You can't build a brick wall without any bricks. You could say that bricks are the most essential element of brick wall building. Along those same lines, you can't build a career in IT without actual IT knowledge and skills. If you intend to get a cloud computing job, for example, then you have to invest the time, energy and study required to learn what cloud computing is and how it works. On the other hand, even if you know cloud computing backward and forward, that knowledge alone may not be enough to keep you employed, or even get you hired in the first place.
Let's go back to the brick wall analogy for a moment. You might have enough bricks to build a wall 20 feet tall, but the wall won't stand up to much if the bricks aren't bonded in place by mortar. It's the mortar between each brick that makes the wall both strong and durable. So if your actual IT know-how is like bricks, what's the mortar in the brick wall of your successful IT career? What holds everything in place and provides reliability and staying power? One key element is what are often called "soft" skills. Can you relate to other people? Do you have good work habits? Can you be a strong participant on a workplace team?
There's not a soft skills certification, but making yourself stand out in this regard can be a game changer for your IT career. And if you know what to look for, you can pick up soft skills here, there and everywhere, beginning by identifying successful people in your immediate social and workplace circles and watching how they interact with others. Reading about successful people and organizations can also be instructive. For example, Joe Lacob, the majority owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors, was featured in a recent New York Times Magazine profile. Writer Bruce Schoenfeld said that Lacob rarely speaks up in corporate board meetings, but pays close attention to everything said by others. As Lacob explains in the article, "I'm a professional listener."
Listening is an excellent soft skill. If you don't already have the habit of actually focusing on other people when they speak — particularly in any formal workplace setting — listening to what they say, and offering thoughtful feedback, then you now have something to work on. You can't have an actual IT career in the first place without "hard" skills like programming, or database management. But your career will only flourish and endure if you also develop soft skills. Don't forget the mortar in your brick wall!
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