In any industry, people take a high level of pride in their technical abilities. Chefs are proud of their ability to combine ingredients to build their specialty dish or create something new. Writers are proud of their ability to use words and structure to connect with people through narrative. Technology professionals are proud of their technical know-how and the ability to solve a variety of problems with innovative solutions.
However, these technical abilities are rarely enough for true success in these or any other field. All professionals need a strong combination of skills and characteristics in addition to these hard skills that enable us to excel and advance in a career. These are often referred to as soft skills, and they can be more subtle and difficult to acquire.
While some people seem to be naturally gifted with an exceptional ability to communicate, lead, work hard or solve problems, many of us have to work at these and other soft skills for years to be effective. But this does not mean that these skills cannot be acquired over time; it only takes the ability and willingness to learn new things, practice them and regularly apply them in work environments.
Soft Skills in the Tech World
For whatever reason, many soft skills are believed to be especially difficult for IT professionals. Of course this is largely a stereotype, but it is true that those who work in technology generally put higher significance on pure technical ability and less on soft skills, compared to those in most other fields.
But while it is possible to get and maintain a job in technology with limited soft skills, it is very difficult to truly succeed or advance in the career without at least some level of competency in communication, self-awareness, dependability and all the other understated characteristics which have enabled professionals to work harmoniously with others for centuries.
Even if you develop a groundbreaking technique for your company to improve C# exception handling best practices, the knowledge will not be very useful in the workplace if you cannot communicate it to others. With that being said, here are a few ways that those who generally work well with machines can become better at working with people.
Get a Mentor
Mentorship has always been stressed for young tech professionals. Even though younger generations are often just as or more knowledgeable than older tech professionals when it comes to modern technology and innovation, mentors are especially valuable for providing insight on more subtle aspects of a career, including many soft skills.
Being friendly sounds like such an obvious part of improving people skills, but it can be difficult for some IT people. Even though it can be incredibly frustrating to spend your day solving elementary technical issues for managers, executives and other people who get paid more than you do, you can help yourself greatly by simply making a conscious effort to be friendly and respectful in every professional interaction.
While you may need to take several steps at working towards different soft skills individually, setting some concrete career goals for yourself and developing plans to reach them will help you practice several at a time. This helps you develop higher motivation, better problem solving, more willingness to learn and other similar skill sets.
You will also begin to see how crucial good communication, networking and teamwork will be to achieving your goals and develop ways to improve those skills as well. In addition to significantly increasing your career success, improving these soft skills will often make you a better, happier person.
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