Many people struggle to get a job in Information Technology, despite having all the technical competence because they are bad at Non-technical Skills – sometimes referred to as “Soft skills”, “people skills” or simply “essential skills”. Non-technical skills are equally as relevant to an IT professional as it is to people in the Non-technical fields. It is difficult to find even a tech job without these skills. According to a study by LinkedIn, 59 percent of employers have difficulty finding people with the right Soft skills to fill vacant positions, and 58 percent of Hiring managers believe that Soft skills impact an organization’s productivity levels.
It means having good soft skills puts you ahead of your peers in a job recruitment process as well as in being successful in your IT career. It has also been noted that people who have good soft skills are likely to get promoted and earn more than those who don’t. When it comes to an IT career, you certainly need more than technical competence to excel and make an impact. You will do well in the field to incorporate some basic non-technical skills into your toolsets. This article will help highlight some of those non-technical skills or soft skills to help you become successful in your IT career.
What Are Non-Technical Skills
Non-technical skills or Soft skills are personal attributes and qualities that enable them to interact, collaborate, and communicate with others in social and professional environments. It is part of a person’s personality, work habits, and behavior. You need soft skills to better function in a work environment. Soft skills should complement your hard skills (Technical skills). It is transferable (unlike technical skills which are specific to certain job types) and valuable in a wide range of environments. They are a requirement to be successful in your IT career.
Essential Non-Technical (Soft) Skills
The following are some of the Non-Technical or Soft skills that are essential for you to be successful in your IT career, as mentioned earlier, these skills should complement your technical skills to maximize your impact in an organization.
1. Communication Skills
Communication skills describe the ability to convey a message to or share ideas with others, as well as understand what others are saying. It is an essential skill in any workplace as people must interact with one another to complete tasks or implement a solution. It includes written, presentational, and oral communication. You should be able to tell people exactly what you want done, share ideas as well, and listen to their own requests or ideas.
You need to be good at written communication also as you will need to send reports, reply to emails, create documents, pass memos, etc. in a way that is clear and unambiguous. Written communication should be precise, without errors (misspellings, syntax errors, etc.) Make sure your professional communications should be assertive, culturally sensitive, respectful, empathic, and concise. Effective communication is crucial in building professional relationships, building a cordial work environment.
Tips To Improve Your Communication Skills
- To improve your communication skills,
- Join an online public speaking forum
- Read a book on the subject
- Attend weekend courses/seminars organized to teach the skill.
- Hire a tutor
2. Teamwork and Collaboration
The ability to work with other people in a team is an important soft skill. Every team has a set goal and each member is to carry out specific tasks. Your ability to work with other members of a team without conflict is crucial to the success of the team. Recognize that every team member is different and each has their talents which can be harnessed towards a common goal. The implementation of a security procedure for example will require the Cybersecurity professional and the non-technical staff to work as a team. Office culture also primarily depends on team players.
Modern workplaces will require you to work with others within your own niche and others in different fields. Codes can be written by many programmers using collaborative tools (software that facilitates teamwork) like GitHub/GitLab, Slacks for communication, Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace, etc. Learning to collaborate with others, improves your work quality and ultimately that of the organization. A Cloud engineer will build a design better if he is in collaboration with the Cloud Architect who designed the blueprint, making corrections or amendments where needed.
To be a good team player, you should be willing to extend a helping hand to your colleague which will surely help you someday.
3. Problem-solving and Critical Thinking
This skill is defined by the ability to break down complex problems into simpler smaller bits that are easier to manage. It is a particularly useful skill in the tech industry. Employers are looking for persons who are skilled at taking on complex tasks and breaking them down into smaller units. And then apply creative solutions. The ability to look for solutions rather than being focused on the problems makes you an asset to any organization. If you are a problem-solver, you are more likely to attract new responsibilities and opportunities for ranking up in your career.
Critical thinking helps you bring in new perspectives and well throughout the solution to a problem.
Tips To Improve Problem-Solving Skills and Critical Thinking
- Practice puzzles, and logical reasoning exercises,
- Analyze real-world problem-solving scenarios.
