Your technical skills get your foot in an employer’s door, but it’s your soft skills that will clinch the hire and keep you employed. Despite the stereotypical (albeit sometimes earned) reputation of technologists as being unable to play well with others, a lot of companies assume all candidates will know how to behave on the job as part of their overall skill set. Because they believe this, any candidate who undervalues the importance of building and maintaining “soft skills” risks limiting the potential for his or her growth.
Companies no longer insulate their technology teams and, as a result, tech pros are often called upon to explain their processes to colleagues on the business side. Any gap in verbal and written communications skills can create real problems. “Technologists typically work on very complicated things,” said Trevor Simm, founder and president of OpalStaff
, a recruiting firm that provides companies and government organizations with high-level IT and tech staffing. “The average business person doesn’t understand technology at a granular level, nor do they care to. A technologist who is able to clearly explain how technology works in a way that's both easily digestible and interesting is extremely valuable to a team.” In many instances, a business issue needs to be solved via a technical solution. Simm has observed that technologists who can explain what they’re doing in a way that excites someone with no technical background are extremely desirable hires.
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Team environments require a high degree of coordination and knowledge-sharing—but some technologists remain focused on their own worlds, which can create isolation and silos within companies. Hiring personnel listen for the ‘I’s during interviews; they need to hear ‘we’ as well. To build or join an effective team, it’s essential to be able to work well within a group, which means you must be able to talk to, listen to, and truly hear the opinions and ideas of the people around you.
Being able to adapt is especially important for technologists working in startups or other fast-paced environments. Simm noted that, “In many environments they’re also asked to wear several different hats and manage multiple tasks, so the ability to pivot and work in new roles with ever-changing tools and/or equipment is not only important, it's necessary.”
Tight deadlines, clamoring customers and demanding management are all factors that can derail the most organized project. In a work maelstrom, the language of efficiency is, "work smarter, not harder." Knowing how to stay focused is only one step towards organizational productivity. Your ability to optimize procedures and prioritize workflow is important, and involves moving easily among your colleagues, which necessitates a more subtle reading of any significant event.
Just because you have access to Google, Bing, Wikipedia and other search tools, doesn't mean you’re good at gathering information. It’s also not enough to collect data and manipulate it—you also need to be able to critically analyze, interpret and explain that data. “It's important to know the right questions to ask,” said Simm. “Are you able to look beyond the obvious and do you know how to dig deeper for information?”