Tech & Work

10 surprising skills that will give IT job seekers the edge

The job picture for IT workers has changed considerably, thanks to new technologies and shifts in business processes and priorities. This list of in-demand skills may surprise you.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/monkeybusinessimages

Companies around the world are engaged in a fierce fight for talent. Especially in IT, the growth of new disciplines like big data, a need to understand the business and to be malleable in the face of change, and the impending retirement of legions of highly skilled baby boomers are presenting companies with unique IT hiring challenges. This is forcing companies to reevaluate what they look for in IT job candidates. Here are 10 emerging skills and qualities companies are looking for.

1: Librarian expertise

Yes, you heard right. As big data takes off, the ability to aggregate data and look at it in unique ways to get to the bottom of the information is becoming extremely important. This is where a background in library science can be a plus. The right kind of librarian can become an excellent big data analyst and researcher.

2: Musical talent

Since early studies in the 1980s showed positive correlations between musical aptitude and software programming, companies have looked for new IT hires with diverse backgrounds that included training in music. Music (like programming) can be a highly mathematical and logical exercise.

3: Strong written and oral skills

More IT'ers are being asked to get into the business and explain the value of what they are doing in plain English. This includes daily discussions with end users and managers and even formal presentations to management.

4: Creative problem solving

Most companies have solved many of their traditional problems. Now they're focused on developing innovative solutions that address new and persistent issues they haven't been able to get their arms around. Technology and IT are key enablers for problem resolution — so companies want new hires who can think beyond the box and come up with fresh approaches.

5: Foreign language skills

Many of today's companies have a global footprint, with offices around the world. Job candidates in all fields (including IT) who are able to interact in multiple languages are highly sought.

6: Mainframe skills

Despite the mantra that the "mainframe is dead," which started in the 1990s, more than 60% of the world's enterprise transactions are being processed on mainframes. For speed and reliability, mainframes remain "best in class." Large enterprises and universities around the world realize this and concern is growing over the so-called "mainframe brain drain." With many baby boomers thinking about retiring, a growing number of colleges and universities worldwide now teach mainframe technology in their IT curricula. Many report that the job placement of graduates from their mainframe programs is close to 100%.

7: Skills in voice-based applications

The rift between the "phone department" and IT network and applications departments still exists in IT. This isn't what most IT strategists want to see continue, especially with voice apps beginning to assume major roles in operations like warehousing and distribution so workers can work hands-free. However, to capitalize on voice, companies need IT workers who can understand and write voice-based applications.

8: A can-do attitude

Can-do attitudes never go out of style, but they are often forgotten when "top IT hiring needs" lists are compiled. However, this quality is always tested in the interview process because IT is an ever-changing area and it is constantly being asked to solve difficult problems. Job candidates who exude that "there's always a way" attitude will get an affirmative nod from employers.

9: Negotiation skills

IT professionals must work with a variety of users internally in the company as well as with outside vendors. Gone are the days when IT told everyone what it was going to do and then retreated into its glass house. Today's top IT professionals know how to give and take with co-workers and partners. They can form strong working relationships and find ways to make projects a success for everyone. Individuals who can broker this kind of cooperation are exactly who employers are seeking.

10: Coolness under pressure

IT is one of the most pressure-packed areas of the company. This constant pressure can create the potential for burnouts and meltdowns. Consequently, employers tend to look for IT job candidates who can remain calm and poised under pressure.

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Other skills?

What additional skills and traits would you add to this list? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.


About Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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