Long gone are the days when, as a web developer, you could focus exclusively on honing your hard skills, on enriching your technical skills set! These days, with the line between IT and "the business" going from blurry to... invisible, you just can't afford this “luxury” anymore. Adding some soft skills, as well, to your “toolbox”, is no longer optional. That if you don't want to be left behind; behind the new-generation of IT professionals. So, you might be legitimately asking yourself right now: what are the most in-demand soft skills for IT pros these days?
What nontechnical skills do IT leaders and IT hiring managers value most and therefore are desperately looking out for?
And yes, “desperately” is the right word, since:
There's a huge soft skills gap in today's digital landscape.
A “gap” that you could turn to your advantage, instead, by striving to develop (or just to exhibit, if you already have them) precisely the most sought after soft skills.
Note: if you're an IT recruiter instead, take note of this list of soft skills, as well: it will point out to you those valuable nontechnical skills that your peers are really hoping to find in their new team members.
1. Effective Communication Skills
And it's not for no reason that this skill's head of the list (“list” of soft skills) for any IT recruiter on a lookout for a new software engineer that would guarantee his/her team's success:
Think the broader context of your future workplace and then consider that you'll need to function properly WITHIN that context! Meaning that you'll need to be able to efficiently interact with your coworkers, customers, management, vendors.
As already mentioned, the days when tech professionals could just carry on strictly with their work and to communicate/collaborate with their developer coworkers at most, are long gone...
Excellent communication skills are critical for you to... thrive in any workplace! Not to mention that employers interested in setting up some good communication patterns within their teams are thus ensuring that:
Work gets done!
As simple as that...
Now, if I am to detail a bit on the subject of effective communication skills, here are the specific abilities that you should brush up on:
- presentation skills: would you be able to engage your audience if you talked about one of the projects that you're working on? Would you be able, if necessary, to add the storytelling factor to your narration, making it easier for your non-technical coworkers to “digest” the overly technical aspects?
- ability to verbally explain complex concepts: would you be able to accurately put into words, in a down-to-earth language if needed, the challenges you've faced while working on it?
- ability to listen “actively” during your one-on-one or larger meetings
2. A Problem Solving Attitude
This is the skill that sets the difference between IT professionals and IT leaders!
A problem-solving mindset — that you're capable to preserve in a rapidly-evolving environment, as well — will only signal the IT hiring manager that:
- you're innovative enough to create the needed tools from scratch and to set up whole new processes, if needed, for tackling unexpected issues
- you're highly adaptable
- you're capable to diagnose issues and to identify patterns
- you have strong analytical skills (much needed for analyzing the given data)
In other words: a problem-solving mindset is undoubtedly one of the most in-demand soft skills that, as an IT professional, you should develop.
3. Adaptability: One of the Most Sought After Non-Technical Skills
Imagine this all too common scenario here:
You've been working hard the last few months on this new feature that had to be implemented in a project. And today... surprise, surprise... management comes with a brand new solution which pratically flushes all your work down the drain!
How would you cope with that?
Would you be capable to jump on the new solution and turn it into “pure gold” straight away? Or would you rather focus on resentment and regrets over your lost work?
The answer to this question will point out to you whether you're adaptable or not as a software developer. Whether you could fit in a workplace where last minute changes are a common thing and implicitly unexpected challenges, as well.
Would you be able to “jump on your feet” and move forward? To adjust your work style, from the ground up if needed, and to come up with the needed solution?
You should if you want to stand out as an IT professional that any IT recruiter would die to hire.
4. Empathy: The Not so Secret “Ingredient” for Effective Collaboration
Did you use to think that this is the kind of skill that IT recruiters would look for in a UX designer?
Well, not anymore!
Since, as I've already mentioned here:
- there's no longer a clear line between IT and business
- an IT professional should perform properly in a way broader context of a workplace, not just within his team of developer co-workers
Therefore, empathy has grown into one of the most in-demand soft skills for software developers, as well.
Just think about it:
- you're expected to be able to pitch your ideas to the marketing team
- … to collaborate with the design teams, identify and understand their own expectations, as well
- … to collaborate efficiently with various stakeholders having different views
How could you effectively collaborate with all these teams at different levels of the organization if... you just can't walk in their shoes?
- you wouldn't be able to see the issues they've identified
- you wouldn't be able to “sell” your own ideas either
- you wouldn't be able to deliver a usable product (for you can't put yourself in the end users' place)
Note: empathy's become one of the main components for building a healthy DevOps culture. Do keep that in mind if you're the one doing the hiring!
5. Emotional Intelligence
And I'm thinking more of “active listening” here:
The ability to “detect” all those non-verbalized signals that a speaker sends out and, of course, to decipher them, as well. And to react accordingly.
What precisely makes this skill one of the most in-demand soft skills for IT pros?
Being well aware of all the non-technical aspects of a conversation, you'd know just how to... use them to your own advantage as a speaker:
- to leverage them to accurately express your ideas
- and to deliver the right targeted message non-verbally as well
6. A Collaborative Mindset: One of the Most In-Demand Soft Skills for IT Pros
And this goes beyond the standard “people skills”. You should be comfortable enough with changing teams and moving from one department to another throughout an organization.
In this respect, the trend of distributed teams in IT comes to reinforce the importance of this skill:
Preserving your collaborative mindset, irrespective of the team or department that you might, at one time, be part of, will only turn you from a “desirable” to an “irreplaceable” developer within an organization!
7. Strong Written Communication Skills
Surprised? Or at least a bit confused?
“Why would I possibly need above-the-average writing skills? I'm a developer, not a copywriter, after all.”
And here's the explanation why writing well is one of the most in-demand soft skills for IT professionals. Why more and more IT recruiters not only that seek and value this nontechnical skill in a candidate, but turn it into one of those criteria that they're most clingy to:
Each project that you'll be working on will end with some sort of formal report. Being able to write down coherently and accurately a conference presentation or any type of deliverable for the given IT project — whether it's an updated code base or a design document — becomes crucial.
So, do watch out for misspellings and grammar mistakes in your resume! They'll “warn” the IT recruiter that you'd be equally clumsy with your writing of a lengthier presentation or formal report.
Note: when in doubt, as an IT hiring manager don't hesitate to ask for a writing sample from a candidate with high potential. This should streamline the selection process.
The END! These are the 7 most sought after non-technical skills that, as a mobile or web developer, you should focus on developing and honing.
That, of course, if you really want to have a leg up on other candidates, with the same technical skill set (or even a more valuable one) as yours...