Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: soft skills

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to soft skills.

IT Managers Want to Hire Critical Thinkers. Here’s How You Can Improve.

Critical thinking is a person’s ability to carefully and objectively think through a subject and eliminate personal feelings or opinions to arrive at a final decision. A great critical thinker not only systematically processes information to make rational, logical decisions, but they also fully understand a situation. It is an art of making logical connections between ideas and approaching a situation to get the best possible conclusion.

Many studies have been done about critical thinkers to determine what kind of people are most likely to excel in the area and there are a number of characteristics some argue which are shared among the best. We would argue that anybody can take their critical thinking to the next level and, for IT contractors, it is an absolute must if you want to remain competitive and best serve your clients.

Why Critical Thinking is Important for IT Contractors

Obviously, the ability to make tough decisions based on fact is a valuable skill for any leader. If you don’t plan on leading and are happy working as a team member, you still can’t overlook developing this ability. Critical thinking will help you evaluate situations, get your point across during a discussion (or argument), and develop the most effective solutions for clients. A strong critical thinker is also less likely to get manipulated, whether it be by a colleague, client or unethical recruiter (unfortunately, they are out there).

Most importantly, leading organizations are continually re-evaluating their job requirements and many soft skills — including critical thinking — are topping the list. In Deloitte’s 2019 Industry 4.0 readiness report, they surveyed 612 Technology, Media and Telecom (TMT) organizations, with a close look at a subset of the respondents who were considered “high innovators”. Those companies said that the number one skill they’re trying to develop isn’t technical skills, but instead Critical Thinking skills. They believe that human skills like judgement and critical thinking are unique to humans, can’t be replaced by robots, and are essential for interpretation and final decision making.

IT Managers Want to Hire Critical Thinkers. Here's How You Can Improve.

How You Can Improve Your Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a hot topic that has been flooding the internet for years. We’d be absolutely shocked if this is the first post you’ve read about it and can guarantee it will not be your last. When looking for resources to improve, start with the low-hanging fruit. Explore the thousands of online articles, TED Talks, and books that  already exist to find something that works for you.

Here are just a few simple tips to get you started today:

  • Ask yourself the basic questions you may not have specifically answered yet. What are you trying to accomplish? What do you already know? Why is this an issue? In other words, make sure you truly understand the situation.
  • Know yourself and, more importantly, your cognitive biases that will affect your decisions (this is much more difficult than it sounds)
  • Understand any assumptions that are being made, and then question them. Are they still true or relevant?
  • Approach situations from different angles and with different mediums. For example, if you’ve only been discussing it, try writing it down or drawing a diagram.
  • Get other people’s point of view. Whether it’s talking to somebody you know or reading up on the topic (amateurs on online forums or published authors will all do).

As an IT contractor, improving your critical thinking will go beyond just serving your clients. It will also help you formalize your entire contracting plan and know which technology contracts to go after and staffing agencies to work with. You are also more likely to excel at tough job interview questions and impress recruiters. How are you improving your critical thinking?

Quick Poll Results: What Soft Skills Will IT Contractors Improve?

Personal and professional development should be on everybody’s mind. Self-improvement is the best way to fast-track your career, gain fantastic references, and start applying to high-paying contracts without having to build as many years of experience. According to an article published by LinkedIn earlier this year, listing the most in-demand skills, there are over 50,000 professional skills in the world. It’s impossible to know where to start!

That same article summarized the top 5 soft skills that companies look for. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we asked our readers, of those top skills, which ones do they plan to improve over the course of the next year. It’s promising to see that 80% plan to work on some sort of skill and, given the tech world’s fast-pace environment, no surprise that adapability is the top goal.

Quick Poll Results: Which of the following in-demand soft skills do you plan on improving in the next year?

Invest in Building These Hard-to-Learn Skills

To invest in yourself is just as important as any financial investment for your future. For both personal growth and career success, there is no telling how far you can go if you take the time to invest in yourself. Check out this video by The Art of Improvement where they explain important skills that are hard to learn but will pay off in the long run, including:

  • Mental Toughness
  • Adaptability
  • Silencing your inner critic
  • Learning to say “NO”
  • Critical Thinking
  • Emotional Intelligence

This doesn’t just apply to IT contractors! Send this to anyone you think needs that push to invest in themselves and help them see the potential that you see in them.

Contractor Quick Poll: Which soft skills will you improve?

At the start of the year, LinkedIn released a list of the most high-demand skills for 2019, based on data they collected on their social platform. The list includes both soft and technical skills. Given the range of IT contractors who follow the Talent Development Centre, the technical skills they list may or may not be relevant to you. The soft skills, however, are relevant to anybody who works with people (that’s you).

