Top 10 Soft Skills You Need as an IT Professional

What soft skills make people more likely to become successful? How can you stress less, be more productive, stay healthy, and find time for your private life? People search for these answers daily. 

As an IT professional, you know there are countless cloud and IT certifications that you can earn to help your chances of success by boosting your career opportunities. But having the right mix of technical and soft skills is what you need in today’s economy. Therefore, we have selected the 10 most-recommended soft skills to develop in 2020 to substantially improve your chances of acing an interview, finding the proper work-life balance, and refining your habits that lead to success. 

When you have the soft skills mastered, you’ll most likely want to focus your attention on building hands-on skills or getting certified. Cloud Academy’s Certification Learning Paths include a combination of everything you need to advance your tech skills in no time. As you probably know, having industry-leading certifications show that you have some of the most in-demand and profitable skills.

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Now let’s dive right into the top ten skills you’ll need to be successful as an IT professional.

What are the top 10 soft skills?

1. Problem-solving

Being able to analyze issues properly, have intelligent communication with colleagues, and driving quick conclusions are must-have soft skills in 2020. It is possible to develop this skill by following a couple of simple routines every day:

  •  Be realistic about what you can do

Matteo Forgione, from Forgione Engineering, says he starts his day by deciding what can be done through eight hours and does nothing more to have space for unexpected things. Problem-solving requires time and proper planning.

  • Ask questions

Never stop asking questions. For many, humility and confusion are the blockers to speak out. Having a habit of asking questions, on the contrary releases from misconceptions, misinterpretations, and mistakes that thieve time and energy.  

  • Think in little steps

An old Chinese proverb says, “It’s better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” A solution to a problem may unexpectedly show up as a secession to a series of actions. Try to apply this approach to everyday routines, like making reports, so that it doesn’t feel uncommon when a bigger issue happens.

Soft Skill: Problem-solving

2. Decision-making

The ability to make effective decisions is a core value, especially for business leaders and C-level executives. To develop this soft skill, follow these rules:

  •  Keep clear goals

Knowing exactly what you want will help you decide how you can do this task. A general practice of setting SMART objectives, which corresponds to specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound, is a great tool to follow. This allows you to see a greater picture and plan your future achievement in smaller steps and can be applied both in work and life environments. 

  • Don’t overthink

Being attentive to every issue is important, but spending too much time on reflections simply takes time from other things. Learn to make to balance between fast and thought-out solutions.

  • Trust your gut

Intuition or gut feeling can be trained if you have a habit of focusing on it through a day. Intuition is a quick reaction of your mind to a trigger. It is based on the subconscious analysis of our experiences. Although we don’t recommend basing your decision solely on intuition, a combination of gut feeling and mental analysis simplifies the decision-making process. 

3. Strategic thinking

Perhaps, this soft skill tops a list of the most crucial qualities to lead business operations. Yet, this one is hard to develop. Here’s how to do it:

  • Observe trends 

Perhaps your organization faces issues that repeat every day, or you can see some big problems that affect different groups of people. By focusing on such things, you learn to understand your industry context and business drivers. Eventually, the observing ability will help you avoid problems and choose the right paths to boost your career growth. 

  • Play short and long games

A short-term success that helps you pay the bills today may hinder long-term plays that make life meaningful. Scott Mautz from tells us that the only option to balance between long- and short-term objectives is to connect short-term tasks with the sphere where you plan to reach a greater success (e.g., writing short articles before writing a book)

  • Check time and effort to set priorities

During your day, every event has a special level of significance. Vishaal Hariprasad from suggests minimizing time spent on low-importance stuff, like daily meetings to have more time for something critical.

Effective task prioritization is easier with specialized apps. There are some ready-made apps on Google Play or the App Store, but you always can have your one. An average cost to develop an app is not necessarily high, but the payoffs of having an own priority app inside your organization may be fantastic. 

4. Negotiation

This ever typical soft skill will be in rising demand in 2020. Being perfect with speaking to others and advocating one’s option requires practice. The following recommendations can be useful:

  • Stay tuned with your network

Staying in touch is an excellent source of new opportunities. Tim Sanders, the author of Love Is the Killer App, says, “Your network is your net worth.” Learn to stay in touch either by visiting events or by taking a couple of minutes to drop a holiday greeting.

  • Listen to your interlocutor

An ability to listen is undervalued, yet it is critical for successful communication. To develop this ability one can practice attentive listening everywhere: from friendly chats to team meetings. 

  • Thought preparation

Providing research, selecting arguments, and role-playing your negotiation with your family or friends is often underestimated. Though it’s a powerful tool to train you as a successful negotiator. 

Negotiation Soft Skill

5. Creativity

Being surrounded by more technologies raises a new challenge: an ability to implement and improve them. Thus creativity is now ranked among the top soft skills one should develop. In order to work on your creativity, check out the following advice.

  • Be creative in everything

We used to apply creativity to challenging tasks. Lolly Daskal, the CEO of Lead from Within, reimagines the area of its application. She sees creativity as a way to architect your whole life and use this skill in every daily activity.

  • Start a journal

By writing a personal journal, you learn to analyze your behavior, make some conclusions, and correct your actings in the future. This helps to sculpt useful negotiation strategies, evaluate and practice them on a regular basis.

  •  Play

“Downtime is critical for recharging your batteries, re-energizing your body and mind and it inspires creativity,” says Ronit Raphael, founder of global wellness brand L.RAPHAEL. Therefore, making pauses for stuff you like should be an essential part of your day, which also opens a room for imagination.

