Are You the Complete Package?

When it comes to technical skills, you either have them or you get them. This years salary survey shows that theres demand for a broad range of skills, many of which have been hot for several years (see our jobs report snapshots).

But what else makes for a great IT hire? In their continual struggle to align IT with the business, IT executives say theyre increasingly looking for staffers who have, in addition to technical chops, solid business acumen and so-called soft skills, like strong communication and listening abilities.

Computerworlds most recent hiring and skills survey confirms that. Survey respondents said writing and public speaking are two of the most important soft skills they look for when hiring new employees.

Classes that teach technical skills are easy to find, but whats the best way to learn soft skills? Heres a look at nine skills employers are looking for, with IT executives and career experts advice on how to get them.

1. Writing ability. Communication skills are a requisite for IT workers, says Tom Casey, senior vice president and architect of the workforce transformation practice at BSG Concours, a Kingwood, Texas-based consultancy. Many community colleges and online universities offer continuing education courses on business writing, says Robert Keefe, incoming president of the Society for Information Management (SIM) and senior vice president and CIO at Mueller Water Products Inc. in Atlanta.

2. An understanding of business-process mapping and tools. If theres one group in the company that needs to excel at process mapping, its the IT group, says John Roulat, vice president of IT at Carl Zeiss Inc., a Thornwood, N.Y.-based medical technology manufacturer.

Although flowcharts can be used, swim charts, which offer a visual depiction of how business processes flow across functional areas, are very effective, he says. Roulat says there are books galore on the subject, but he recommends bringing in consultants to train IT workers on how to use swim charts.

3. An aptitude for public speaking. They may be a throwback to the 1960s, but Toastmasters International clubs can help IT workers refine their public speaking skills and get past their jitters. Also, SIMs Regional Leadership Forum can help up-and-coming IT professionals polish their leadership skills, including their speaking ability, says Keefe.

4. An understanding of accounting. Universities, training firms and even professional organizations such as Omicron, an Atlanta-based consortium of IT associations, offer courses in accounting and financial principles. Alternatively, in-house financial experts from a companys accounting or finance department can offer tutorials to IT professionals, says Roulat.

These skills are a great start, but most IT managers want to see even more in their potential hires. Hiring managers say they also look for attributes like entrepreneurism, intellectual curiosity and traits like these:

5. The ability to work well with a team. Anyone can muscle their way through an already overburdened IT group, says Roulat. But a person who is able to gain consensus and sell an idea not only gets the job done, but makes the group stronger, he adds. Still, its not easy identifying and finding people with these traits. You have to see how they do in the field, he says.

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