5 Important Soft Skills Needed for a Successful IT Career

September 10, 2014

The divide between hard skills and soft skills exists in every field, but has always featured prominently for people in IT careers. Hard skills are generally objective, measurable, and teachable skills that involve some kind of technical ability. In IT, this can be application development, data mining, network administration, etc.

Soft skills tend to be more subjective and intangible, revolving more around an individual's personal qualities. These include leadership, communication skills, or a positive attitude, among countless other attributes one can have.

Having a solid grasp of the hard skills should never be overlooked. But an employee with an array of soft skills to complement their hard skills is far more likely to reach the upper echelons of the industry than one with stellar technical abilities but no soft skills.

The Growing Reach of IT
IT is continuing to expand its reach into every functional area of business. Whether it's the finance department storing data and records in an on-site server or a cloud-based solution, or a marketing team collaborating remotely, the IT department is tasked with keeping the flow of information and data running smoothly. They must implement their solutions with several different end-users in mind, meeting with each functional area to make sure their IT needs are being met. 

As the reach of the IT department becomes wider, the need for competent professionals who can communicate effectively with a variety of people in every department is essential. According to ISACA, a non-profit working to foster knowledge and best practices in the IT industry, a 2011 survey of IT managers found that organizational fit, strong interpersonal skills, and good reasoning skills were more important than technical skills when it came to promoting employees. 

5 Soft Skills for IT Professionals
Here are some of the essential soft skills that can make the difference between a good IT professional and a great one who can reach the highest levels. While there are other soft skills that are certainly important, these five are absolutely essential for success:

  • Communication. Many IT projects will affect multiple stakeholders. It's up to the IT department to clearly explain how the project will affect everyone else.
  • ‚ÄčEmpathy. Understanding the specific problems that each functional area has in regards to IT is essential for coming up with solutions that will benefit everyone. 
  • Work ethic. When there are tight deadlines and important issues critical to business success, a great IT professional can work hard on the things that matter.
  • Relationships. Being able to build and maintain strong working relationships with different managers fosters cooperation and a less stressful work environment for everyone.
  • Mentoring. As new employees make their transition into the company, a great IT professional will facilitate their development to make sure everyone is on the same page.