Nobody is great at everything and we can always improve ourselves. LinkedIn lists five soft skills that companies look for most: Creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we want to know where you fall short and intend to build. As we start the second half of 2019, which skill do you plan on improving?

2018 in Review: Personal and Professional Development

“New Year, New Me!” That’s the attitude people around the world are taking today as 2019 has officially kicked off. Of course, there’s no reason to be a completely brand new you if you’re generally happy with how things are going, and certainly you can improve on yourself any time.

Year-round, we share content for IT contractors to help them improve on themselves. Some posts relate to specific skills development and others suggest ways to improve soft skills. In the staffing industry, recruiters recognize time and again the importance of improving skills and updating your resume with new value-adds and differentiators. To help you succeed this year, here are the best posts about personal development that we shared in the past year…

Technical Skills

Softer Skills and Development

Which Skills to Learn First?

Soft Skills Research That May Surprise You

The greatest IT professionals — both contractors and full-time employees — are extremely skilled in their technical areas. Where the average professional is lost and confused with technology beyond MS Office, IT workers have an uncanny ability to create complex programs, fix the most confusing bugs, and organize data to provide intelligence that a business owner never thought was possible. Having these skills are the pillars to landing a lucrative tech gig, but as we’ve discussed many times in the Talent Development Centre, improving your soft skills will make you competitive in your search for IT jobs.

There are an unlimited number of soft skills out there that you can improve and deciding where to put your focus can be a daunting task. A recent contractor quick poll found that IT professionals want their co-workers to have good communication skills, emotional intelligence and time management. We also shared an infographic last year that gave more specific insight into what soft skills are most important for a Project Manager. For what should be a simple topic, when we dig into soft skills, it can easily get complicated.

Earlier this year, business consulting company West Monroe Partners conducted a study to answer questions about a soft skills gap in IT and what soft skills companies look for in technology candidates. You can download the complete report here, but if you’d prefer a good summary, InformationWeek summarized the top 10 findings:

  1. 98% of HR recruiters look for soft skills when hiring tech workers
  2. 81% of organizations ask business leaders to evaluate IT job candidates’ soft skills
  3. Most business leaders say IT pros’ soft skills are equal to or better than those of other departments
  4. Half of organizations use personality tests to assess soft skills
  5. Recruiters say IT job candidates are good at verbal communication
  6. HR recruiters say leadership is the least important skill for IT pros
  7. Organizations in NYC want flexibility and conflict resolution skills
  8. Older people want teamwork and flexibility; younger people want leadership and conflict resolution skills
  9. Male and female hiring managers look for the same soft skills
  10. Different industries have different soft skills requirements

What can we take from all of this? The good news is that if you’re part of the majority, your soft skills are exactly where they need to be! If you want to focus on something, flexibility and conflict resolution look to be the top priorities in IT hiring managers, where leadership is the least. It’s also worth keeping in mind that these priorities vary by industry.

2017 in Review: Being Awesome at Work

2017 in Review: Being Awesome at WorkWe frequently provide advice and tips for performing better at work. These softer skills may not be what brings your rate up, but they will be the differentiators that get you positive references and more likely to get you your next gig.

These posts are fantastic for time management…

And these will help you work better with and manage others…

Are there any other topics you’d like to see more of to help you improve soft skills and perform better on the job?

Are You Prepared with this One “Critical” Skill?

Some will say our post secondary institutions do a good job at preparing students for the world; however, there are critics including Freedom in Thought who believe some specific skills are not being taught, including critical thinking.

According to Freedom for Thought’s video, there are two types of thinkers — Critical Thinkers and Passive Thinkers — and it’s the critical thinkers who are most able to think rationally and succeed as a leader or teammate. Furthermore, the video argues that these thinkers are more creative and able to learn better.

IT contractors are constantly working in teams, leading others, and solving multiple problems, so critical thinking would naturally be a valuable skill in this field. Do you think you can improve yours?

Quick Poll Results: Soft Skills and Team Members

In last month’s Contractor Quick Poll, we asked Talent Development Centre readers about their co-workers. More specifically, what skills they most desire in a co-worker, aside from technical skills. The poll listed common soft skills and we asked which one you’d prefer people on your team to have, and the results were pretty clear.

While some people value emotional intelligence, time management and email etiquette, the majority of independent contractors want their IT team members to to have great communications skills. That’s something to keep in mind before you mumble your way through your next interview!

Contractor Quick Poll: Which soft skill in a team member is most important to you?

We want to work in a team full of competent IT professionals; it’s the most important factor in your project being completed successfully. But there are other elements that make a high performing team, especially their ability to work together.  Therefore, we must also consider the soft skills in team members.

Past Talent Development Centre posts defined the soft skills we believe are important. In this month’s Contractor Quick Poll, we want to know which one you believe is the most important when it comes to choosing your team.