- Critically observe every situation and focus on the best outcome for the organization.
4. Time Management and Efficiency
Effective time management has a direct bearing on an organization’s productivity. Imagine a scenario where there is a cybersecurity breach that results in a network downtime or shutdown of critical infrastructure, how long it takes for the Cybersecurity expert or network engineer to restore lost services is going to prove his immense value to the organization. Multitasking and deadlines are common in tech and you should be good at managing time. Effective time management and organization skills are key to staying on top of your workload.
Tips On Effective Time Management Techniques
- Setting clear short-term and long-term goals
- Prioritizing tasks, doing the more important ones first
- Creating a to-do list, a hierarchy of what to achieve within a given time interval.
- Deploying labor-saving devices or the use of technology
- Delegating less important tasks especially those not related to your core skill or competence
- Time blocking which involves allocating specific time blocks to certain tasks
- Learning to say no to certain requests that have very little value to your productivity so that you can focus on more important tasks.
5. Adaptability and Learning Agility
The ability to adapt to the rapidly changing tech and work environment is an important skill. If you do not adapt to changes fast enough, it is easy to be replaced or become redundant. Your ideal workspace may not be feasible due to limited resources or rapid changes such as budget cuts, lay-offs, or even something positive like the implementation of new technologies, you should be flexible enough to adapt to changes so as to remain relevant and productive. Things may not always go as you have planned.
Employers prefer candidates who are flexible and are open to learning new skills, constantly able to go with whatever direction the organization decides to focus on. They want someone on their team who can align with their goals, even if there are some variations along the way. A network engineer may have started with on-prem deployment of networking infrastructure and may end up needing to learn about how the same system works in the Cloud if the organization then opts for cloud deployment.
As an IT professional, your learning is never complete. There is always something new to learn, and new challenges to meet. While the fundamentals may remain the same, there are always new things to learn. There were no Cloud Platforms a few years back but now it is mainstream. For Cybersecurity professionals, hackers have created new threats, For programmers, there are new coding tools like Github Copilot and Chat GPT. There is need for continuously improving your skills is a must as an IT professional.
To be adaptable, you must be able to find an alternate solution, be an adopter of change, and be capable of creating a new benchmark. Some
Tips on Improving Your Adaptability and Learning Agility
- Take online courses to improve your output or learn about changes in your field
- Diversify your learning, keep an eye on what is happening in other fields e.g. AI tools
- Learn from your previous failures, and make your industry experience count in your favor
- Attend seminars and workshops to stay informed
- Read books, journals, and releases in your niche.
- Seek feedback and experiment with changes
- Use Google – you will learn a lot of things if you develop the habit of just “googling” things online.
6. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence (also sometimes referred to as Emotional Quotient) describes your ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions and those of others. It helps you relieve stress, diffuse tension that may build up in a work environment, effectively communicate your own ideas to others even when such ideas contradict theirs, empathize with others, and overcome challenges. Emotional intelligence helps you build better professional relationships with your colleagues and improve team cohesion which translates to overall productivity. It is therefore an important soft skill in a work environment. Emotional intelligence has been linked to both personal and professional success.
Humans are emotional beings, and how you relate with them, particularly under stressful or tense moments can impact their productivity. Anything that creates tension in a workplace can impact productivity. Imagine you or your colleague is having a bad day, how well do you manage yourself or your colleague? Emotional Intelligence requires you to be self-aware. People who are self-aware can better understand how their feelings can influence their thoughts and actions. Other components of Emotional Intelligence will include your passion or motivation for success, empathy -trying to understand what triggers their outburst and avoiding such, your Social skills, etc.
Employers will avoid someone who is unable to take control of their emotions or take for granted those of their co-workers. The following are
Tips On Improving Your Emotional Intelligence
- Journal your emotions and make a conscious effort to improve on the negative
- Ask a trusted friend to make an honest opinion about you, note their observation, and work to overcome any weakness identified
- Active listening – make a conscious effort to listen to other people’s input in a project, show that you value their contributions
- Manage your stress levels by adopting stress-managing techniques (such as taking short breaks at intervals) you are likely to act adversely when stressed.
