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By Ellen M. Raineri, PhD, Adjunct Faculty, Kaplan UniversityCareer opportunities for IT professionals are expected to keep growing.* However, my students are often surprised to hear that they’ll need more than just technical expertise if they want to be truly successful in the field. Also important is the need for strong communication skills.It is understandable that this advice tends to provoke such incredulity. In the past, nearly all businesses were willing to let their IT workers function independently—giving birth to the archetypal lone wolf IT professional. Today, it’s a much different story. That’s because IT now touches all aspects of an organization, with every employee—regardless of rank or department—inevitably coming into contact with a program, computer, or system managed by the IT team.I know this from personal experience. While I am a professor of both management and IT, I am also an entrepreneur who has witnessed these sorts of changes firsthand. When I am interviewing potential hires, I naturally look for a strong knowledge base. I’m also cognizant of whether a candidate is a good writer and is able to communicate with different personalities.Strong communication skills are often what differentiate the most successful IT professionals from their peers. An IT worker might have an advanced understanding of application development and network engineering; equally important is whether he or she is able to translate that knowledge into terminology that users can comprehend in a way that doesn’t make them feel inferior.Today’s highly collaborative economic landscape requires IT professionals to correspond directly with outside vendors, colleagues from other departments, members of the C-suite, and leadership teams. In these sorts of situations, strong writing and presentation skills are essential. Sending an email that is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors to a customer is not going to elicit confidence—nor is fumbling in a presentation you have to make to your company’s chief technology officer.You don’t have to take my word for it. Just spend a few minutes scanning job listings at any companies that would be of interest. Consider Apple, for instance, who lists “the ability to communicate effectively” in nearly all of its job postings. This isn’t unique to the world’s largest technology company. According to the consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, writing and communication skills rank among the most sought-after by employers across a broad range of industries.“Even if you pursue a profession that is desperate for workers, a lack of fundamental written and verbal communication skills will significantly reduce the chances of being considered, let alone hired,” according to CEO John Challenger.Though not everyone is born a great speaker or a naturally gifted writer, plenty of courses are available to students and IT professionals who want to improve in these areas. Students are required to record their responses to discussion questions created by the course designer, and I am careful when grading assignments to identify grammatical and APA errors so my students are aware of mistakes they’re making. I also encourage both my students and my employees to enroll in classes that can help them hone their presentation, writing, and speaking skills. Succeeding in IT is dependent on a number of factors. Aspiring professionals must utilize a good work ethic, continually advance their education, and research the latest technologies and trends. In a sector teeming with talented and brilliant people, having strong written and verbal skills is a competitive advantage, particularly for anyone who hopes to rise to the top of the IT world.
Ellen M. Raineri is an adjunct faculty member at Kaplan University.
Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
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If you are interested in other career insights, we invite you to take a look at some more articles on Kaplan University's Career Moves page.
And if you are considering an Information Technology degree we invite you to find out more about our School of Business and Information Technology and explore Kaplan University's undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.
It is important to note that certain career paths are growing and our degrees are designed to strengthen your knowledge and prepare our students to advance their careers. But Kaplan University cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. Several factors specific to a student's or alumni's backgrounds and actions, as well as economic and job conditions, affect employment. Also, keep in mind that national long-term projections covered in articles may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
It's equally important to note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics found a direct correlation between unemployment rates and educational attainment. Those in the job market with a degree are less likely to be unemployed and those with a graduate degree have the lowest unemployment rates in the market.
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