive, but getting an advanced degree from an online institution is actually great for building soft skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, time management, and good communication.
- Network. Even though the primary purpose of networking is professional development, it can also be a great way to work on your communication skills. So join a professional organization or networking group, if you’re not already part of one. Even if you’re more of an introvert, be brave and talk to people you don’t know. It’s great practice and can lead to new professional opportunities.
- Volunteering can help develop soft skills such as teamwork, communication, and leadership. Step outside of your normal everyday responsibilities and volunteer somewhere with a different kind of environment. This will give you exposure to new people and different ways of doing things.
If you want to work on developing your teamwork skills, maybe volunteer to help build a house. Need to work on communication? Go door-to-door to fundraise for a local community organization. Want to be a more effective leader? Take the lead on organizing your neighborhood’s block party. No matter what you volunteer to do, be sure to go into it with an idea of the skills you hope to develop. Afterwards, be prepared to talk in an interview about how you used the opportunity to improve your soft skills.
An added benefit of networking and volunteering is that these opportunities often lead to different kinds of references. The people you meet at professional or volunteer organizations can speak to your soft skills in a way that former business colleagues may not be able to.
Employers are looking for IT professionals who are an asset to their overall organization, and not just skilled technical players. By developing your soft skills, and learning how to speak about them in an interview, you’ll be able to wow potential employers with the “full package.”
Learn more about Capella’s online information technology degree programs.
The mission of the Capella Career Center is to empower students and alumni to proactively manage their careers and make meaningful, and effective, career decisions.