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Eight Great Reasons to Develop Your Soft Skills

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Technical skills have little value if you have poor soft skills. Don’t get me wrong, your tech expertise matters. But don’t be fooled by your tech skills. King of Linux, champion of Oracle? You’ve got it made, right? Give me a break! Tech skills alone are no guarantee of success.

You’ve got all the hot technical certifications with solid work experience. You’re the programming guru or the 900-pound gorilla of Network administration. You’re on your way to becoming an outstanding IT achiever? Don’t make me laugh! Excellent tech activities, rapid knowledge acquisition, tons of certificates are not the same thing as growth.

Tech skills alone don’t lead to recognition, promotion, and most importantly: opportunity. Tech skills are important but so are your soft skills. How well do you communicate with your colleagues, management, clients or your employer? Are perceived as a contributor or just another techie?

1. Certification is not an end in itself. Tech skills do matter.

In fact, to succeed in IT you definitely need to have solid technical skills with a good grasp of the fundamentals. To make any headway you need to be solid on the ground with hard tech know-how. And the IT industry requires you to fortify yourself on a continuous basis with up-to-date tech knowledge and concepts. Training, certification, the Internet, books, are all opportunities available for lifelong learning. But what about your soft skills? As you build up your tech expertise, what effort are you making to develop your non-tech abilities? Certification is not an end in itself.

You need soft skills to create opportunity for yourself. What is the use of tech skills if nobody knows you’ve got such skills? The essence of education is opportunity. The essence of your technical ability is opportunity. Use soft skills to cultivate opportunity. Use soft skills to grab opportunity with both hands. It’s wakeup time - keep the right perspective: your value, not just your technical expertise, is your power.

2. Soft skills help advance your career.

Let’s look at specific ways in which soft skills can help IT professionals advance their careers. To bring value to organization and clients, IT staff are getting more involved in many non-tech activities to carry out their IT tasks. Your interpersonal skills should be top notch to deliver results with your colleagues and people in non-IT areas you must work with. As a project manager, how do you motivate other members of your team? You may need to work and interact with accountants and customer service staff to develop the company’s new business software. Network professionals have to enlighten other staff on the applications of the new wireless network and the implications of the company’s security policies.

The server room is no longer a hiding place. And no matter how “good” you think you are you will not get the marks you feel you deserve if can’t communicate well with colleagues or clients. In fact, the perception might be that you are not competent. But when you interact better with the people you have to work with, your performance tends to improve and they go away with a positive impression. And the meaning of positive impression is more opportunity, more responsibility.

3. Soft skills empower you and create opportunities.

In my opinion, the main benefit of soft skills is empowerment. How does your tech skill translate to value? How do you create opportunity? Soft skills are useful for creating and taking advantage of opportunities – jobs, career and business. No matter how great your tech skills are, when job hunting, your marketing skills should be first-class. Otherwise others who may not be as capable as you, but who have better marketing skills might beat you to the jobs or work you want. There are opportunities in IT. But there are also challenges and competition. In such a competitive environment, perception often reigns supreme.

If your technical competencies are similar to those of other candidates how do you differentiate yourself? You claim to be a technical wizard. The problem however, and this is a big however, is how do I know if you are good if you can’t sell what you have - yourself or your ideas? Your certifications and previous work experience are important. But the issue at stake is this: can you convince the interviewer or clients that you will solve their problems and deliver value?

4. Soft skills not only improve your career, they also offer personal growth.

Interestingly, the acquisition of soft skills also empowers you by allowing you to build flexibility into your future IT career plans. How? Most soft skills are regarded as transferable skills, e.g. communication, project management, business and team work, which are needed in nearly all aspects of life, not just for your career alone. You need to grow not just as a techie but also as a person.

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