7 skills that’ll give you an edge in tech

Soft? Hardly. A better way to describe these must-have traits is 'essential'. Image: Shutterstock

There’s more to tech jobs than coding. Add these skills to your CV to kickstart your career.

According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 92% of hiring managers agree that ‘soft’ skills – things like creativity, empathy and communication – matter as much as or more than ‘hard’ (or technical) skills, like coding.

“Accompanying the adoption of advanced technologies into the workplace will be an increase in the need for workers with finely tuned social and emotional skills – skills that machines are a long way from mastering,” it said.

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Similarly, in a 2018 study by global management consultancy, McKinsey & Company, it was predicted that the need for social and emotional skills will grow at a similarly rapid rate to the need for technological skills over the next 10 years.

Here are seven skills that’ll give you an edge in tech…

1. Creativity

Creativity doesn’t only mean being good at art or music or poetry (although those people are usually pretty creative!). The Cambridge Dictionary defines creativity as “the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative”. Other words for creativity could include inventiveness, innovation, or originality.

33,000 is the number of new tech jobs created in Australia in the last three years. Image: Shutterstock

Creativity is a valuable skill in any job, including STEM jobs – it will help you solve problems and think outside the box.

2. Communication

This is a big one, and overlaps many of the other skills in this list – especially collaboration, empathy and persuasion. All the technological skills in the world are useless without the ability to communicate them effectively and clearly with other people – think managers, customers and colleagues, all of whom will likely have different levels of technical understanding. And remember, being a good communicator also means being a good listener.

3. Teamwork and collaboration

Sure, you might be considering a tech career because you’re happy spending hours alone churning out code – but that’s rarely what your actual job will look like. Instead, you’ll be working with and for other people with a diverse range of skills and backgrounds.

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If teamwork isn’t your strong suit, practice makes perfect – consider seeking out teams or clubs to join. Hackathons are a great example.

4. Adaptability

Adaptability is a valuable skill any time, but especially in the ever-changing world of technology. The programming language you mastered at uni might not be what you use when you land a job: more important than any particular technical skill is your ability to learn and relearn, adjust, adapt and be flexible.

5. Time management

Your technical expertise will only get you so far if you struggle to meet a deadline. The ability to prioritise tasks, juggle competing deadlines and use your time effectively is a valuable skill in pretty much every part of life, so start honing it now. Make use of schedules and to-do lists (and stick to them!), learn to say no, and avoid distractions and excuses to procrastinate.

6. Empathy

Empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, by imagining what it’s like to be them. It’s a good life skill in general, but particularly important in tech roles where you’ll be solving problems for other people. You might think empathy is something you either have or you don’t, but it can be developed with practice and intention: work on listening more, actively trying to consider other people’s perspectives and don’t be afraid to ask, it’s better than assuming you know what someone else is thinking or feeling!

7. Persuasion

Persuasion is basically a subset of other important skills listed here, like communication and empathy. Think influence, not manipulation or coercion. It means bringing someone around to your way of thinking, and according to LinkedIn it is one of employers’ most in-demand skills.

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Tech 2020.

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.

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