written by Anne Shaw, The Muse. Anne Shaw is a writer and marketing consultant with a side passion for helping people find work they love.
If you’re looking for a top tech job, you’ll need to up your game. Sure, your field is in high demand and has a low supply of qualified professionals. And in my years helping technical recruiters attract tech talent, I’ve heard their most common complaint: there are just too many recruiters trying to get your attention. But I’ve also heard that businesses look for something that some tech workers just don’t have: soft skills.
Soft skills are things like collaboration, leadership, and critical thinking. Some companies even prioritize these skills more than pure tech talent when looking for their next great hire, says Jamie Seward, engineering director of recruiting for tech staffing agency Modis. In fact, a recent study that analyzed millions of job postings found that, even for highly technical jobs, 25 percent of the required skills were soft skills.
This means that you gain even more negotiating power with potential employers when you bring strong soft skills to the table. So if you want to gain the best opportunities, read on.
Be a Problem Solver
Some intel from the other side: One huge topic in the hiring world is how to find and hire critical thinkers. “Critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, and problem solving are a must as companies continue to blur the lines between business and IT,” says Michelle Wingard, co-founder of Dynamo, an IT consulting and recruiting firm.
Build this skill with empathetic thinking. Do you see common frustrations around you? What is the best way to solve these problems with technology? This is your opportunity to make an impact and create value for others.
Work on Your Communication
The professional business kind. This includes writing, listening, and presentation skills. Technology is no longer in a silo. It touches everything—and can improve everything, so everyone wants a piece of it.
That means that people from all departments will want solutions you have to offer, but you need to really listen if you want to understand their needs. And you won’t be able to share your solution with leadership if you have trouble speaking about and presenting your ideas.
Build your communication skills by practicing active listening and look for opportunities to speak up in meetings. The more you practice, the more you’ll improve.
Show You’re a People Person
Technology is getting more complex; and, thanks to the Internet of things, it’s becoming intertwined with more intricate products. This means many types of skills are brought to the table, which means many people—and a lot of chairs—will be around that table.
No matter how great you are at your technical skill set, if you can’t play nicely, then you won’t last long. Boost your collaboration credibility by seeking out opportunities to work in a group environment, especially cross-functional teams, suggests Donavan McDonald, president of Belcan TechServices who has more than 30 years in technical recruitment.
Always Ask Questions
“Those who really want to know the ‘why’ about what they’re doing are more likely to get things done correctly the first time,” explains Seward. “They uncover flaws early while these issues are less costly and time-consuming to fix.”
Curiosity also leads to creativity and innovation. Why? Curious people aren’t content to just do things they way they’ve always been done, especially without a full understanding of the reason behind them and looking into ways they might be done better.
How to Show Off Your Soft Skills
Having soft skills only helps you if you can demonstrate that you have them. Here are some quick ways to show potential employers that you’re the full package.
- Showcase projects you’ve worked on with videos and other types of rich media on your LinkedIn profile.
- Explain a solution you’ve delivered in terms of the economic and stakeholder value it created for your company.
- Clearly communicate that you understand the purpose behind your past projects, whether solving a customer problem or serving an internal business need.
- Organize a group of colleagues who can verify that you’re a positive team player. Bonus points if you write one another recommendations to display on your personal websites or LinkedIn profiles.
- Become a thought leader in your domain. Engage via social networks, local meet-ups, guest blogs, podcasts, and communities to inspire others.
If you think beyond coding, and learn to master the soft-skills code, you’re likely to land a gig at a dynamic company (or grow in your current position). After all, where would you rather be in 10 years? Sitting behind a screen… alone, or surrounded by a collaborative team to help you take projects to the next level.