Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: soft skills

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

Find More IT Jobs by Improving These Soft Skills

We talk a lot about the soft skills IT contractors need in order to succeed on gigs. Unless you’re exceptionally one-of-a-kind in your field, you can’t get away with just your programming skills or project management experience — you can only truly stand-out with the proper soft skills.

Today’s digital economy demands more than just a great education. In this video from Entrepreneur, leading scholar Ernest Wilson discusses a recent study he led. They interviewed managers from all industries to learn what they look for when hiring, and discovered that it’s beyond an impressive degree. Wilson summed up 5 in-demand, undersupplied soft skills that top companies are seeking.

Balancing Hard and Soft Skills in Project Management

In its simplest form, a Project Manager’s job is to ensure a project is completed successfully. In more complex terms, it includes managing countless aspects from people to budgets to timelines.

You don’t always need the title of Project Manager to be responsible for the completion of a project. Independent contractors are often brought into lead a specific task due to their niche skillset, and naturally end up taking on these responsibilities.

As the infographic below from Brandeis University shows, projects fail for any number of reasons. And, if you read further down, it implies that the root of these failures is lack of specific skills, both hard and soft. The infographic goes on to explain that most people excel at only one type of skill and need to work to develop the other.

Thankfully, this helpful infographic goes further to provide tips and tricks on how you can improve your hard and soft project management skills. If you’re in the profession, or a subject matter expert who gets pulled into leading projects, have a look and see how you can improve on your skills.

2016 in Review: The Softer Skills of Work

2016 in Review: The Softer Skills of WorkYesterday we shared some of 2016’s top articles and tools about training and development so you can start setting your technical skills development goals this year. While these skills make it so you can successfully complete a project, recruiters and clients alike are looking for more than your abilities. They want to know how personable you are and how advanced your “soft skills” are.

How important is it to keep these skills refreshed? Every member of Eagle’s Executive Team touched on it in 2016:

These skills include everything from basic workplace etiquette…

…to proper communication in various situations.

Finally, and possibly most importantly for a busy IT contractor, is time management. Everybody can always improve in this area, so we encourage you to check out at least one of these posts:

Develop This One Skill that Appears in 9 out of 10 Postings for the Most In-Demand Jobs

By Elizabeth Bromstein at Workopolis
This article originally appeared in the Workopolis Career Resources Blog

How many conversations have you had today? How many TV shows have you watched or podcasts have you heard? Now, how much of what you heard do you remember? How much did you actually listen?

Man and woman having a conversationI know I have a problem listening a lot of the time. I “listen” to podcasts on my way to and from work but can’t even remember what they were about the following day. I forget to listen to my husband when he speaks. I lose track of what people are saying when I interview them. We all do these things, though some of us are worse than others. I don’t think I’m actually that bad, but I’m not the best. I could be better. We all could.

Here’s the thing about listening: it is crucial to your career success. We know that “people skills” are for employers by far the most desired attributes in potential hires, and that listening is one of the most important people skills. We also know that “active listening” was listed as a critical skill for 9 out of 10 of the most in-demand jobs in a recent report. You must have listening skills.

If I were talking, you’d have tuned out already wouldn’t you?

We are losing our ability to listen, according to sound consultant Julian Treasure, who says we spend roughly 60% of our communication time listening but that we retain just 25% of what we hear. He says in a Ted talk that this is happening for several reasons, among them the noise levels to which we’re constantly subjected, the way information is expected to be presented in sound-bytes, and the rise of recording technology (I, for example, often find myself multi-tasking while interviewing people, and forgetting to pay attention to what they’re saying because I can just listen to the recording later).

“The premium on accurate and careful listening has simply disappeared,” he says.

In that talk Treasure also shares 5 exercises and tools you can use to improve your own conscious listening. These are:

  1. Silence
    “Just three minutes a day of silence is a wonderful exercise to reset your ears and to recalibrate so that you can hear the quiet again. If you can’t get silence go for quiet. That’s absolutely fine.”
  2. Something Treasure calls “The mixer”
    If you are in a noisy environment where sound is coming from all directions, listen for how many distinct channels of sounds you can hear. I do this for fun by listening for specific instruments in musical recordings. Symphonies are good.
  3. Something Treasure calls “savouring”
    This means “enjoying mundane sounds.” For an example, he shows how he turns the sound of his clothes dryer into a waltz.
  4. Listening positions
    This is “the idea that you can move your listening position to what’s appropriate to what you’re listening to.” I had some trouble grasping this one but he means that there are many different “positions” from which we listen: active, passive, expansive, reductive, judgmental. Treasure suggests playing with these “positions.” More on that here and in the Ted talk posted below.
  5. RASA
    It’s apparently the Sanskrit word for “juice” or “essence,” and an acronym for Receive (take in what you’re hearing),Appreciate (make listening noises like mmm hmmm), Summarize (recap with “so…”), Ask (ask questions).

