Top 5 Soft Skills to Help Advance Your IT Career

We all know what soft skills are and why they're essential. We're also well aware at this point of the most basic ones like "communication," "teamwork" and "active listening" so we're not going to dwell on those. Instead, we're going to focus on soft skills that don't always make the list of "Those most needed for an IT professional" even though they really should. Here we go.
1.
Cross-cultural communication
If you genuinely desire to excel in your field, entering the global workforce and working with foreign clients is undoubtedly somewhere on your bucket list. International projects also tend to pay more, but that's beside the point. What matters is that now, as ever, it is crucial to become attuned to cultural differences and respectful of other cultures. Realizing that what we perceive to be normal can seem quite weird or rude in other countries, and vice versa is already a good place to start.

Knowledge of English these days implies not merely being able to translate your thoughts from your first language word per word. It implies a thorough understanding of writing emails, making small talk, knowing the grammar of formal communication, being politically correct, picking up on sarcasm and much more. Same goes for any other language your work requires you to know.
2.
Non-technical communication
Gone are the days when IT professionals were antisocial geeks who never really had to speak with each other let alone the outside world. These days you need a set of soft skills in place to communicate with clients, managers, salespeople and the like. More specifically, make sure you don't use obscure IT jargon that drives everyone up the wall.

Let's take a moment to remember this famous phone conversation from the TV series "The IT Crowd":

Sure, the technology has changed a lot since the late 80s, but the point remains that tech jargon still sounds like a jumble of words to anyone who isn't an actual IT professional.

To avoid your message from getting lost on people, think of putting yourself in their shoes and communicating in the language they will understand without having to do hours of Googling. Try using drawings or other visuals to illustrate your point where relevant and, probably, rephrase your message if it sounds something like: "I'm still working on tweaking the CSS of the CMS editing template."
3.
Business-oriented mindset
If you work for a profit organization, you're a business person to some extent, and that's just something that's not going away anytime soon, most likely, never.

Whether you care about your company's profit margin or not, it will really help your career growth if you keep asking yourself not only "how" to do something but "why" do it in the first place. What kind of market do you operate in? What drives your business? Who is your audience? What kind of problem are you trying to solve for them and why would they choose you over the competition? You can always just do what your boss says, but it's looking at the big picture that's going to help you figure out where you want to go in your career.
4.
Entrepreneurial Mindset
It doesn't matter if you see yourself becoming an entrepreneur one day or not, learning to think as one will surely give you a leg up on your career journey.

Thinking as an entrepreneur implies being innovative, hungry for knowledge, eager to try new things, having street smarts and ability to take the initiative, which is all valuable qualities when it comes to developing your career and having fun with it.

Most successful IT professionals are the ones who are continually researching new projects for their company to do and new ways for themselves to grow and improve. Being able to learn from failures and mistakes is another significant characteristic of the entrepreneurial mindset. As long as you can harness your experience, you know you're playing your cards right.
5.
Pitching Ideas
Pitching ideas is something every professional does on a daily basis, almost as second nature. Every time you find a conference to attend, a more efficient way to accomplish a task, an idea for a team-building event and you need to get someone's approval on it; you're pitching your idea to that person or people.

Pitching doesn't have to be as formal as a fully fledged presentation, although that's always great, it can be just a simple suggestion starting with "Why don't we…" or "I think we could…" thrown at the right time to the right people. If you are always excited to pitch a new idea and get to execute it, you're proving yourself worthy of respect and eligible for promotion.

Hey, that many soft skills work on?! It all may seem frightening to you. But have no fear, we got you covered. Next time you are thinking about taking a course to advance your English, look for the one that combines English and soft skills practice. That way you will kill two birds with one stone.

MARCH, 16 / 2018

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