Back in the early 90s, when I was young and had promise, I was hard at work one day when my computer screen froze. Unsure of what to do, I turned my screen off and then on again, several times—nothing. Firmly tapping the side of the screen also had no effect. My secretary tried to assist, but her knowledge of computers was, like mine, minimal.
I finally gave up and called our Help Desk. An hour later, an adolescent-looking tech showed up and with a thoroughly bored look on his face, asked what was wrong.
I explained my problem and without saying a word, he semi-pushed me out of my chair, seated himself and then held down the computer’s On/Off button while counting to 10. He then re-booted my machine, and to my amazement, the screen was once again working.
As I was signing his work order form, he took a call on his flip-phone and I heard him say: “Yeah, I can go over, it was just an “ID-10-T” problem here.”
My officemate came in as the repair kid was leaving and whispered to me that I had just been called an “idiot.”
I was a bit annoyed once the “ID-10-T” apronym was explained to me. My position was such that I could have had the guy called on the carpet for insulting me but let it go realizing that I’d most certainly need the services of the Help Desk again in the future.
I share this experience to show how important soft skills are for IT professionals when interacting with others—especially those of us who lack technical know-how.
When it comes to IT, there are three areas when soft skills can make or break a career:
Communication. You have to be able to communicate verbally and in writing with others. You also have to be a good listener to make sure you understand the needs of those you serve. Body language is also important. Don’t look bored or distracted when someone needs you.
Emotional intelligence and control. You have to control your emotions, regardless of how difficult a challenge might be. Sometimes coworkers and others might be frustrated or even animated about a problem. Do not get caught up in the emotions of others and always keep your own emotions under control.
Empathy. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another will always help you succeed. Clients may be unable to clearly vocalize their wants and needs. The ability to empathize with others can help you come up with solutions to a problem that those in a stressful situation might not have imagined.
When it comes to succeeding in IT, soft skills are a necessary complement to your technical knowledge. Practicing the above skills will not only make you a better professional, but they will also open doors to more career opportunities.