Starting out in IT there are many things that I wish I had known about, but one of them is the value of the soft skills required. Organizations want people who are willing to learn with the proper drive, but the ability to communicate, support, empathize, and the ability to help other people in the business will go a long way for your success within any enterprise.
Finding a Job
Over the years I have spent in the field I have been on both the interviewing side and the interviewee side of the table. I have found that it always starts with how you related to others and whether or not you can have a real conversation with the person you are talking to. I have met people during the interviewing process that have been proud to be the guy/gal from Office Space with the red stapler: hiding out without any social skills. I have not ever once seen them be hired into the organizations I have worked in. So, what are the key skills that a person must have to succeed in IT? Let’s break it down here.
Communication – The ability to have a conversation with a person will go a long way for your IT career. In most IT roles staff interacts with the business daily. From the ability to just have a conversation to the ability to listen, and then assist by articulating clearly is necessary. I read something somewhere that said you should be able to explain complex technology in a simple form, so simple that even a child can understand. That is not always an easy task, but I compare it to when I go to the doctor. They have a lot of complex terms like we do, but at the end of the day, they need to remove that from the conversation and explain what they are doing so that a non-medical professional can understand. That is the same level of communication required to be successful in your IT career.
Negotiation – The art of negotiation is so important to anyone in life as a whole, but here is how it applies to your IT career. As you are looking at third-party products to support your organization, are you going to pay retail price? No way! Negotiation is necessary. How about when you are talking to a future employer about salary. Do you ever take the first offer? No way! Lastly, we even get to negotiate with our users/management/team in IT. They may ask for the most complex and crazy technology to do their jobs. You may be inclined to say no, but this is not how it works. Figure out what it takes, price it out, and odds are they won’t do it. This is the art of negotiation.
Empathy – Always empathize with the frustrated user. They are likely consuming the technology you implement. While the issue may not even be your fault, it is important to share that you understand they are having a hard day. More importantly, you will do what you can to resolve their issue as quickly as possible.
Soft skills go further than even the key ones that I have highlighted, but my hope is that this did get you thinking. IT is no longer full of people that don’t communicate well with others. That is a stereotype that needs to go away.
The only way to be successful in IT is to communicate well and play nice with others. Use those soft skills that you have. Any other approach, no matter how well you know your job, will find you looking for a new one sooner rather than later.
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