There's No Denying the Career Value of Soft Skills
As somebody who's followed IT certifications and career development for more than two decades, I find myself circling back to the subject of soft skills on about an every-six-months basis. "Why?" you might ask.
Because soft skills are so important at work, no matter whether you specialize in R programming for data analysis or building out equipment racks for a cloud service provider (and all points in between), that's why. Let me proffer a definition for soft skills, and then do a little analysis on how often soft skills turn up in IT career discussions to explain.
A Working Definition for Soft Skills
I found a pretty good one as I started perusing recent articles on soft skills in the IT arena. It comes from Annamarie Higley, at a female-oriented, U.K.-based website (Brit+Co) in an article titled "How to Sell Your Soft Skills in a Job Interview." (Hint: Anyone, even those of the male persuasion, will find this article worth reading in its entirety, particularly should you be prepping for or thinking about a job interview any time soon.)
The definition reads as follows:
Soft skills can be defined as qualitative attributes, such as adaptability, communication, and teamwork, as opposed to hard skills, like editing, coding, and accounting, which typically require some sort of subject-specific training or education. Soft skills are especially important because they provide hiring managers with a sneak peek of an applicant's professional behavior.
Among other good definitions, I've come across, I've also heard soft skills described as being all the things you must know and be able to do to practice your profession that don't involve some specific hard skill set or knowledge base. If you think about how you spend your workday, it's pretty rare to spend more than half of your total working hours doing head-down, straight-up technical work.
It's at least arguable that soft skills should be every bit as important as hard ones for that reason alone. In fact — in my experience, anyway — as you climb the career ladder and advance into more senior positions, be they technical or management-oriented, soft skills become increasingly important. As your responsibilities advance and your paycheck grows, so should your investment in (and awareness of) soft skills.
Scraping the News for Soft Skill Mentions
To get a sense of how soft skills register on the Google News radar, I used the search string "soft skills in IT" to produce a series of current headlines. Here is a list of the top 10 (11, actually, because the Brit+Co story already cited, came up as item number 2 in this search) such items.
Note that none of these is older than 20 days. It makes for some instructive information (and some interesting reading, if you're so inclined):
Why tech titans like Google value 'soft skills' over good grades (The Telegraph, 8/22/2018)
How Soft Skills Can Help You Get Ahead in a Tech World (Entreprenuer, 8/10/2018)
Personal development: soft skills secrets from the Queen (TrainingZone, 8/21/2018)
Investing in Millenial's Soft Skills Could Benefit the Bottom Line (Chief Executive, 8/17/2018)
Soft skills Training Market by Type, Stage, End-User (Tactical Business, 8/23/2018)
Where Freelancers (And Other Professionals) Go to Learn: Meet JOLT (Forbes, 8/23/2018)
Schools Should Teach (and Measure) �Soft Skills,' Parents and Educators Agree (Education Week, 8/21/2018)
Using Digital Tools to Teach Soft Skills (The Tech Edvocate, 8/17/2018)
Importance of Soft Skills at the Work Place (Youth Incorporated, 8/3/2018)
Recent Graduates Lack Soft Skills, New Study Reports (Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 8/3/2018)
What can you take away from a list like this one? I see a focus on soft skills with some emphasis on early career stages, but with surprising coverage throughout the entire career cycle, from wet-behind-the-ears newbies to grizzled veterans figuring out if their IRAs or 401ks are enough to let them move into post-work retirement life.
I also see consensus on the meaning and value of soft skills, and the many benefits that developing such things can confer on IT pros at any time of life and any career stage. Great stuff, in fact!
But Wait . . . There's More!
I've been writing about soft skills myself for a long time now. I'd be remiss, therefore, if I didn't also point out some of own my recent work in this area. Here are my most recent scribbles on this topic from GoCertify itself:
The Big List of Soft Skills and How to Use It (4/27/2018)
CompTIA Makes Strong Argument for Soft Skills (4/22/2016)
There's actually quite a bit more where this came from, as you can see by looking over the results of this focused Google Search. Enjoy!