- Learn to empathize with others, improve your Social skills
- Seek professional help if need be.
7. Creativity and Innovation
Creativity and Innovation drive technological advancement. This soft skill requires that you think outside the box to bring a unique perspective to solving a problem or better ways of achieving great results. Creativity and Innovation may require you sometimes go against the traditional route. Being creative means you give a fresh perspective to old problems. When such a fresh perspective is applied correctly, it brings about Innovation. Innovation will lead to growth in the organization, it is often disruptive in nature, and it is a measurable departure from the conventional approach.
Sometimes, the changes that bring about huge results can be very little changes, maybe the introduction of some software to automate certain tasks, or introduce a process that helps save time, reduce stress, or cut costs. Employers value professionals who can identify ways to bring creative ideas and innovation. Creativity and Innovation are very useful soft skills in the field of IT and Tech in general.
8. Leadership Skills
Leadership as a soft skill describes your ability to influence and motivate others (particularly members of your team) to undertake and complete tasks for the common good. It is not necessarily a managerial or administrative role. Leadership in the context of a soft skill means influence. And anyone can lead in this capacity. According to John C. Maxwell, in his book The 360 Degrees Leader: developing Influence from Anywhere in the Organization anyone can lead from anywhere within an organization – Top-to-bottom, Bottom-to-top, and Across. When consistently influence your team to achieve excellent results, your value in the organization will increase and your chances of success in your career will increase.
9. Ethical Awareness and Legal Considerations
Ethics are moral justification as to whether a given action is right or wrong, just or unjust, good or bad. Having that moral compass in a work environment is important. It guides you to only accept or engage in tasks that are right – morally and legally. Every society lives by certain acceptable norms and behavior, you should be aware of such. Are you aware of the ethical standards that go with the job, are you willing to abide by the relevant laws and regulations as they relate to the industry? Will you compromise standards to meet some short-term goals etc.?
Employers will only want candidates who are ethically aware and know that there can be legal consequences. No organization will want to engage in costly legal penalties for the unethical or illegal conduct of their staff. Some common ethical issues in the modern workplace center will include respect for people of all backgrounds, races, sexual orientations, religions, social statuses, and personal integrity which will imply you are honest in all your dealings, only engaging in actions that are legal and in good moral standing, conflict resolution, risk management i.e not to engage in any activity that will jeopardize the healthy and safety of one’s self and those of persons.
Importance of Non-Technical (Soft) Skills
Non-technical skills complement your technical skills, it is difficult to be gainfully employed without them. They are crucial for career success. Some of the ways Non-technical skills are important to you and the organization are listed below;
- Career Advancement – People with the right mix of soft and hard skills have a better chance of being employed and achieving their professional goals
- Increased Salaries – People with soft skills are better able to prove their worth in an organization and negotiate better pay.
- Better Inter-personal relationships and networking opportunities; Soft skills help you build better relationships with your colleagues
- Better Work-life balance by being better able to manage the stress that comes with your job.
Soft skills or non-technical skills complement your hard skills, they are essential for the optimal functioning of any workplace. You need non-technical skills in order to be successful in your IT career. The essential non-technical skills include; Communication which can be written, oral, or presentational. Teamwork and Collaboration define your ability to work with other people. Critical thinking and Problem-Solving allow you to focus on the solution to a problem, rather than the problem itself. Time Management and Efficiency where you are able to complete set tasks within the stipulated deadline. Adaptability and Learning Agility which means you are able to cope with changes.
Others are Emotional Intelligence where you are able to understand your own emotions and those of others. Creativity and Innovation which is your ability to think outside the box for a solution. Leadership Skill is defined by your ability to influence others to perform tasks in an efficient manner. Ethical Awareness and Legal Considerations demand you always act morally and legally. These skills can be learned and improved upon through some deliberate actions. These are the skills that set you apart from others and increase your chances of success in IT.