One of the most valuable advantages I have as a recruiter is my diverse professional background, which has given me a broad understanding of the market and equipped me with a strong suite of skills that I utilise on a daily basis in my work. My experience has spanned everything from teaching to education management, to science, statistics and even a course in programming. When I finally arrived at Technology, Transformation & Digital recruitment, I’d developed a first-hand understanding of the important role that transferable and soft skills play in building a career, particularly one in the IT sector.
In recent years, there has been a significant shift in IT, and I’ve seen a lot more employers focussing on transferable skills when hiring for their teams. Though technical skills continue to be important, they can be taught – it’s soft skills that make candidates most desirable and guarantee that they’ll stand out in today’s market.
What IT Employers are Looking For
Traditional IT jobs are evolving. As new technologies are introduced and the industry shifts to accommodate them, existing roles are changing scope while new ones are being created – many of which go above and beyond the technical side of IT. This is where transferable skills come into play.
We’ve seen developers, who were once in a technical position behind a desk, become outward-facing project managers who liaise with stakeholders and handle resources. In the past, this would have been unheard of – but now employers are noticing the benefits of transferable skills in their workforce; it’s talents such as problem-solving, empathy and interpersonal skills that allow people to make those leaps in their career.
This is why employers are looking for IT professionals that they can invest in for the long term; when you have the soft skills to adapt to future business needs, you become more valuable over time.
With this in mind, IT recruiters will typically assess candidates’ transferable skills during the screening stage. Some of the top skills we look for (derived from Ross Clennett’s High Performance Key indicators) include:
- Communication – many IT teams are multi-cultural, so you must be able to interpret various accents and grammar, and be understanding of cultural differences.
- Commitment to the team – this is particularly valuable in contractors.
- Drive to achieve – the most desirable IT candidates are committed to continuous growth and success.
- Learning and coachability – this means being able to adapt to different projects and working environments.
- Problem-solving – this is a particularly important one as it’s often the ‘key’ that unlocks further soft skills. For example, a new graduate or international candidate may have to get used to New Zealand’s working culture, so it takes a lot of problem-solving to navigate the challenges of a new working environment before they can exhibit other qualities such as communication and coachability across these cultural barriers.
Problem-Solving is, in fact, the foundation upon which other skills can be developed and demonstrated. Actions and reactions depend on decision making through the ability to analyse the repercussions and solve problems. Consequently, the degree to which a person can foresee the impact of his/her problem-solving capability determines his/her success.
How to Build Transferable Skills
Transferable skills are hard to find and there is a shortage of IT professionals who have them, so if these skills are in your repertoire, you’ll stand out in the field. The good news is that if you do not already have them ingrained, it’s never too late to learn.
When it comes to building transferable skills, one of the key things that I make sure to tell my international applicants is this: the only way to learn about New Zealand’s unique style of communication is to start by gaining practical experience. To help you get a better understanding of how New Zealanders communicate with each other, try listening to the radio or reading the local newspaper. Another great option is to practice talking with native speakers in everyday scenarios, such as at a restaurant or a supermarket checkout – this will allow you to quickly get exposure to the lingo in different contexts.
Whether you’re a local or international candidate, it’s also important to put yourself out there by attending tech events, networking with other IT professionals or even joining informal meetups (signing up to meetup.com is a good place to start). All of this helps you to meet new people and practice adapting the way you communicate to different individuals – plus, you get the added benefit of building a network and picking up on market changes. It also gives you more insight into the kind of role/organisation you want to go into as a jobseeker.
Finally, one of the simplest ways to build transferable skills is to look for opportunities to get involved in new areas, such as by mentoring your peers, doing code reviews and offering to take on special projects – this will become valuable experience that you can bring into other roles.
The importance of soft and transferable skills cannot be overstated in today’s IT industry. As an IT and Transformation recruiter, I have seen the evolution in how companies value their candidates – more and more, employers are focussing on long-term solutions and finding people who can grow with their business. By utilising these top tips, you can harness your transferable skills and make sure You stand out in the talent pool
For more advice on increasing your employability or if you’re in search of a new IT job, feel free to get in touch with me.