Soft skills matter in IT careers more than many people think. The ability to communicate, analyze and stay organized, among other key soft skills, will set you apart in information technology. Do you have what it takes to succeed in IT? Yes, you probably do.
You may think you’re not cut out for IT because you don’t have the technical skills, but as it turns out, you may already have the secret sauce to becoming an IT rock star. The key ingredients to success in IT are excitement and willingness to learn. The technical skills you need can all be taught, but without the right soft skills, you may not rise to the top in tech.
Soft skills are qualities that are innate to your personality. They often can’t be taught or are somewhat difficult to teach. They’re essential to interpersonal success, and often to success at work. You may be wondering what jobs require the skills that come naturally to you. And if you’re curious about what jobs require communication, problem-solving capabilities and analytical skills, keep reading. We’ll explain why IT jobs might be a great fit for you, but before we leap into that territory, here are some things you should know about the technical expertise needed in IT.
First, the Technical Skills
So, what “hard” skills do you need for IT careers? The technical skills will vary from job to job. In many cases, it’s a myth that you have to be good at math or science to get into IT. Some of the most important qualities that allow you to enter the technology field are a desire to learn and grow and an excitement about trying new things.
In most cases, you can pick up technical skills with time and effort through training, certification and hands-on experience. And you don’t necessarily need to get that hands-on experience from a paid job. You can get it in a lot of ways, from tinkering on a home computer to volunteering to doing side work.
Technical skills can be easier to learn than some of the soft skills you need in IT. They’re often innate to people who are particularly well-suited for careers in information technology. Of course, if you don’t have all of the soft skills listed below, that shouldn’t discourage you from exploring technology jobs. IT jobs come in many shapes and sizes, and some will require you to use more soft skills than others.
And Now, the Soft Skills
So, technical skills aside, here are the soft skills that will make you an IT rock star.
Why Find a Job That Aligns with Your Soft Skills?
As an IT pro, you’ll need to be able to communicate well with your supervisors and colleagues to help them solve technology issues and better harness the power of their tech tools. If you’re a developer or work in IT security, you’ll need to work well on teams and communicate your ideas well with coworkers. Almost every IT job requires good communication skills, both verbal and written – email communication will likely be a big part of your job. Technology is not a solitary field, despite how it’s often portrayed. If you enjoy teaching people about technology and explaining technical subjects in terms anyone can understand, a career in IT could be for you. CIO Magazine, for example, recognizes the need for strong communication skills in the IT space. In a recent article by the magazine, CompTIA’s James Stanger stated that soft skills are one of the seven hot career trends in the future.
Being organized makes you more efficient and productive at work. Many IT careers are dynamic, giving you the opportunity to jump around to several different projects and tasks. Multitasking can be an important skill – but only if you can properly organize yourself. The ability to keep track of things such as your schedule and daily tasks is essential and so, too, is being able to chunk and prioritize your daily responsibilities efficiently. If organization and time management come easily to you, your role in the technology sector might also.
- Analytical Abilities
Being analytical gives you a major edge in IT, where you’re expected to find logical solutions to problems frequently. Analytical abilities allow you to diagnose technology issues and fix them. They enable you to do things like figure out why a line of code isn’t yielding a desired result or why a server’s down. If you have an analytical mind, you might even identify problems before they arise, or maybe you feel compelled to take things apart to get a better idea of how they work. If this is the case, you’re probably an IT pro in the making. Examples of analytical abilities include the ability to create – and read – pivot tables in a spreadsheet, identify trends over time and identify key performance indicators. It’s also important to learn how to identify critical events and eliminate outliers from data sets.
Creativity may not be a stated requirement for all IT jobs, but it’s a useful talent in many of them. If tech moguls like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs hadn’t been creative, they would have never come up with their groundbreaking products and revolutionary ideas. Even if you don’t aspire to be the next Bill Gates, your tech job will probably require you to come up with ideas to improve processes or products or to help coworkers find innovative solutions to their tech problems. In fact, one of the major requirements in today’s IT jobs is the ability to use technology creatively to fulfill a particular business need or create a solution that helps the company move forward.
- Project Management
As an IT professional, chances are, you’ll be juggling multiple projects and responsibilities, and being able to meet deadlines and hit benchmarks is critical. Good project management involves the ability to make professional plans, set and reach goals, and work with colleagues to resolve project issues. A natural aptitude for project management would make you a great fit for many careers in technology. Refined project management skills also give you an edge if you want to move into a leadership position. Being able to consistently bring projects to fruition with the help of colleagues can definitely win you accolades from the higher ups and slate you for promotions into positions that require more responsibility.
If you don’t give up easily on difficult tasks, you could go far in a technology job. The best IT professionals are willing to tinker around persistently with a particular technology to find solutions to challenges even when everyone else has given up. Technology jobs also require a commitment to learning and self-growth – as practices and technology tools are always changing. You have to be able to persevere as new information and new challenges are thrown your way. When the going gets tough, the most stellar IT pros stick with it and reap the rewards.
- Problem Solving
Do you like solving puzzles? As mentioned, IT jobs are some of the best jobs for problem solving. Ever spent hours trying to figure out why your personal computer, printer or phone isn’t doing what you want it to and had fun doing it? An information technology career might be right up your alley. A lot of the technical skills you need for various careers in IT can be picked up through tinkering and trial and error, so problem-solving abilities are necessary for your entrance into the field.
Part of being resourceful in IT involves being able to find technology, software and products that enhance your own productivity and the productivity of others. IT professionals who know how to use available resources well tend to shine in their jobs. And IT workers who are consistently interested in seeking out new resources often have an edge. Resourcefulness is especially handy for those with less technology experience – like career changers. You don’t have to always have the answer – you just need to know how to find it.
Finding enjoyment in learning new things and genuinely wanting to know how things work are major plusses for IT workers. In general, curiosity about the inner workings of devices will get you far in IT. The best security professionals, for example, have an innate sense of curiosity about how things work underneath the hood, like how to penetrate systems. Without this sense of curiosity, they would most likely not be as creative in applying security controls to company processes.
- Interest in Helping Others
Although IT isn’t traditionally thought of as a “helping” field like medicine or social work, a big part of almost every technology job involves helping people, whether you’re creating new technology that makes people’s lives easier or helping them figure out ways around technology hurdles. Information technology jobs are some of the best careers for people who love to help others. The ability to work as a team is critical, and therefore importance of teamwork is perhaps the most vital soft skill.
If you can find a job that makes use of your top soft skills, you may end up feeling a more fulfilled at work. You’ll end up feeling good at what you do and good about what you do. At work, you achieve a state of “flow,” or a state of being challenged at just the right level and “in the zone.” Whether you already know you’re interested in IT or are trying to decide if it’s right for you, take our free career quiz to better help you assess how your personal soft skills match up.