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Prove you've got the soft skills IT professionals need

Impressive technical skills are all very well, but if you can't work effectively as a team or communicate concepts to clients, how does that help your employer’s business? IT graduates need ‘soft skills’ too.
Graduate recruiters warm to enthusiastic candidates because they know that enthusiastic people are motivated people.

Some IT companies look for predictable skills such as knowledge of C++, JavaScript or .Net, but many others have more surprising requirements. Technology recruiters have been known to look for creativity, the ability to be self-critical and the ability to help colleagues get their jobs done and enjoy their day. These can all be categorised as soft skills, which can be defined as skills that aren’t technical, specialist or specific to that particular job; they are often to do with how you relate to other people, so there is considerable overlap with what people often call ‘interpersonal’ or ‘people’ skills.

Why you need soft skills for IT graduate jobs

Read the job advert for an IT graduate scheme or job and call for soft skills and commercial awareness are very likely to feature just as much – or more – than technical understanding. This is because however technical your role is, you are performing it as part of a wider business, whether that means collaborating with colleagues or gathering a specification from clients.

Technical graduates can find themselves up against arts or social science graduates for such roles and can sometimes miss out due to less well developed soft skills. If you need to build your confidence in giving presentations or teamwork, for example, consider taking an active role in a club or society where you can develop these.

Below is a round-up of key skills that are required for almost all IT graduate schemes.

IT soft skill #1: communication

IT systems are only relevant in a business context so IT professionals need the ability to communicate well with people at all levels in an organisation, from help desk assistants and PC end users to company directors. It’s important to be able to listen and understand, as well as explain technology at an appropriate level for the audience. In client-focused roles IT professionals must also communicate clearly with clients to understand and define system requirements.

Demonstrate your graduate communication skills by:

  • Keeping verbal and written communication clear, concise and confident.
  • Showing you understand your audience and can tailor your communication to them.
  • Showing you can listen to and consider the views of others.
  • Thinking before you speak.

IT soft skill #2: planning and organisation

The IT sector is a project-focused industry. Good planning and organisation skills are essential for graduates entering the tech business, in order to manage tasks on different projects with different deadlines and competing priorities. Effective planning makes it possible to anticipate problems and challenges and transform them into positive opportunities.

Demonstrate your graduate planning and organisation skills by:

  • Showing that you can put structure to a task or project.
  • Highlighting how you scope out an activity and allocate time to individual tasks.
  • Showing how you anticipate challenges and issues that could arise and plan contingencies.

IT soft skill #3: drive, motivation and enthusiasm

Drive and motivation are essential for working in this incredibly fast-paced industry. You need to enjoy taking on new challenges, pushing boundaries and looking towards the future. Graduate recruiters warm to enthusiastic candidates because they know that enthusiastic people are motivated people.

Demonstrate your drive, motivation and enthusiasm by:

  • Showing you have the determination to achieve an end result.
  • Demonstrating that you can keep your optimism and enthusiasm even when things get tough.
  • Showing that you can bounce back from set-backs.
  • Knowing what makes yourself tick and what types of task and activity you most enjoy doing.

IT soft skill #4: problem-solving

Working in IT you need to have the ability to define problems in a timely manner, identify the root causes, and then gather relevant information to find appropriate solutions. But problem-solving goes beyond resolving just technical issues. You may also need to suggest enhancements to existing procedures and processes to deliver improved service, a better product and most importantly, satisfied clients.

Demonstrate your graduate problem-solving skills by:

  • Displaying that you can take a logical and analytical approach to problem solving.
  • Showing that you can view problems from a number of angles.
  • Demonstrating that you can anticipate potential pitfalls and act to prevent them happening.

IT soft skill #5: teamwork

Teamwork is essential for sharing knowledge, establishing and building relationships and supporting all the people involved on a project. Teamwork requires interpersonal skills and at times, leadership qualities so that you can consider and respond appropriately to the behaviour and motives of others, adapt your personal style accordingly, or step out in front to bring others with you.

Demonstrate your graduate teamwork skills by:

  • Showing that you can build and maintain positive working relationships.
  • Demonstrating how you share information with others; support others and show respect for alternative views.
  • Showing how you have contributed to keeping projects on track and to achieving a final goal, working sensitively and co-operatively with others.
  • Showing how you have considered and identified what motivates others and how you have led by example.

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