The Next Generation of Certifications
Soft skills have become the new essential for today’s IT professionals. While there are plenty of certifications that can verify your expertise with various technologies, the same is not true with soft skills. So here are some soft skill certifications that would be good to see in the IT profession:
Certified Team Player (CTP)
To be successful, you need to be willing to go the extra mile for those on your team—whether they are within your group or in another department. The nature of IT work is highly collaborative, so you must be able to relate well to people of varied backgrounds and training from the administrative assistant with a technical question to the CEO who needs a recommendation on a new hardware purchase. Certified team players wouldn’t limit themselves to their job descriptions. They would be willing to take on assignments that stretch their abilities and take the initiative to assist others. For instance, you might volunteer to help a colleague meet a pressing deadline or share what you’ve learned at a recent technical conference with the rest of the department.
Accredited in Conversational Clarity (ACC)
We have all heard jokes and real-life stories of IT professionals who use so much technical jargon that no one can understand them. Don’t contribute to the stereotype. The ability to communicate effectively with end users and management outside the IT department can make all the difference in your professional advancement potential. Companies value employees who can explain complex information clearly and build understanding throughout the organization on business strategies or goals. Those who possess an ACC designation would need to demonstrate that they know how to tailor their messages to the knowledge level of the audience. This would include using plain English whenever possible and avoiding buzzwords or acronyms unless they’re widely understood.
Certified Big-Picture Specialist (CBPS)
Increasing investments in technology and an influx of new regulatory requirements, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the USA PATRIOT Act, have given IT professionals a more visible role within their organizations. They are active participants in key business decisions, and thus require a broader understanding of issues that affect the company and its industry.
Individuals with a CBPS certification would be highly valued because they could translate business requirements into deliverables, streamline processes and increase operational efficiencies. Those who earned a designation in this area would need to be committed to not only keeping their IT skills sharp, but also investing time in staying up to date with business trends in general. Reading general business publications, attending conferences and getting to know colleagues in other departments and the issues facing their groups are just a few ways you can broaden this knowledge.
Certified Deal-Maker (CDM)
The IT profession may not be known for deal-making, but persuasion and negotiation skills are put into play all the time in this line of work. One day, you may need to convince the CEO that outdated desktop systems should be replaced, and the next day you might try to reach a better deal with a vendor on a software purchase. CDMs would have a proven understanding of the negotiation process, from researching the issue at hand to building support and finalizing the agreement. They also would know when it is appropriate to compromise.
Accredited in Boss Behavior (ABB)
The right approach to leadership can mean the difference between having a group of employees inspired to do their best every day and staff who only meet the minimum requirements. Companies look for management candidates who understand how to maximize staff performance, which would make the ABB credential an asset for anyone seeking a supervisory position.
IT professionals who want to prove their management skills might be tested in such areas as communication, delegation tactics, strategic vision, motivational techniques and team building. If you aspire to a supervisory role, you should talk to your boss about ways to prepare in these areas, such as working with a mentor on improving any weaknesses or attending classes on effective management.
The need for soft skills in IT is here to stay. While the certifications outlined above may not be available today, look for ways to strengthen your abilities in each of these categories. You will make a positive impression with end users, colleagues and managers, which can put you on a long-term track for success within the profession.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at email@example.com.