What Are Soft Skills and Why Do I Need Them For IT?
Have you heard? The IT industry is in need of some serious tech talent. While there are plenty of IT jobs to choose from, it’s important to outperform the competition by keeping your personal and professional skills sharp heading into interviews. We’re talking about Pro Dev, or Professional Development, which encompasses not only your technical skills but also your “soft skills”.
If you’re job hunting amongst other worthy competitors, soft skills can be the difference between landing that dream job and waiting for an offer that never comes. In the workplace, soft skills illustrate just how valuable a team member you are. But if you’re wondering, what the heck are soft skills, why are they so important for a job in IT, and how can I learn them, you’re in the right place.
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are the interpersonal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. They are personal, non-technical skills that demonstrate to leadership and other coworkers that you are a responsible, competent, and emotionally intelligent member of the team. They set you apart from competition by showing you are willing and ready to work well with others. An employee with well-developed soft skills takes pride in their work and holds themselves accountable for their actions.
You might be thinking, I’m looking for a job in IT, not sales. Why do I have to work on soft skills and networking? The fact is, landing your dream job in IT requires more effort than mastering the technical skills. You need to practice your interpersonal skills and then effectively prove them during the interview process. Anyone can be taught technical skills, but not everyone has a flexible, cool, and approachable workplace attitude. These skills illustrate just how much care you put into your work. Mastering and then effectively practicing this set of special skills is invaluable in the modern workplace.
That’s why Centriq Training’s IT Career Training Program focuses on three important topics alongside the technical aspect of IT: soft skills training, job search, resume, and interview coaching, and professional networking. In this article, we’re going to lay out why professional development is important for getting a job in IT and how we mold you into a bonafide IT professional.
SOFT SKILLS TRAINING
As we mentioned earlier, soft skills are the interpersonal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. As an IT professional on the networking side, you will likely be communicating with end-users on a daily basis. Understanding a users’ issues and then communicating how to fix them requires an excellent and practiced set of soft skills. Examples of soft skills include:
- Customer service
- Time management
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
According to a survey from CompTIA, business and tech employers are looking for flexibility, critical thinking, and a strong work ethic among new hires. Even if you have no professional IT experience, you probably have developed soft skills through other work or academic experience. For example, if you have experience in construction, you can probably add the following soft skills to your resume:
- Time management
- Critical thinking
If you have waited tables before, you can likely add these skills to your resume:
- Customer service
- Problem solving
If you are applying for a Security and Network Support position, make sure your resume is updated and tailored to fit the skills the hiring manager is looking for (just keep it truthful). Adding critical thinking or problem solving to your resume and focusing on these soft skills during an interview might bump you ahead of the competition. It’s all about knowing your interpersonal strengths and how to highlight them during the interview process.
IT JOB SEARCH, RESUME & INTERVIEW COACHING
Technical skills are, of course, extremely important for finding a job in tech — but that’s only half the story. Knowing how to: a) find the role that fits you and your skill set; b) secure an interview with a well-crafted resume; and c) wow the hiring manager during your interview are just as important as bringing the technical chops.
JOB SEARCH TRAINING
Decoding job post lingo can be tricky. It’s important to look for roles that will fit with your skillset from a company that aligns with your personal beliefs. The job post should clearly outline the responsibilities for the job. For example, if you are looking for a Network Administrator role, the job listing should clearly list something along the lines of:
- Ensure network security and performance
- Provide network support to end-users
- Identify and communicate possible network upgrades to leadership
You should be skilled in the top duties listed in the job post or willing and ready to learn other skills listed if you don’t have them. Also, the job search process goes both ways; make sure the listing clearly identifies the responsibilities and expectations of the role. The hiring manager should also respect the time and effort you put into this process. If they do, it’s a good sign that this is supportive and positive workplace that values your time and energy.
A concise, tailored, and well-edited resume makes for better job interview opportunities. In the hiring manager’s eyes, a killer resume could be the difference scheduling an initial phone interview and tossing your resume into the recycling bin. As we previously mentioned, even if you don’t have prior professional IT experience, make sure you highlight the skills you learned in your IT training course plus any soft skills you gained from previous work experience. For example, if you are applying to an IT Support Specialist position and you have completed our Cloud & Security Specialist Program plus worked in any type of customer service, you can highlight the following skills on your resume:
- Completed Centriq Training’s IT Career Program
- Trained in Microsoft Windows Server
- CompTIA Security+ Certified
- CompTIA Network+ Certified
- Help Desk Solutions Certified
- Excellent customer service skills
- Exceptional verbal and written communication skills
- Exemplary critical thinking, problem solving, and troubleshooting skills
Just make sure to keep it honest and be ready to explain the skills and experience you listed on your resume during the interview process.
