Technical knowledge will take an information technology professional far, but some of the most important skills contributing to a successful IT career are seemingly unrelated.
"Soft" skills, such as the ability to communicate, negotiate conflict, and work well in teams, are also invaluable to businesses—especially at the managerial and executive levels. According to job placement firm Adecco, only 22% of senior executives surveyed felt their employees lacked technical skills, while 44% felt these employees needed better soft skills.
Those with a combination of technical and soft skills are poised to leap ahead at work, as they are in a better position to lead.
Here are five soft skills IT professionals should master to get ahead in their career.
Customers, whether internal or external, will come to you expecting solutions. Solving problems isn’t just reacting to those issues; it’s thinking ahead and being proactive about what can go wrong and what you see needs fixing before there’s a breakdown. Solving a problem might mean thinking outside the box with your own ideas. It might mean talking to your customers and staff to get other perspectives, giving you a broader understanding of issues and potential solutions.
While IT professionals sometimes feel best working alone at their tasks, collaboration is a big part of the business world. In fact, over a three-year period from 2009-2012, the volume of corporate work requiring collaboration increased 67 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Corporate Executive Board Company. The ability to work with others, —especially if they have a different vision or difficult personality—makes for a more successful leader.
Accepting that everyone comes to the table with their own skills and knowledge, and incorporating their ideas improves teamwork and output.
Presenting ideas and communicating your vision is imperative, as is listening and understanding what others tell you. Without effective communication, organizations can’t run well. Whether the communication is during a presentation, in an email or in written or verbal form, the ability to share information accurately and without jargon will make an IT professional stand out.
Self-awareness is hard to teach, but there are effective ways to do it. In business situations, feedback is available through informal meetings with managers and formal job performance reviews. Asking a trusted colleague for insight is a great method, as well, so that you can learn about your strengths, weaknesses, and how you’re perceived by others. Psychometric testing, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, can also shed light on how a person behaves and thinks. Understanding this in context with your colleagues’ indicator types can improve the work experience.
Whether it’s negotiating a salary or requesting a deadline extension, understanding the fine points of negotiation is an important skill to have as a manager and leader. Books and classes are a great way to learn this soft skill, especially classes that give the opportunity to practice with role-playing.
Get both skillsets with the Georgetown University online Master’s in Technology Management and launch your IT career to the next level. Speak with an admissions representative at (855) 725-7622 to learn more.