Soft skills are becoming more and more decisive in the IT world, which traditionally valued technical or hard skills above all others. That made sense when IT departments were siloed from other areas of activity and seldom involved in everyday business decisions. But today, technology permeates all layers of our society and is integral to the success of most companies.
As a result, IT consultants now more than ever need to possess a series of complementary traits to stand out among their peers, work more effectively with others and secure the best contracts. We take a look at the top 5 skills one should cultivate to thrive in IT consulting.
One of the key qualities for consultants in any field is their entrepreneurial drive. Consultants need to be proactive in their efforts to find new projects and clients to work with. They should be able to identify and outline a career path, to find a niche suitable to their capabilities and where they can shine. New business development know-how is also important, as consultants must stay on the lookout for contract opportunities and foster professional relationships that will lead to them.
At the same time, this very same proactiveness is one of the main reasons employers seek the help of consultants in the first place. They want an expert that can operate autonomously and bring in a new perspective to a particular problem – which brings us to the next point.
Also referred to as problem-solving, the ability to approach scenarios with an open mind is very advantageous in fields like IT, in which the best path forward is not always obvious. Lateral thinking is one of the principles upon which innovation is built.
Making the most of the resources available to you is critical when time is of the essence and the map uncharted. If you like riddles and logic puzzles, you are on the right track.
Jumping from one project to the other requires flexibility. The best IT consultants are all-terrain experts capable of succeeding across different teams and industries. They can adapt to different company cultures and ways of working, as well as to the various IT infrastructures and development environments of the modern enterprise.
Furthermore, technology and businesses are constantly evolving, and consultants must update their skillset and knowledge accordingly if they want to stay relevant.
Adaptability is closely tied to the ability to work collaboratively. IT consultants not only need to interact effectively with other engineers and managers; they also must engage with other stakeholders – like decision-makers and end users — who might not be proficient in certain technologies or jargon. A good consultant can communicate problems, solutions and needs in a clear and plain manner that everyone will understand.
On the other hand, possessing good interpersonal skills helps consultants better integrate into company teams. When you are brought into a pre-existing project, it is very important to be able to connect with other employees to both have a better experience and make sure all those involved are aware of the added value you are delivering.
From a business development perspective, social skills can greatly help in your networking efforts to find contracts.
Just as importantly, a good consultant should keep a hungry mind. The curiosity to learn new things, whether they are related to your area of expertise or to a specific business domain, is the engine that propels professional and personal development forward. Ask questions – to yourself and to others. Scratch the surface and always try to go the extra mile.
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