IT continues to be one of the fastest-growing employment sectors. However, as remote work environments become increasingly common and technology becomes further intertwined with other business functions, the role of the IT professional is evolving.
As today’s IT professionals engage with more colleagues throughout the business, their skills must extend well beyond technical expertise. Over 40 percent of respondents to a recent study by West Monroe admitted encountering IT professionals who struggle with collaboration, hampering productivity. As a result, hiring managers are looking for IT prospects with comprehensive soft skills to add greater value to their business.
What are soft skills?
Unlike technical skills gained through study, training, and real-world experience, soft skills are how we maintain and foster strong relationships at work. These non-technical skills are about collaboration and communication, defined by how we engage with our colleagues and clients. IT professionals with robust soft skills not only perform better in their roles, but they’re also better prepared to help others succeed.
Soft skills could make or break your chance of landing that dream IT job. To help you break away from the pack, here are three vital skills to hone.
[ How strong is your EQ? See our related article: Emotional intelligence test: 5 self-evaluation tools for leaders. ]
1. Communicate to collaborate
As the foundation of any successful professional, verbal and non-verbal communication skills are the most important soft skills. The ability to effectively discuss projects with teammates is crucial for maintaining productivity and keeping work on track. So, whether you’re in a meeting or giving a presentation, speak clearly, take time to listen to feedback, field questions, and provide thoughtful responses.
Apply the same high standard to non-verbal communications such as emails and collaborative documents. Use correct grammar and punctuation and proofread before sending anything along to a teammate or customer.
When you work with non-technical colleagues in different departments, it’s essential to clearly explain project requirements and expectations. Remember that many of your colleagues do not share your level of technical knowledge, so break down complex procedures into a language non-IT folks can understand. Be patient and take the time to answer questions about IT processes. This ensures successful collaboration between departments and promotes positive relationships at work.
[ Improve your communication prowess and other soft skills: Read How to build soft skills: 10 must-read books. ]
2. Time management to stay on track
IT projects are unique in that they often directly impact other work throughout the business. For example, teams in other departments can’t access their mission-critical files if the server goes down. This might be an extreme example, but it highlights the importance of successfully managing and completing projects quickly. Effective time management is a valuable soft skill as it ensures that assignments stay on track and move steadily forward.
Remember that many of your colleagues do not share your level of technical knowledge, so break down complex procedures into a language non-IT folks can understand.
Here are a few ways to develop your time management skills:
- Keep a to-do list or log assignments and deadlines in a project management tool
- Delegate tasks to teammates as appropriate to manage workload
- Prioritize time-sensitive assignments
- Set realistic goals and deadlines for yourself and your colleagues
- Minimize distractions
By sharing work throughout your teams and committing to reasonable deadlines, you can ensure projects meet the expectations and needs of others across the business.
[ Are you a toxic boss – or are you dealing with one? Read also: How to deal with a toxic boss. ]
3. Manage stress and fret less
IT can be a stressful career path. As businesses increasingly rely on technology to keep operations running smoothly, the pressure on IT teams only intensifies. Hiring managers are looking for IT pros who demonstrate an ability to manage stress as it can negatively impact their own performance as well as that of their colleagues.
Improving your stress tolerance will allow you to be more productive while feeling healthier and happier at work. Here are some tips to help manage stress in the workplace:
- Schedule regular PTO (and encourage your team to do the same)
- Encourage open communication with colleagues
- Set boundaries by disconnecting from email and phone regularly
- Document triggers to understand what heightens stress and how you respond
- Use healthy coping mechanisms such as exercise, sleep, and constructive hobbies
Lean into your soft skills
As more companies look for soft skills when hiring for IT roles, you can stand out by emphasizing these skills in your resume and cover letter and during job interviews. Pick a few examples of how you’ve used soft skills successfully and highlight them in interviews.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]