Treasure says he believes that “every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully.” That’s a beautiful thought. And it will help you get a job, which is also nice.

3 Attributes for a Job: Experience, Skills, Attitude

There are basically three things you bring to a team and project when you start a new Woman searching for a job onlinecontract: skills, experience and attitude. By improving each of them, you can secure great references from clients and impress during interviews which will significantly increase your chances of scoring your next contract .

You can’t do much about your experience, but you can do a couple of things to enhance it…

  1. add to your experience through charitable/volunteer work;
  2. put your experience in its best light highlighting how it can benefit an employer.

In order to get a job you need to stand out from the other candidates. Remember it doesn’t matter how many people are looking for a job, you only need one!  You can differentiate based on skills and most definitely on attitude!

SKILLS:

What can you do to add to your skills?

(i)      Take some courses;
(ii)    Get an unpaid job (intern) that gives you new skills;
(iii)   Do some self-learning online.

If your skills are too generic, can you consider going back to school and starting a new career?

ATTITUDE:

This is THE number one way to differentiate from everyone else but to truly take advantage of it you need to really buy in to your new attitude.  It is not enough to say the words, you need to live and breathe it.

  • Recognise that your job is an important part of your world so be truly grateful that you have it no matter what the job is!
  • Do everything you can to be a great contractor.  Even if it’s not your ideal contract, do it better than anyone else would and with a smile on your face. You can find a better contract after this one’s over.
  • Refrain from telling a client “that’s not my job.”  Add value by helping out on other projects and mentoring other contractors or employees when possible.
  • Dress for success take pride in yourself.  Take your cues from those around you but always try to dress at the upper range of your peers. If you’re in a casual environment where jeans and a t-shirt are acceptable, always wear presentable and clean jeans, a collared t-shirt, and nothing inappropriate.
  • Go the extra mile. Putting in a little extra time when it’s needed can make a huge impression.
  • Adopt a positive attitude. You have a job, your health, live in a great country etc.  Don’t get dragged down by negativity.
  • The world is full of people that expect the world to cater to them they expected their parents to give them “stuff”, they expect their government to provide them with “stuff”, they expect their client to pay them while they give as little as possible back!   You can beat them to the jobs every time, IF you can demonstrate a positive ATTITUDE.

How do you differentiate yourself to clients and recruiters?  Do you do anything extra that you believe has led to success?  Share your tips and help other contractors across Canada find opportunities too!

4 Non-Technical Skills You Should Improve Today

Time and again, our Recruiters come across people who are technically good at their jobs, but their personality, their attitude, their communication skills, their motivation and any number of other attributes actually make them undesirable as contractors.

We are all responsible for our own career and if you focus all of your efforts on the “technical” aspects of your job then you may limit your contract opportunities. It is equally important to develop the soft skills that will help you to integrate well, that will make you more personable with the client, and that will position you for an extension or referral.

Here are a few examples of some non-technical skills and why you should improve them:

Communication:  There are countless reasons why you need to make communication a top priority. Primarily, in order to be a contributing member of any organization or project team, you need the ability to communicate your ideas effectively, in both spoken and written form.   You’ll also have the upper hand competing for contracts if you’re great at selling yourself to a recruiter!

Negotiation:  Whether discussing rates or working with a client, you need the ability to business deal - 3d illustrationnegotiate effectively.  It’s also important to know when to press your point and when to “get on board”, otherwise, you may come off as stubborn, arrogant or closed-minded.

Business: To really understand your client’s project, you need to be able to think about their “business” as a business person, not just from the technical seat you occupy.  Understanding business basics is a very valuable asset.

Interpersonal Skills:  Eagle Recruiters love the fact that they get to meet so many interesting people.  Unfortunately, they’ve also met many contractors who simply lack interpersonal skills. If you want to build relationships with your clients, colleagues and in the industry, you need the interpersonal skills to navigate these relationships at various levels.

Do not underestimate the value of EQ versus IQ — it can be the difference between a long and rewarding career and “something else”! The reality is that there are many, many people who are excellent technically (maybe even brilliant) but they are undone by those important soft skills they do not possess.

All of the skills above can develop over time if you pay attention, recognize their importance and work on them.  What other skills would you add to the list?  Let us know in the comments below.