The Benefits of Improving Soft Skills in IT

by on May 21, 2014

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Today we’re joined by guest blogger Dave Nixon, the Managing Director of our Cincinnati branch. With years of experience in recruiting and sales, he’s sharing his wisdom along with the thoughts and opinions of clients and fellow Modis professionals on the importance of improving soft skills for IT professionals in part one of his series. Whether you’re a seasoned systems engineer or a recent grad hunting for jobs in Java development, Dave’s advice is invaluable for job seekers and employees at all stages of their careers.

Soft skills are important for IT professionals.Wikipedia defines “soft skills” as “personal attributes that enhance an individual’s interactions, job performance and career prospects. Unlike hard skills, which are about a person’s skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person’s ability to interact effectively with coworkers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.”

In the consultant world, soft skills = environmental and hard skills = technical. Our IT world revolves around both.

Some jobs rely even more heavily on interpersonal skills than technical, like being a good attorney. A job that seems highly technical on the surface but is actually just as much about the environmental. Of course, to be an attorney, you have to have the domain knowledge and technical expertise of the law, but to be a GOOD attorney, you have to know how to successfully deal with difficult people going through difficult situations. In essence, attorneys must become masters of empathy. An emotion…a soft skill.

Benefits of Improving Your IT Soft Skills

  • You don’t want to be known as “that person.” The one no one can get along with. The one no one knows anything about. You might be the best developer in the world, but if you cannot get along with others, the team and the performance of the team will suffer as people find ways to work around these difficult types of personality to get things done. Soon, the best projects, opportunities and benefits of being part of the team will not come your direction.

“It’s not good enough anymore just to have the technical skills. Soft skills are needed to help balance competing interests within clients in order to bring about the right solution for the client (not just a solution). As a client, I will always have a need for smart technologists, but most times those opportunities have a finite duration. Give me someone with the soft skills who I can put in front of my business partners and I will find a way to keep that person around, even if it requires some creative budgeting.” B.D., Director of IT, Insurance Company

  • People with better soft skills simply can command more money. They become more efficient, beneficial and valuable to clients that they serve.
  • With increased soft skills, you can even be excused for not knowing something technically, but you will not be excused for not being an environmental fit.

“Technical skills are really important when we hire, but not as important as cultural fit. Cultural fit is all about soft skills. You don’t get in the door for an interview if you don’t have the technical aptitude for the role. We can test for coding skills, we can do phone interviews to assess knowledge and experience. If you get in the door we are assessing you for fit with our team. We are assessing your personality, your manners, and your poise under stress. We are assessing your soft skills. Our team is tight knit, high performance and hard working. If we introduce a person into the mix without the right soft skills and working style we risk our success. The interesting thing is how many different personalities we have on our team. Good cultural fit doesn’t mean personality clones. Fit comes from ability to collaborate, a willingness to learn, work ethic and above all excitement about building a data driven marketing engine for the restaurant industry.” R.F., Chief Operating Officer, Technology Firm

  • Everyone wants to be heard – Even cultural differences can affect overall understanding during communication where this can break down. Good soft skills help you connect on a deeper level than just “getting the job done.” This increased understanding will lead to less rework and missed expectations in your technical work.

“…learn to listen. Some of the best people I’ve met have a strong ability to listen. Listening sometimes takes more than just “hearing” what the other person is saying because it requires understanding. Ask questions when necessary, and be quiet when necessary. Good two way communication stems from not only expressing yourself but engaging and understanding the other party.”
Breanne Alford, Modis, Recruiting Manager

  • Better soft skills are perceived as higher IQ and emotional quotient over people without them.

“In consulting it is extremely necessary to have soft skills along with being technical. Consultants need to be charismatic and sociable because they interact with various individuals on a regular basis. How people perceive you is everything and will have a direct effect on your consulting career. Not to mention, if your clients see you as someone who is easy to get along with, it will generally be easier for them to trust you. Credibility is everything.”
Breanne Alford, Modis, Recruiting Manager

  • Improved soft skills can help navigate workplace dynamics, difficult situations and become more integral to team members who can help you to get things done (people with better soft skills work better in teams, while many times higher technical personalities work better in isolation)

Developing Soft Skills and Beyond

Understanding the reasons behind improving soft skills is just the first step. Next week Dave will be joining us again to discuss 5 ways to improve your IT soft skills. In addition, the career resources section of our sight is filled with valuable insight to make your next job search successful.

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