Soft Skills: A Key to the Kingdom
I’m encouraged. I am definitely encouraged. Responses for our most recent Web poll question asking how many of you have pursued soft-skills training in the past year initially left me disturbed because the answer across the board was, none! However, currently all of you savvy techies out there who weighed in would like to, which means you acknowledge the value of expanding your skills beyond technical mastery and the value soft skills can have in advancing your career aspirations.
It’s no surprise that the IT industry requires you to continually refresh and update your technical skills and certifications. How else will you keep up with the constant changes the tech industry goes through? But soft skills can be the proverbial icing on the cake. They can actually open doors for you.
I have a friend in Spain who left his technical job for a more sales-oriented one, aptly suited to his friendly demeanor and charm. It doesn’t hurt that he’s 6’2”, has curly brown hair, hazel eyes and a red mouth worthy of a Shakespearean sonnet, but more importantly, he has an innate ability to root out the motivations of others. He knows how to ask questions, provide workable solutions, and he can relate to almost anyone. He’s the type of person you could drop in the middle of a jungle, and an hour later he’ll have made friends with the natives and traded chewing gum for a water gourd and a rickety but still operable compass.
Unfortunately, the sales job has not turned out the way he planned. He has jokingly, I think, vowed revenge. I told him, don’t be silly. Maintain your professional ethics, keep your nose clean, and keep your eyes open for opportunity. If you maintain your composure and professionalism, and ensure that your work product is as good as it can possibly be, opportunities will present themselves. However, unless you’re looking, you may not see them.
I advised him to use his soft skills to create opportunities for himself because with the right attitude, his interpersonal value as well as his technical capabilities will win the day. IT professionals are taking on more and more non-technical activities in the course of their technical duties that bring value to the organization and its clients: project management, the ability to motivate and work with colleagues and peers in non-IT areas who need ready translation of the more technical bits of life in the IT environment, and the ability to communicate and work in a team in order to bring the product to market on time.
Techies increasingly must partner with business, marketing and customer service functions to facilitate client relationships, build consumer advocacy or inform staff in other functions about the implications of new software and services that can expand market share or perhaps ingratiate the company’s security measures into the fabric of the organization. The list goes on and on, and it’s comprised of a mix of technical mastery and successful soft skills application that will present you in your most robust light and offer your company a complete package. It should be a package that helps you stand out from the crowd and enables you to sell yourself and your ideas, and open the door to opportunity so that you can solve problems, lead the team, influence your career growth and create organizational impact.