By Carrie Dagenhard (Tech Writer)
What current IT skills do you need to earn promotions and score your dream job? Here are the top five skills you need to help you climb the career ladder today.
Last year was tumultuous for many reasons, but for IT professionals the curveballs were seemingly endless. Not only is business tech continuing to advance at breakneck speeds, requiring you to constantly up-level your knowledge and skills, but IT teams across the world also spent much of last year supporting workforces as they adjusted to a fully remote environment. Often, this meant creating systems, processes, and budget line items where none existed before.
But, my friend, it’s time to pat yourself on the back because you did it. You survived one of the most challenging years in modern history. And now you’re ready to enjoy the fruit of all that exhausting labor by advancing your IT career.
If you’re looking to climb a few rungs on the career ladder, here are five critical (and somewhat surprising) in-demand IT skills to build:
We’re cheating a bit here because leadership isn’t just one skill — it’s dozens. An effective leader is a self-motivator capable of motivating others. They’re good at communicating, owning (and fixing) their mistakes, and rallying a team around a common goal. And as IT grows and roles evolve, people with tech and leadership skills are quickly becoming the most sought after hires.
But you don’t have to be a team lead to exercise these proficiencies. You can practice by helping solve issues without being asked, offering to mentor newer hires, and letting your manager know when you’re ready for more responsibility.
The chaos of the pandemic has created a field day for cybercriminals. Global losses from cybercrime reached nearly $1 trillion in 2020, according to data from McAfee, and 2021 doesn’t look much better. To make matters worse, the IT skills gap is growing, and it’s especially wide in the cybersecurity space.
One of the best things you can do for your career is enhance your security knowledge. There are dozens of certifications available across a wide range of price points. And, in some cases, your employer may be willing to foot the bill. After all, your expertise is their gain.
AI and machine learning (ML) are among the fastest-growing technology verticals fueling automation in nearly every industry. In fact, AI alone is expected to create 133 million jobs in the next four years, according to the World Economic Forum.
Learning or up-leveling your natural language processing (NLP), Java, Python, and TensorFlow fluency will help prepare you for the deluge of ML demand. And even if you’re not interested in pivoting into research and development, understanding how AI and ML programs are built will help ensure you’re able to support their presence in your IT environment.
Last year, all communication became digital communication — and businesses quickly learned that, although many teams have relied on tech to facilitate communication for decades, not everyone is a gifted digital communicator. Those who communicate effectively have an opportunity to stand out.
It takes a certain amount of empathy, thoughtfulness, and attention to craft messages that are concise, use the right tone, and leave the recipient with the right impression. People often overcomplicate their explanations and confuse the other party, or they’re too terse, which can come off as cold and impersonal.
You can improve your digital communication skills by using the right punctuation, language, and even emojis to infuse emotion into your messages. When you can engage people on an emotional level, they’re more likely to remember what you say.
Of course, even with the appropriate skills, you still need to have the right tools in place — and championing powerful project management software can help you excel in this area, too.
Unless you’ve been asleep for the past year, this one is pretty self-explanatory. As an IT pro, you’re no stranger to stressful situations — but add a global pandemic to your typical day-to-day work stress and, some days, it seems impossible to manage. And while current stressors may fade, there will always be pressures, headaches, and challenges to endure.
One of the best gifts you can give yourself is stress management skills. Learning how to ease your tensions and maintain control over your emotions will help make sure you’re ready to tackle whatever problem work throws your way. Keeping a cool head will also help you stand out when your organization is seeking emotionally intelligent people for management positions.
2021 is bound to be another year of rapid change, uncertainty, and unforeseen challenges — but it’s also a year of potential. By taking time to focus on building these essential IT skills, you’ll be well-poised for a promotion or another opportunity to grow inside or outside your current organization.