The Soft Side of IT: How Non-Technical Skills Shape Career Success

Here’s why soft skills matter in IT careers and how to effectively highlight them on a resume.

Brett Shively, CEO, ACI Learning

June 12, 2024

4 Min Read
building blocks of soft skills
Paradee Kietsirikul via Alamy Stock

What you know -- and who you know -- remains critical to career success, but do you know what is even more in demand these days? Being a good human.  

In the professional world, we call things like good manners, work experience, communication, resilience and more -- “soft skills” -- and those nuances of human experience and interaction have become increasingly important in the IT industry, complementing technical expertise to enhance communication, collaboration, and problem-solving abilities.   

By now, you have heard news stories like the one about a grocery chain adding a slow lane with a human checker for customers who need to talk. Human interaction -- and nuance -- is something most everyone has craved when they have tried to tally their groceries themselves in a self-serve kiosk.   

As IT professionals take on advancements like artificial intelligence, there is a growing demand to expand skill sets beyond purely technical capabilities. In fact, recent surveys suggest that soft skills can be a make-or-break part of the hiring process.  

 A recent study by BusinessNameGenerator (BNG) surveyed over 1,000 US employees across various industries, revealing that 84% of respondents, particularly those in larger companies, consider soft skills crucial during hiring. These non-technical skills, including communication, adaptability, and empathy, are seen as essential for career development, differentiating candidates, and even influencing hiring decisions. With 80% of women and 90% of men valuing soft skills in the workplace, it is clear that a balanced skill set, encompassing both technical and soft skills, is key to success in today's competitive IT environment.  

Related:How Today’s CIOs Drive Value

While technical skills are undeniably crucial, the importance of soft skills should not be underestimated. In fact, soft skills play a pivotal role in shaping IT professionals' success, influencing teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and overall job performance.  

Let's explore why soft skills matter in IT careers and how to effectively highlight them on a resume.  

Why Soft Skills Matter in IT:  

  • Communication: Effective communication is vital in IT, where professionals often need to translate complex technical jargon into understandable terms for clients, team members, and stakeholders. Whether it is explaining a software solution to a non-technical audience or collaborating with cross-functional teams, effective communication skills foster clarity, collaboration, and trust.  

  • Problem-solving: IT professionals frequently encounter challenges that require creative thinking and innovative solutions. Problem-solving skills enable individuals to identify issues, analyze root causes, and develop effective strategies to overcome obstacles, contributing to improved efficiency and productivity.  

  • Adaptability: The IT landscape is constantly evolving, with recent technologies, methodologies, and trends emerging at a rapid pace. Adaptability and flexibility are essential soft skills that enable professionals to embrace change, learn new skills quickly, and thrive in dynamic environments.  

  • Teamwork: IT projects often involve cross-functional teams working together to achieve common goals. Strong teamwork and collaboration skills are essential for building cohesive teams, fostering positive relationships, and achieving successful project outcomes.  
     

Related:How to Manage a Rapidly Growing IT Team

How to Translate Soft Skills to a Resume:  

  • Highlight relevant experience: Incorporate specific examples of how you have used soft skills in your previous roles. For instance, mention a time when your effective communication skills helped resolve a technical issue or when your problem-solving abilities led to a successful project implementation.  

  • Use action verbs: Start bullet points with strong action verbs that demonstrate your soft skills in action. For example, instead of saying “Worked on a team,” you could say “Collaborated with cross-functional teams to deliver a high-impact project.”  

  • Quantify achievements: Whenever possible, quantify your achievements to highlight the impact of your soft skills. For instance, mention how your effective communication skills improved client satisfaction or how your problem-solving abilities reduced system downtime by a certain percentage.  

  • Tailor your resume: Customize your resume to align with the specific soft skills required for the IT role you are applying for. Research the job description and identify key soft skills mentioned, then highlight relevant experiences and accomplishments that show your proficiency in those areas.

Related:The Role that Mentors Play in Closing the Gender Gap

Key Takeaways: 

While technical skills are essential for success in IT careers, soft skills play a complementary and equally significant role.   

By developing and highlighting effective communication, problem-solving, adaptability, and teamwork skills on your resume, you can differentiate yourself as a well-rounded IT professional capable of thriving in today's complex and collaborative work environment.  

Remember, it is not just about what you know but also how you communicate, collaborate, and adapt to challenges that sets you apart. 

About the Author(s)

Brett Shively

CEO, ACI Learning

Brett Shively is the CEO of ACI Learning, a company seeking to transform the way organizations train and technology professionals learn in fields including auditing, cybersecurity and information technology. He’s dedicated his entire career to leading and fostering innovation at the intersection of technology and education, working with universities, e-learning solutions and edtech companies. He is a proven leader with a record as a change agent with experience growing companies and developing new markets, while growing existing ones. 

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