Do You Have the Soft Skills You Need to Succeed?
An article I came across about skills CIOs lack caught my interest, not because CIOs lack these soft skills but because many other professionals lack the very same skills. Not surprisingly, communication tops the list. But communication means not only being able to make your case articulately (though this certainly counts for a lot) but also listening attentively and asking solid questions to raise important issues and get to the bottom of a discussion.
Communication also includes writing. It’s not enough to be able to write code, test plans, requirements documents, or documentation. As noted by a career management blogger who has done a lot of hiring, “I don’t want any of my employees embarrassing me in a poorly written memo or report.”
There’s a concern among business leaders that applied skills such as teamwork and critical thinking are lacking, particularly among employees just entering the workforce. In addition, many IT graduates lack an understanding of business operations and how technology impacts business (though in my experience, this is often true of many longtime IT professionals as well).
Soft skills that can help experienced professionals advance include facilitation, presentation, interviewing, negotiating, influencing, and persuasion, among others—all of which, of course, are subsets of communication. Additional soft skills that have career-enhancing value include collaboration, problem-solving, critical observation, and conflict resolution. All these skills can be developed by taking courses, having a mentor, working with a coach, and, of course, gaining on-the-job experience.
In addition to communication, the article on skills CIOs lack includes relation-building skills and skills in promoting the IT department and its achievements. While expertise in these areas can make or break a CIO’s career, it is worth developing even if you have no interest in holding a lofty leadership position.
In one survey, 55 percent of respondents said they didn’t know or were unsure about the skills they’d be expected to have in five years. And 46 percent were concerned their existing skills wouldn’t meet employers’ expectations in five years.
These fears are understandable. It’s impossible to know if big data, network infrastructure, mobility, data storage, and business continuity will be the hot technical issues five years from now. But soft skills will always matter, and whether you choose to follow a technical, business, or management path, it pays to develop your soft skills.