Soft skills allow you to solve life problems and work with other people. They help in almost any area. We form them in childhood and they are connected to emotional intelligence. Why are they so important at work? Well, because they help to discuss and reach an agreement, convey your opinion, move ideas towards implementation, and much more.
In 2017, Google conducted an internal study to identify the most productive teams within the company. The researchers found that their best teams were mixed groups of employees with strong soft skills. Further research showed that developed communication skills, empathy, and leadership skills contributed to job success.
Scientists from Harvard, Stanford, and the Carnegie Foundation have found that soft skills are responsible for 85% of a person's success in the profession, and hard ones add up to only 15%.
In this article, an HR and a recruiter will tell you why and what soft skills are essential for IT specialists today. And if you’ve thought that soft skills are just for project managers and team leaders, you’ve been mistaken. Today, any IT specialist needs friendliness and adaptability.
Olha Zhukova, the HR manager at CodeGym, and the leader of the IT recruiters team at EVO Company Yulia Ternova answer the main questions about soft skills.
Why do companies look for good specialists with soft skills?
The labor market has changed globally, and the balance has shifted towards, job seekers (employees) rather than employers. Now, good work conditions mean a pleasant psychological climate in the team. And to maintain a nice atmosphere, you need to hire people with strong soft skills, who will appreciate and maintain the corporate culture, and who will be friendly colleagues.
I don't even remember when I met the stereotypical IT specialist that was previously mentioned: closed, uncommunicative, wearing glasses. An IT specialist has long been indistinguishable from a specialist in almost any other popular field.
Over the past years or even a decade, the approach to IT has changed significantly. Now companies are looking not just for specialists with an excellent technical background, but for specialists with solid technical knowledge and developed soft skills. During the life cycle of product development or its support, there is a lot of communication between employees going on, horizontally and vertically. It seems to me that this is the main reason why soft skills have become so important — if one or several participants of the process don’t have them, the entire development may suffer.
Why are soft skills so essential when hiring?
Because there is healthy competition among IT applicants. Now, being an IT specialist is fashionable, popular, attractive, and financially profitable. There is competition among the vast majority of IT positions. The employer can choose not only a good specialist but also a nice person, a team player, with whom everyone will cooperate comfortably. And with such people, companies are more successful. Whatever one may say, a high level of professionalism is usually associated with high intelligence, and developed emotional intelligence is a part of it.
Also, soft skills are essential for passing the interview in general. After all, acquaintance — whatever it may be, at work or under personal circumstances, will be a success if people like each other. Therefore, it is essential not only for the applicant to show his stong soft and hard skills but also for the employer to create a comfortable environment, engage and eventually awaken the interest in fruitful long-term cooperation with an honest company.
A particular person may be a real professional in their field, but sometimes they can't sell themselves. At the same time, they may be worried that their hands will shake or their voice will tremble, or they will forget the answer. The recruitment team will not always try to understand what is happening with the candidate but may consider them unprofessional and reject them.
Therefore, if a candidate develops their soft skills while preparing for an interview, they will be able to behave more confidently and present themselves completely.
What soft skills does an IT specialist need?
In my opinion, nowadays the following qualities are the most important: flexibility, sociability, goodwill, openness, quick learning, and open-mindedness. And the last, perhaps the most valuable. It’s the ability to quickly reconsider your position, and stay open to new ideas and suggestions without focusing on your life and professional experience. This is the most relevant model of consciousness, which employers perceive as "one hundred percent."
My top 4 are:
Communication skills (ability to listen, give feedback, negotiate). The results and progress of the project depend on the effectiveness and quality of communication.
Teamwork skills. In most cases, several specialists work on a project. So, the ability to unite to achieve a common goal is an important thing.
Ability to solve problems.
Willingness to learn. The IT industry is evolving at a breakneck pace. To stay in demand and implement modern technologies, you need to learn constantly.
Is it possible to improve your soft skills if you are terrible at it? Or are they the “default settings”?
I think it's possible. But it is challenging because often, people do not want to admit they lack it. So the bottom line is simple: if I need to become more sociable, I go to the training and develop this skill. If I need to become softer, not so rigid, then I go to a psychologist or a coach and work it through. If my colleagues complain that I am picky — the same scheme applies.
In general, soft skills can be corrected, just like a person's character or habits. But you need to be aware of your weaknesses, recognize them, want to strengthen them up and do it.
More often, however, these judgments remain subjective. As a result, the person does not accept them but changes companies or teams (looking for an environment where their qualities remain unnoticed, or they are comfortable).
Also, now it’s popular to stay the way you already are and force others to put up with your uniqueness and natural unsociableness. But here you need to decide: what is more important? Say as you are or change because you need to (you, in the first place)?
To find "toxic" or weak areas, you need to work with specialists, listen to and hear feedback about yourself, and always strive to become better :)
Soft skills are flexible skills. However, compared to hard skills (professional skills), they are a little more challenging to develop because they are connected to our personality and character which forms during the whole life.
I believe that if you work on yourself, then you can develop any skill or competency. However, everyone has no explicit and unified instruction; everyone should choose their way.
What do you think: do programmers need soft skills? Looking forward to reading your opinion in the comments ;)
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