IT Career JumpStart

Aug 29 2008   2:18PM GMT

The Importance of Soft Skills (Part 1 of 4 Parts)

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel


Soft skills have a lot to do with career opportunities and development, just as do harder technical skills. What’s this distinction mean? Soft skills refer to abilities that make people better employees, and open doors to opportunities, that aren’t directly related to the subject matter for their jobs. In simpler language, soft skills refer to a person’s ability to relate to others, to get him- or herself (and possibly others) organized, to communicate in written, spoken or other forms, to conduct research or gather information about various topics as assigned, and so forth.

Soft skills might be considered the things you should know how to do to do your best at any job, no matter what that specific job might be. Soft skills also explain why college degrees are valued credentials for job candidates: it takes 2 to 4 years to earn most degrees (excluding the very top tier for PhD, MD, and so on). To earn a degree, candidates must possess the ability to learn, to tackle a broad range of subject matter, to possess at least minimal communications skills that include a fair amount of writing and perhaps also some spoken or presented materials, and to dig into a subject (their major) to a considerable level of detail.

Though this recasting of the degree isn’t meant to overlook or downplay the importance of a chosen field of study, nor to negate the idea that some majors are more valuable (and usally also more difficult) than others, my idea here is to illustrate how soft skills add value to the degree as a pretty substantial credential. Considering the time, effort, and expense involved in earning a degree, it should also help to compare and contrast the respective value of a degree versus most IT certifications. While some very special credentials, such as the Cisco CCIE and SAP consulting certs, can claim some degree of parity with a degree, most IT certs fall significantly lower on the ladder of perceived value, importance, and difficulty involved.

In my next three blogs, I will focus on the same number of soft skills that I believe serious IT professionals would all do well to cultivate further:

  1. Written communications
  2. Spoken communications and presentations
  3. Project management

I will explore the value for each such skill, explain some techniques to assess your current skills levels and capabilities, and suggest some possible approaches or activities to improve your standing for each one. Hopefully, this will be not only useful and informative, but also interesting and perhaps even stimulating enough to provoke some follow-through.

Also, please don’t forget that if you have questions, comments, or suggestions for other topics that I might address you can post them here, or e-mail them to me at As always, thanks for your time and attention.


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