Developers Need Soft Skills Too. Here’s How to Get Them.
The growing value of interpersonal skills
Everywhere you look, employers and recruiters are promoting the value of “soft skills” or non-technical skills, for IT professionals. No matter how talented you are in software or AI, there’s value in being able to communicate effectively, think critically and lead your team to success. We’ve talked before about the value of gaining new skills in this competitive labor market and how to highlight them on your online social presence. Here, we’ll continue the conversation with how to build these skills and showcase them at work and during your job search.
Seeking out opportunities for growth
Once you’re convinced that all developers can benefit from improved communication and collaboration skills, the next trick is making the time and finding opportunities to practice them. It’s likely you will start to see these openings appear once you know where to look. Begin by exploring available classes, certifications, and trainings at your office, even if they don’t fall squarely in your field. Taking a class on something outside of your everyday work experience will improve your creativity, critical thinking and ability to learn, which are all useful skills.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can organize learning opportunities by inviting colleagues from various departments and experience levels to share what they know. In fact, organizing these events on your own will highlight several other interpersonal skills, such as taking initiative, leading and planning events. It may seem risky at first, or like a lot of work in addition to your day job, but soon you’ll see how many others are seeking out these opportunities to learn as well.
Next, look to your community for new opportunities. Seek out in-person meetups or Facebook groups that focus on specific skills and interests. You can join a UX writing group with daily challenges or take a public speaking class with a friend. Practice networking at local meetups designed for creatives, entrepreneurs or leadership professionals.
If your means allow, hire a coach to help you identify and address your opportunities for growth. Whether it be an expert to help map out your next career steps or a public speaking coach to get you over your fears, the time and money spent will be well worth the investment.
Have you ever wondered about the impact your role or current project has on the overall business goals? Ask about it. Get curious and seek out the bigger picture of what you’re working on. This new perspective will not only help you do your job better, but it can also open you up to new opportunities to learn and grow. Then, practice explaining this bigger picture to others both verbally and in writing. The ability to both understand and explain in it in your own words will prove valuable for you as you seek greater opportunities in your field.
Showcasing your new skills
If you’ve joined an organization or earned a certificate, it’ll be fairly easy to add that accomplishment to your resume or portfolio. However, many interpersonal skills aren’t as easily showcased. It’s not a matter of saying you’ve taken initiative once and now you’re worth more money as a result. These skills and experiences build over time and eventually, you’ll have stories to share that demonstrate your aptitude. Beyond that, you’ll have to get comfortable with “tooting your own horn” during job interviews or performance reviews to get the credit you deserve. And you can always ask for references from witnesses who have seen these skills in action.