How Can I Demonstrate Soft Skills?
It’s a good idea to research the role you are interviewing for and add any applicable soft skills you have to your resume. For example, if you are applying for a Desktop Support Technician role, then it would be smart to list “Problem Solving” or “Communication” on your resume (if these qualities apply). But how do you demonstrate these skills in a short interview?
There are a few things you can do to show that you are a serious candidate, you care about this role, and you would be more than willing to apply yourself in the workplace:
- Make sure your resume and cover letter are tailored to the role you are applying for and free of spelling or grammatical errors
- Research the company and role before you interview
- Show up to your interview on time
- Be polite, interested, and a good listener during the interview
- Bring a copy of your resume and cover letter
- Prepare a few anecdotes to demonstrate your soft skills
Your interviewer may ask you a few personality questions to gauge just how well you work with others, adapt to a new role, and use critical thinking if a problem arises. Come prepared to your interview with a few stories from a previous work or school experience that establish your exemplary soft skills. Instead of saying I’m a good communicator, tell a story about how you effectively used your communication skills in the workplace. It’s about showing not telling.
For example, if your interviewer asks:
Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer and how you were able to solve their problem.
You may respond:
When I was an Assistant Manager at a sporting goods store, I interacted with customers on a daily basis. One day, a customer came in extremely flustered because we charged her twice for a pair of soccer cleats she bought for her son. I listened to her story, calmly explained what happened, and quickly refunded her money. She was impressed with how efficiently I was able to solve her problem. I asked her about her son’s soccer league and eventually persuaded her to buy him a new soccer bag. We developed a working relationship, and she always came to me for advice about sporting goods and apparel.
Be genuine but keep it positive and not too personal. Describe the issue, how you solved it, and the outcome of the situation. With one or two really strong anecdotes, you can effectively show that you can problem-solve, communicate, adapt to unfamiliar situations, and work well with others.
If you’ve scored an interview, congrats! That means the hiring manager saw something in you and wants to follow up with more questions. Even though interviews can be intimidating, you should feel confident in knowing that they think you could be the right person for the job. The hiring manager wouldn’t waste their time interviewing you if they didn’t see your potential. But now it’s time to knock their socks off — if you show up to the interview prepared and ready to rock, then you should get through the process painlessly.
Before your interview, make sure you thoroughly look over the job listing and research the company. Come prepared with a list of questions you have for the hiring manager that are not explained in the job post. It helps to a) answer any questions you may have about the company/role, and b) show that you are prepared and care about this role.
It’s also important to develop and practice your elevator pitch, or an introduction and quick synopsis of your background and professional history. Your elevator pitch should highlight why you would be a great fit for the role. For example, if you have military experience, you can highlight what that experience taught you about the professional workforce. Your elevator pitch might sound like this:
I served in the United States Army for seven years. Upon retiring from the military, I decided to follow my dream of working in IT by enrolling in Centriq’s IT Training Program where I completed the Systems & Security Administration track. My military background and previous retail experience taught me many important professional and personal life lessons and skills, including customer service, critical thinking, multi-tasking, adaptability, leadership, teamwork, and being 100% committed to everything I do. I am excited to demonstrate my IT and interpersonal skills by starting my IT career.
Your elevator pitch should be around 30-60 seconds and highlight your experience and enthusiasm for the role you are interviewing for. If you work on your elevator pitch before walking into your interview, then you will know exactly what to say when the hiring manager asks you, ”So, tell me about yourself”.
IT CAREER FAIRS & NETWORKING
While attending career fairs and connecting with potential employers isn’t necessary during the job search process, it can definitely give you a leg up over the competition. Networking is a great opportunity to practice and refine your elevator pitch and to make a connection with potential employers. Even if a company is not currently hiring for a role with your skillset, if you make a good impression, they may remember you in the future when something opens up. They might even pass your name around the company as a possible interviewee.
Centriq hosts career fairs exclusively for our current students and graduates and companies in our employer network. Our goal is to get you hired — hosting career fairs and facilitating interviews between our students and trusted employers is a great way to do just that.
Alongside the technical training, take a look at some of the workshops/skills we teach during our 4-month program:
- Resume Workshop
- LinkedIn and Networking
- Job Search Tips and Interview Techniques
- Career Fair Prep Networking
- Interview Techniques for the IT Professional
- Mock Interview Boot Camps
- Mock Technical Interviews
- How to Dress for Interviews
- How to Build Rapport with Interviewers
- Constructing and Delivering your Elevator Pitch
The technical skills are high priority when applying for an IT role. But developing exceptional soft skills, job search, resume, and interviewing training, and networking are a great way to secure a job. We teach you those skills and more. Want to learn more about Centriq Training? Contact us today!