6. Flexibility

The ability to adapt fast is the constantly changing environment is a skill that remains important today. The following habit will come in handy.

  • Practice emotional reactions

We know that not the strongest survive, but the fittest. Being able to change and adapt is an evolution-driving feature and it’s a good thing to turn into a habit.  Every time you encounter a stressful or uncomfortable situation, take a pause and think, how to act in the best fitting way before you react to it impulsively.

7. Holistic vision

Today torrents of information are distracting our attention every day. The ability to abstract from details and see the situation as a whole is very important. Yet a clear mind requires practice.

  • Learn to disconnect

It is vital to put the tasks back and find 20 minutes for yourself in the most stressful part of the day. It will allow you to have time to develop a clear vision.

  • Do a routine job in routines

Tasks like reading emails, making to-do lists, and setting priorities follow us each day. Caleb Harty, from Harty Financial, says he dedicates the only one hour every day to read emails. The focus here: by turning technical stuff to rituals, we automate our actions and have time for analyzing.

8. Emotional intelligence

Being able to manage emotions is in high demand among employers. Here are some tips on developing your emotional intelligence. 

  • Accept yourself

Accepting personal imperfections is spooky, but it’s an advantage of the strongest. Only by identifying your worst and weakest sides, you can make necessary conclusions and can learn to change.

  • Stay humble   

If you think you are better than others, seeing your faults may drive strong negative emotions. Staying humble, being able to acknowledge the success of others, and accept their help if needed is a good way to build up your emotional intelligence. 

“Detach your ego from the equation and constantly seek out people who can help you be better,” says David White from Early to Rise and this advice is worth following.

The advice is perfectly applicable to start-up and middle businesses with C-level executives trying to perform too many tasks solely. Yet, many things, like project management, finances, or IT tasks can be successfully delegated to third party vendors. For example, IT outsourcing is perhaps the most common instance. 

  • Learn to respond, not react

The emotional reaction to a trigger is an unconscious process, that can sometimes have undesired consequences. Responding presupposes also minding your feelings and the feelings of others. Try not to burst into emotions at any trigger, but take a moment and think what to do next, so that you find the best way out of a situation.

9. Being in the moment  

A life full of events gives new opportunities, but attention is a trade-off. Therefore, the ability to manage thoughts and give all your attention to the current moment is a rarity.

  • Stay present

Attention leaves us during meetings, long chats with colleagues, or even when reading. You can train attention by practicing mindfulness throughout a day. Focus on details of your surroundings, including sounds, colors, and small objects. During your working hours, try to slow down and concentrate on the task completely.

10. Minimalism

A heavy backpack is a bad companion on a trip. Being able to leave unnecessary things — like thoughts, items, and tasks behind — is a valuable soft skill, it’s rarely mentioned. To develop this, follow the rule.

  • De-clutter. Do it every day

The heaps of trash on the desk are contagious, and it can spread to a cluttered mailbox and complete chaos in daily activities. Marie Kondo, the world-famous expert in decluttering and the founder of the KonMarie cleaning method, suggests that by decluttering, you “can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.” 

Common negative traits that block our performance

Perhaps the most critical piece of advice is avoiding extremes. Even harmless or positive skills may block our performance when you rely on them too much Here are a couple of examples:

  • Being reactive

“Successful people never wait for competitors to act, they act in advance,” says Chris Madden to Forbes. Although it’s a positive thing in general, by doing so, they spend days in stress and struggles, which sometimes fails to pay off.

  • Relying on digital communication too much

Chris Harris from Bridge Tech says that social text writing style, like abbreviate messages, brings to insufficiency in delivering essential contents and meanings.

  • Comparing yourself to others

Although competition drives change and is viewed as a positive thing overall, it exhausts. Thomas Griffin from Optin Monster indicates that such behavior lowers self-esteem, takes too much time on self-evaluation, and lures our attention to unproductive areas. 

Three tips for building new habits

When building positive habits or avoiding negative ones, we all fail in keeping on this path. Tara Parker-Pope from the New York Times says, “many of us try to create healthy habits the wrong way. We make bold resolutions to start exercising or lose weight, for example, without taking the initial steps to set ourselves up for success.”

Yet, there are some helpful, yet not popular tips, helping to evolve from the stage of bold resolutions into real habits:

  1. Attach new habits to old ones. It is easy to develop a new habit when attaching it to the existing one, like adding a minute of physical exercise when making a bed. 
  2. Start small. Significant changes require a big effort, yet tiny steps don’t. If you want to learn a new language, learn three new words a day. Hal Elrod, the author of “The Miracle Morning,” suggests beginning every day with six simple routines that will help out keep organized and focused through a day. He encrypts them under an acronym SAVERS, that stands for silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, and scribing. Spending just a minute for each of them in the morning will help you shape the right frame of your mind for the whole day. 
  3. Make it easy. Sometimes, the worst thing in a new habit is a change of routine. But it can be more comfortable with a bit of effort and creativity. Wendy Wood, a research psychologist, hated morning exercise. Therefore, she started sleeping in her running clothes to make the routine easier. This approach has helped to change her attitude.

Our soft skills and habits shape our future; no wonder the topic of the best or worst habits will always be on the surface. Sometimes, forcing yourself to something you never did before can lead to an ongoing habit that makes you happy. One thing, still, is not likely to change: every new action requires balance and consideration. Try to focus on one new soft skill at a time until you have them all mastered.

Hopefully, this article helps on your journey toward a successful career and in everyday life. If you’re an IT professional, I’d love to know your thoughts. Please feel free to drop a comment below. 

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