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Soft Skills Still a Vital Element of Your IT Employability

IT professionals tend to focus on technology, apoplectic tools, sales and platforms, and revel in their technical expertise. Communication, organization and leadership skills, however, are also essential to business success.

People discussing leadership skillsIt’s been my great pleasure to help the nice folks at Global Knowledge out this year with their annual certification and salary survey. I’m not sure exactly when the report on its results will see the light of day, but I have seen that document — and have pored over it in detail several times.

 

One of the most telling revelations from that report addresses the notion of a skills gap in organizations. This refers to the aggregate of IT and related staff members available to an organization. The "gap" is the difference between the complete set of skills and knowledge that those people actually possess, and the set of same that the organization would ideally like to have at its disposal.

 

When there’s a difference between those two, such that the organization has less than it wants or needs, then there’s a skills gap.

 

When we look into what falls into that gap, many of the most commonly cited “missing elements” are specific IT tools, platforms, processes, and technologies. For example, many organizations are confronted by gaps in cybersecurity, IT governance and compliance, cloud computing, and big data.

 

The missing skills, however, aren't all technical. High up on the list for IT managers seeking to shepherd their organizations to future success are so-called "soft skills." There are essential to make IT professionals more effective in delivering the goods to their customers and co-workers.

 

Here’s a list of the kinds of soft skills that IT managers most urgently want to develop in their troops (and themselves):

 

• Communication: Both oral and written communications are vital to maximizing return on IT investments. This means that people who can go beyond understanding technology to sharing that understanding with others — especially those who don’t work in IT, and even more especially upward into the management hierarchy — are far more likely to succeed and advance in IT than those who understand this stuff but who can’t communicate that understanding to others.

 

• Organization: This catch-all heading embraces a raft of people and process skills that have to do with understanding how to get things done. True success at organization also means working within the enterprise’s limitations on resources, reporting and regulatory requirements, business objectives and constraints, and so on and so forth.

Think of it as two parts people skills (motivation, communication, inspiration), two parts project management (project design, delivery and tracking, resource management), and one part project engineering (understanding how to put the pieces together and keep track of them to get things done on time, on or under budget, and at the desired level of quality).

 

• Leadership: Much as with art, people may not know exactly what leadership is, or precisely how it function, but they almost always know it when they see or otherwise experience it. They can also readily discriminate between good, mediocre, and bad varieties of this all-important human quality.

A difficult but incredibly useful skill to establish and cultivate, leadership ability very much distinguishes between those who excel and advance to great heights, and those who walk a more middling kind of career path.

 

How does an organization (or a motivated individual) develop such skills? It takes training, practice, and determined repetition over time (lots of time).

 

I’ve written often and at length about soft skills and how to develop them (see these searches for pointers to items around this topic here at GoCertify, Tom’s IT Pro, and Pearson IT Certification — more than 20 items in all). Developing soft skills will stand you in good stead for your entire working life, no matter what you do, and will open many doors that might otherwise remain closed.

 

For organizations, helping to develop employees’ soft skills will enable successes that might never otherwise present themselves.

 


ed-tittel120ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, best known as developer of "Exam Cram" IT cert prep book series. Ed blogs on certification topics for TechTarget, Tom’s IT Pro, and PearsonITCertification.com, or you can check out his website at www.edtittel.com.