Though there are countless technical skills required of an information technology professional—from coding, to network engineering, to troubleshooting and beyond—there is a certain set of skills that every professional in the field needs: soft skills. Soft skills encompass less-tangible skills such as communication and interpersonal skills, adaptability and flexibility, and critical thinking and listening; one major soft skill getting a lot of attention lately is emotional intelligence, which is quickly being touted as one of the most in-demand characteristics of the year.
Without soft skills, many aren’t likely to thrive in today’s workplace, which is becoming a much more interactive and collaborative effort than the cubicle-packed offices of the past. Offices across industries are quickly transitioning to open floor plans, requiring a comfort in open working environments and the ability to co-exist and communicate with different personality types and levels of staff. Many are even implementing “peer programming” which requires colleagues to check each other’s work before anything is approved.
As a result, the demand for IT professionals with communication skills to match their technological prowess is rapidly growing. “Employers are looking for IT candidates who can take communication to the next level,” says Bryan Luther, a Director at ES Technology, a division of The Execu|Search Group. “It’s no longer enough to simply know what you’re doing and execute a task. You need to be able to articulate your thoughts and process, as well as utilize past experience, to back up an answer or result—this helps your team better understand your decisions and can be especially helpful for junior candidates who are still learning the ropes.” This type communication requires self-reflection and analytical thinking, two soft skills that tie into emotional intelligence and are particularly vital in the field—especially in roles that require a great deal of telephonic or face-to-face conversing.
In some roles, like those of project managers, IT professionals also need the ability to gauge and adapt to different personalities; however, if you aren’t in a project management role, don’t assume you don’t need these skills, yourself. Other positions still require skills with written correspondence, interacting with others professionally, clearly conveying and articulating thoughts, and listening. Even positions that require limited interaction with others still require these skills, so it’s important to make sure they’re well-developed.
Ultimately, as cultural fit becomes more important to organizations, employers are looking for employees who not only possess the skills needed to do well in the role, but also the soft skills necessary for evolving with the organization and moving the business forward. Collaboration is quickly becoming recognized as a means to innovative ideas, and as a result, the soft skills necessary to facilitate it are only going to grow in demand.