While technical knowledge and ability are rightfully valued above all else in most IT jobs, real success requires something more than this. To advance in your career as a technical support specialist, you will need the requisite abilities to diagnose and solve technical problems, but you will also need a strong set of more subtle, often undervalued skills.
Unfortunately, while learning advanced concepts of data analysis or C# logging, professionals in all areas of technology often miss out on the importance of communication, motivation, dedication and all the other -ations that make up the vast set of characteristics known as soft skills. However, there is probably no other technology-related career where these skills are more important than in technical support. Exceptional soft skills are often what separates good IT professionals from great ones, and improving these could help you separate yourself from the pack and work towards significant career advancement.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills is a broad term that makes up a number of social, emotional, character and communication skills that enable people to effectively work well with others and achieve goals in the workplace. When combined with the hard skills that are commonly necessary to obtain and maintain a position, these are the more subtle characteristics that can make a person more appealing to prospective employers and more enjoyable to work with.
The Collins English Dictionary may have put it best, defining soft skills as: desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge; they include common sense, the ability to deal with people and a positive flexible attitude.
1. Common Sense
While most soft skills can be acquired over time, it may not be possible to gain common sense. However, there are elements of this that can be improved including problem solving, critical thinking, time management and innovation. While these are all hot words to add to your resume or LinkedIn profile, it is necessary to actually work at improving them to have real success as a technical support specialist.
The common sense portion of soft skills would also include things that are generally associated with high character such as dedication, perseverance and motivation. These characteristics are beneficial to people in every profession, and they can be just as important in your personal life. Developing them takes a lot of time and effort, as well as a high level of self-awareness.
2. People Skills
This is what is generally thought of as the most common aspect of soft skills. The list of people skills necessary for success in any career is too long to list, but technical support specialists should be especially interested in traits such as respectfulness, patience and all forms of communication. Confidence and assertiveness are also important elements of career success, as well as teamwork and the ability to accept feedback.
3. Positive Flexible Attitude
While this may seem like the simplest aspect of quality soft skills, a positive attitude can also be the most difficult. If you are not a naturally optimistic, energetic person, there are no tricks or hacks that will turn you into Mr./Mrs. Sunshine overnight. However, just making an effort to be more positive is actually a huge step in doing so.
Also included here is flexibility, and this may be the most important soft skill for anyone in the fast-paced, ever-changing world of technology. You must be willing to adapt, learn new things, adjust on the fly and be flexible in your career, or you may soon find yourself obsolete.