Why your IT degree alone isn’t enough

From a penchant for problem solving to the ability to communicate effectively, there are a range of ‘soft skills’ that recruiters will expect you to possess.
Jaymes Carr
Jaymes Carr
Team GradAustralia
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Computer science and software engineering degrees are extremely hard, and completing one is an accomplishment of which you can be justifiably proud. So it may come as a shock to learn that your degree isn’t guaranteed to get you a job in IT. That is, not unless you can demonstrate that you have the ‘soft skills’ so many recruiters are eager to identify in prospective employees. Read on to learn more about what those skills are, and how you can show you’ve got them.

Communication skills

In shows like ‘The IT Crowd’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory’, IT professionals are unfairly depicted as introverts for whom direct communication is an unnecessary intrusion. In fact, well-developed communication skills are indispensable for IT workers, who often have to explain the importance of what they do to colleagues and clients who mightn’t have specific technical expertise.

Demonstrate your communication skills by:

  • Keeping your verbal and written communication clear, concise and confident.
  • Showing that you understand your audience and can tailor your communication to them.
  • Listening to and considering the views of others.
  • Thinking before you speak.

Planning and organisation skills 

The IT sector is a project-focused industry, so good planning and organisation skills are essential for success. Graduates are frequently require to manage tasks across multiple projects with different deadlines and competing priorities. With effective planning, they can accomplish this while also anticipating any challenges and transforming them into positive opportunities.

Demonstrate your planning and organisation skills by:

  • Showing that you can structure a task or project.
  • Supply examples of past projects that you’ve successfully managed.
  • Explaining how you manage an activity and allocate time to individual tasks.
  • Describing how you anticipate and address challenges.

Drive and motivation 

According to the proverb, a pack can only move as fast as its slowest horse - and that’s not who you want to be. Recruiters instead look for graduates who will help advance their team’s objectives by approaching new problems with drive, motivation and a positive ‘can-do’ attitude. Unsurprisingly, one of the best ways to show that you have this soft skill is by discussing a time when you’ve overcome an unexpected obstacle with a combination of intellectual curiosity and resolve.

Demonstrate your drive, motivation and enthusiasm by:

  • Showing you have the determination to achieve a desired result.
  • Proving that you can maintain your optimism and enthusiasm even when things get tough.
  • Providing evidence that you can bounce back from any setbacks.
  • Choosing jobs that excite you.

Problem-solving 

The people who succeed in IT are often those who have the ability to approach problems in a constructive and systematic way, identifying root causes, gathering relevant information and generating appropriate solutions in a timely manner. Of course, problem-solving goes beyond addressing technical issues. You may also need to streamline existing processes to increase efficiency, brainstorm ways to improve a product or contribute your insights to discussions of complex business challenges.

Demonstrate your problem-solving skills by:

  • Approaching problems in a logical, creative and goal-oriented way.
  • Showcasing your ability to view problems from a number of angles.
  • Providing that you can anticipate potential pitfalls and prevent them happening.

Teamwork 

Teamwork is essential for sharing knowledge, building relationships and supporting colleagues. It requires you to develop interpersonal and leadership skills so that you can guide and respond appropriately to others, adapting your personal style to achieve desired results.

Demonstrate your teamwork skills by:

  • Showing that you can build and maintain positive working relationships.
  • Describing how you share information, support colleagues and show respect for alternative views.
  • Discussing how you have kept projects on track to by working tactfully and co-operatively with others.