To bag that job and be a successful technology consultant, you need a mix of technical expertise and professional business skills.

Many universities have ‘professional skills’ modules for improving employability prospects. But for some graduates, particularly in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, their education has focused on technical skills. So, there hasn’t been enough opportunity to develop the (increasingly desirable) soft skills for employment[1].

We take a look at why these skills are so important for a career in technology consulting – and how you develop them.

What are soft skills? And why do employers look for them?

Soft skills are things like communication skills, time management, problem solving, and team working. They’re a combination of social skills, people skills, character traits and employment qualities. These skills will help you thrive in any job – and be a great person to work with – which is why employers are so keen on them. In fact, it’s often the soft skills that set aside the exceptional from the average candidates[2] for a role.

As well as being in-demand, there are other benefits for you to develop your soft skills. They’re great for any job – so if you have them you’ll stand out from the crowd and have a better chance at getting a job in any industry of your choosing.

How is this reflected in the job market?

STEM-related jobs have grown in popularity from 1980 to 2000. Since 2000, there’s been a faster increase in jobs that require “non-cognitive” skills (soft skills), than skills measured by achievement tests[3].

In a Wall Street Journal survey, 92% of executives said soft skills were equally or more important than technical skills[4]. More importantly though, 89% of them said finding people with these skills is difficult.

Getting the right mix of skills

So to be in-demand and employable, you need a dynamic mix of technical expertise and professional attributes and skills.

You’ll already have your technical expertise from your degree. And most of the other soft skills you’ll need to thrive in your career can be learned by experience, and even taught on a training course.

Become self-aware

Becoming very aware of your self – knowing your character, your emotions, your strengths and your weaknesses – will massively help you to develop and grow your skills. If you can do this for yourself, it also helps you become more empathetic with others. When you understand and identify your own emotions, it helps you more accurately identify and relate to other people showing similar emotions.[5] And empathy is a desirable soft skill that employers look for.

To improve your self-awareness, you could reflect by asking yourself questions like “What am I doing that is working?” or “What am I doing that is slowing me down?” Or you could ask people you trust for feedback about yourself.[6] There are even training courses on emotional intelligence that help you recognise your own emotions, and those of other people.

Spend time with other people

If you’re self-aware, you’ll know what skills you want to strengthen. It will help you identify those skills in other people – so you can learn from them. Regardless of whether they have technical, or non-technical skills you aspire to.

You’ll learn by spending time with other people who inspire you to be better. They’ll show you secrets and tricks that you might not have thought of. You’ll be surprised how happy people are to share their knowledge with you – they’ll want to help you develop your own skills.

How do you find these people? Professional networking is a great place to start. Look for networking events near you that are most likely to have attendees you want to speak to. It could be an event on the latest technological innovation – but it doesn’t have to be. At any event that interests you, you’ll meet new people to learn from.

Up your communication skills

Being a great communicator will help you at a networking event, so you can maximise your learning from others. And it will help with so many other soft skills like – team working, relationship building, and negotiating. So it’s no surprise that employers and recruiters look for great communication skills in a candidate.

There are countless articles online giving advice on how to improve your communication skills. But if you want a more tried-and-tested approach, there are training courses out there too.

Develop your skills and get hired

There are loads of ways to develop your soft skills – from self-reflection, to spending time with other people, doing a training course, researching online, or going to professional networking events.

Another route to up your skills for employment after university, is our Graduate Academy. You’ll get 12-weeks training to give you all the skills you need to be a technology consultant – and once you’ve finished, you’ll work at leading organisations in the UK.

Ryan Patel studied Computing at the University of Northampton, and joined our Graduate Academy programme to train and become certified in niche technologies, before working on-site for one of our customers.

 “I joined QA because they offer that bridge between university life and starting your first job. The training was exactly what I was looking for.”

He works on all kinds of projects (big or small) and uses the skills he’s learnt to work with lots of different people, managing expectations – mastering the bridge between technology and business. His next step is to learn all about the technical architecture different companies use to help him move into a Business Analyst role.

 

Transform your degree into a successful technology career. Discover more about our Graduate Academy

 

[1] The Guardian: Future graduates will need creativity and empathy – not just technical skills [2018]

[2] Wall Street Journal: Employers Find ‘Soft Skills’ Like Critical Thinking in Short Supply [2016]

[3] Bloomberg: Maybe STEM isn’t the future after all. Soft skills are coming on strong [2018]

[4] Wall Street Journal: Employers Find ‘Soft Skills’ Like Critical Thinking in Short Supply [2016]

[5] Forbes: Are Hard Skills Or Soft Skills More Important To Be An Effective Leader? [2018]

[6] Harvard Business Review: 5 Ways to Become More Self-Aware [2015]

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