3 Skills Every IT Professional Needs To Stand Out
When you think of your job as an IT professional, what required skills usually come to mind? Most in the IT business would answer that an understanding of computers and their processes is essential for the job (and rightly so). But do soft skills such as listening, networking, and training come to mind? If not, read on to find out why they should. You might be surprised!
While most of your work will likely be relegated to computers, it's important to remember that every project you work on will likely involve human interaction to some extent. This is where your listening skills come in handy.
Think of that one client that always has an issue with their network. While it would be easy to assume you know what the problem is based on what your client tells you, it's vitally important to be able to pick up on what they're not telling you. This can only be achieved by listening to what your client has to say. They may be describing the same issue to you (again), but this time they casually mention that their system hasn't been working properly since a major thunderstorm passed through their area. This is just the clue you need to be able to follow up with the question, “Did you have a power outage during that storm?” Their system may need a quick reset because of the outage, and if you weren't listening, you could've spent hours of your precious time (and your client's billable hours) trying to fix a minor problem.
The social kind, that is. Networking is an often overlooked tool in the business world but, if done properly, could easily be the biggest tool in your arsenal. In fact, Business Network International (better known as BNI), estimates that the usual member in their networking organization has averaged $37,000 worth of business in the past 12 months, all due to networking. (It's worth noting that BNI is a membership-based organization, but the message here is that networking of any kind is likely to get you more business than no networking at all.) If that's not enough to get you to start networking, think about this: building a network of strong, reliable business contacts could save you from having to turn down a major job just because you don't have the time, manpower, or expertise to complete it.
Picture it: you've just received a call from one of the larger hospitals in your area and the computers at the nurses station on the 2nd floor have all gone down and the hospital needs you right away. You know you have expertise in system interfaces, but it sounds like the problem may also be an electrical one. You may not have electrical skills, but if you've networked properly (i.e., created relationships with people who have IT-related skills that you lack), a quick call to one of your contacts could solve that problem. By bringing your contact into the job, they can offer you the benefit of their knowledge, they gain some revenue, and you gain points with the client because you didn't leave them the chore of having to find an additional person to take of their secondary issue. That's a win for everyone!
Although technically not a skill, it's worth mentioning. As an IT pro, you know better than anyone that technology changes faster than most people can keep up with. It should be a requirement that you (as well as your entire staff, if you have any) keep up with technology as it comes along. Yes, everyone.
This includes the people who answer your phone, manage your social media, and answer your emails. Because they are often the gatekeeper between your business and its clients, they should also be kept in the loop about new technologies and how they fit into the services you offer. Moreover, the company should provide corporate sales training or negotiation training to those who have to work directly with clients on a daily basis.
Imagine for a moment that you trained all of your IT staff to handle the latest technology that came out and they are well-versed and able to accurately address any issues that come along for your clients. Imagine again that you failed to keep your office staff up-to-date on this training and a potential client calls wanting to know if you can fix the issue his company is having. If you are able to gain this person as a client, the job is worth $10,000. Since your office staff has never heard of that issue before, they sound unsure and timid on the phone, leaving the potential client questioning your abilities as an IT professional and reluctant to hire you. As you can see, the cost of losing a new client because of improperly-trained staff far exceeds the cost of training them.
While these skills aren't the traditional skills you'd think of when it comes to being an IT professional, they are important nonetheless. If you employ just one of these skills in your business in the coming months, you're sure to be able to do something for your clients that your competitors can't: bring value to the money they spend.