You know that mastering technical skills is key to landing the technology job you want. In the rush to learn as many platforms and programming languages as possible, though, some technologists neglect their soft skills, which are equally valuable when it comes to securing employment.
Soft skills include teamwork, empathy, communication, and more. Without soft skills, your chances of ascending the career ladder diminish, since so many technology jobs hinge on your ability to not only communicate important information to stakeholders in an efficient way, but also secure their buy-in for your ideas and projects. By mastering core soft skills, you can demonstrate you have everything it takes to become a team leader, project manager, or any other management-focused role (if that’s where you want your career to end up).
Soft skills are also key for freelancers, because you need to build solid, effective relationships with clients (who will hopefully recommend you to other clients, in turn). Some 78 percent of respondents to a pre-COVID study by UpWorksaid that “soft skills are at least equally as important as technical skills to succeed in their work.” Even if they have no intention of working within a formal company hierarchy, freelancers must still emphasize their collaboration and communication skills in interviews with current and potential clients.
Which soft skills do employers most desire at the moment? For an answer, we turn to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country. Here are the soft skills that popped up most often in job postings over the past 60 days:
As you can see, employers are most interested in communication and teamwork skills, along with problem-solving; writing and research are also key. It’s interesting how many employers call out building relationships as a desirable skill, although it makes total sense: new employees must quickly build the internal networks that allow them to get their jobs done.
Building up your soft skills is hard work, and you shouldn’t get discouraged if it seems like slow progress at first. Here are some tips to help boost your “people skills”:
- Carve out time to listen to your colleagues and team members. Their concerns are valid.
- If your company offers soft skills evaluation and training (and many do), make sure you take it.
- Keep your feedback polite and constructive, no matter the circumstances.
- Don’t just give feedback. Encourage your colleagues and manager to share how you’re doing as often as possible.
- Rely on your mentor and any informal advisors to help you with your people skills.
- If you’re given the opportunity to shape your performance goals and evaluation, ask that your soft skills be evaluated on a regular basis. Your manager will approve of your proactiveness (and your company may have such criteria in place already).
As your soft skills improve, you’ll notice that it becomes easier to expand your personal network and secure buy-in for the projects and initiatives that matter most to you. When the time comes to apply to new jobs, also make sure to emphasize your soft skills in your cover letter and résumé.