Brian Bloom interviews Tim Collins about soft skills for IT workers

Brian Bloom interviews Tim Collins about the importance of soft skills for IT workers.

There’s always a buzz of predictions around the new year about IT skills in demand, as analysts, bloggers, journalists and tech companies try to see where the trend lines are heading.

But here’s something that stays constant every year: when businesses create new requirements, new technology steps in. And people with keys to that technology become more valuable.

We all hear about an “IT skills gap” in Canada, which is a multifaceted problem. But for you, as a skilled IT professional, you need to focus on only one piece of the puzzle: fitting yourself in the right place.

As a job-seeker with the right talent, knowledge and expertise, you need to understand exactly what you’re worth. And more crucially, you have to be able to articulate why you’re valuable to the company you want to work for.

The new job market

Many of the IT skills in demand in 2013 are pretty apparent to anyone who’s been paying attention. Mobile developers, site engine optimization experts, social media gurus and big data specialists are going to be needed in ever-greater numbers due to the recent explosion in these technologies.

Check out for ComputerWorld’s predictions, for example. Or for a deeper dive into the specific methodologies and platforms in demand, take a look at this article on CiteWorld or GitHub’s list of hot programming languages.

Robert Half Technology, a major staffing firm, has said that with attention spans on the wane, one of the major things that’s changed this year is that tech employers are looking for developers who can create more engaging applications.

And other in-demand skills are less often publicized, like the ability to help businesses cope with their legacy infrastructure, whether it’s maintaining a bank’s mainframe or re-engineering endless lines of old code.

10 IT skills in demand at Stafflink

In the Canadian market, Stafflink has its own list based on what it’s seen from clients:

  1. Security architects with banking backgrounds
  2. Solutions architects
  3. Android and iOS developers
  4. People experienced in Selenium web-based testing
  5. VB.Net/Java developers willing to travel more than 50 per cent of the time
  6. Bilingual network and systems administrators
  7. PHP/JavaScript/WordPress web developers
  8. Business systems analysts
  9. Database programmers
  10. Big data specialists

Many of you already have these skills, or can pick them up pretty quickly. The key is adaptability and a willingness to work outside of your comfort zone to get the best possible job, even if it’s a challenge at first.

Supply and demand

While demand for tech is outpacing supply of talent, it isn’t necessarily about a shortage of skilled people. As they say in economics, as an IT pro, you’re a scarce resource with alternative uses. And there are many people working in the technology market whose skills aren’t being used effectively.

In my video interview with Tim Collins, president and CEO of Stafflink, we spoke about how IT workers in Canada enjoy a very high rate of employment. But as he noted, that doesn’t mean they’re all enjoying their current jobs. Sure, they went through the interview process, said the right things and found themselves a living. A success? Sure. But in many cases, only a partial one.

Video: Why IT Pros Need Soft Skills

What they may have missed out on was a higher salary, better working conditions, or perhaps most important of all, job satisfaction. People working in IT are no different than anyone else: plenty of them hate their jobs.

Climbing to the top of the job ladder is about a lot more than having the right technical skills. In fact, your skillset is really just the base from which you start. It’s your “soft skills”:  your attitude, presentation, demeanor and business savvy that will take you higher.

You’re an expert in technology — not sales or marketing — so the art of the pitch might not come so easily. But the best sales people have great confidence in the product they sell, and in your case, it should be no different. Why are you worth the salary you’re asking for? What can you do that the competition can’t? You should know the answers to these questions from the moment you get your first interview.

Again, this may not be easy for you. But a couple weeks of homework and practice sure beats spending years in a job you never really wanted.

More about hot IT skills in demand

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