Technical skills are great, but soft skills matter more than you think. Even if you know all about Kubernetes and DevOps, it can be hard to get a job (or keep it) if you don’t mesh with people, no matter how tech-savvy you are. And if you're a business leader, it's also important to foster these skills in your tech team.
Here are some of the soft skills that every tech professional should develop in the year ahead.
1. Creativity / Innovation
If there’s one soft skill organizations are on the lookout for in 2023, it’s creativity. This was the #1 skill businesses said they wanted to hire for or develop, according to IDC’s Future of Work Global Survey in 2022. 51% of businesses said they were going to try to obtain employees with these skills in the next 18 months.
No matter your field, someone who can creatively think of ways to solve problems or improve processes is a gem. If you find yourself just sticking to routine and not offering solutions in meetings, perhaps take some time to identify places for improvement and work on out of the box thinking. If you're a manager, you can get your team to take training in creative problem solving techniques.
2. Cross-functional collaboration
It’s easy to work within your own function, but working with people outside of it takes skill. People who can collaborate cross-functionally can work on larger projects and build up great internal relationships — something that does not go unnoticed by management.
Part and parcel with this is communication skills. If you can’t communicate all the great work you’re doing or what you need, this will not only hamper you, but your key stakeholders. If you find yourself tongue-tied when it comes to explaining your work to others, this should be just as much an upskilling priority as your technical skills. There are plenty of courses out there (that thankfully don't involve trust falls) on how to improve your teamwork skills, share information more efficiently, and handle interpersonal conflict.
3. Analytical abilities
The ability to analyze things and think critically gives you a major edge in tech — it means you ask the right questions, don’t take things for granted, and can diagnose problems. If you don’t think critically, you can get caught off guard by unexpected problems which you then have to explain upward — things that seem painfully obvious in hindsight. Many University degree courses teach critical thinking skills (It's usually the first thing they get you to learn), but there are also on-demand courses outside of tertiary education that can train you in using critical observation on the job.
Empathy is great for every possible job and career path, especially in demonstrating your leadership potential. You don’t need to be a manager to be a leader — leadership is a choice, not a position. Being a leader means understanding issues and problems from another person’s point of view.
If you’re looking to move into higher duties, or be a better leader, work on your empathic leadership skills. Again, there are courses you can take specifically on sharpening your ability to maintain meaningful in-person and virtual workplace relations.
5. Continuous Learning
Employers notice life-long learners because they’re always bringing something new to the table. It could be knowledge about a new product or service, the latest language or technique, or industry advice they’ve picked up. They know these sorts of learners are like fine wine: they’re getting better all the time.
In Pluralsight’s 2022 State of Upskilling report, those who had been in the technology industry the longest and had the most experience were the least confident about being able to do their job or similar in three years. Part of this is the ever-shifting landscape of technology, which is why continuous learning is integral to success, especially for developers.
6. Resourcefulness / Adaptability
2022 was brutal for the tech industry, with a wide spate of layoffs and hiring freezes across the board. This means businesses are on the lookout for people who can overcome challenges in quick, creative ways, often working with tight budget constraints. This is all about not just saying “No, that’s impossible” to everything, but stopping and thinking if there’s any possible way to say “Yes”, even if it means taking an unorthodox approach. You might have heard of IQ and EQ, but some businesses have started seeking people with a high Adaptability Quotent (AQ): the ability to thrive in unpredictable environments.
Conclusion: Add soft skills to you (or your team's) radar
It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to improving your soft skills --- do you just act nicer, or try harder? For leaders, it can be even tougher, since you're trying to encourage your team to do something that is a little more complex than "Get that next certification."
Thankfully, you don't need to do it alone, and there are pathways to success available. We highly recommend checking out Pluralsight's learning path: Developing Soft Skills for Today’s Workplace. It's a twelve hour pathway that covers all the soft skills listed above. You don't have to take it all at once --- you can decide to take particular courses depending on your weak points, or tailor it to a team. It also includes a course called Introduction to Leadership and Management for Developers, which is great for people looking to take that next step in their career.
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