Essential Guide

Successful career strategies for IT administrators

A comprehensive collection of articles, videos and more, hand-picked by our editors

Better communication skills can make or break your IT career success

IT pros know the technical aspects of their jobs, but what about the most important facet: people? Here's why better communication skills are a must.

It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day technical part of your job in IT. We've all done it. Something breaks,...

so we fix it. Someone needs help, so we guide them. But with all the interactions you have in IT with management and users, you're really in sales.

Think about it. Your ability to influence, persuade and befriend the important people around you has everything to do with how well you sell yourself and your ideas. Everything you accomplish or fail to accomplish in your IT career has to do with other people. As you develop better communication skills, that work will ultimately define your overall career success in IT.

The problem is that most of us in IT end up with little experience in terms of emotional intelligence. That is why we don't always understand how people and relationships work. We understand computers, networks and all of the technical things few people understand, but we don't understand what's most important: the people we need to help accomplish IT goals.

Better communication skills are the definitive tool for success in IT.

There's often a complete disconnect when IT professionals communicate with others. You've heard this saying at some point in your career: It's not just what you say, but it's how you say it. The one thing that isn't always obvious in our field is the difference between talking with someone and talking at someone. Doing the former builds relationships -- doing the latter tears them down.

I often see people who spend an enormous amount of energy week after week as they try to get people on board with IT initiatives. This raises the question: How's your approach working? Poor communication skills mean your ideas fall on deaf ears, and I'm convinced this is why we in IT struggle to get people on our side.

Communication, namely persuasion, is the absolute and ultimate measure of how effective you'll be in your IT work. Many people working in IT have a fear of failing and being judged poorly in the eyes of the people they associate with. They set their own limits and wonder why IT has a bad reputation.

In IT, you have two options. You can be a persuasive communicator and get others on your side, or you can be passive and let other people provide direction. Working on your communication skills gives you the ability to influence others to behave in ways they otherwise wouldn't. Better communication skills are the definitive tool for success in IT.

You have to be willing to put forth the effort required to become a good communicator with your colleagues and with the people you help. If you're not, then it's probably not important enough to you. If that's the case, perhaps you're in the wrong line of work.

Being a good communicator who can have down-to-earth conversations with others is not a one-way street -- it's a two-way conversation. Do you want to gain the respect of your peers and ultimately excel in your IT career? If so, be prepared to do what it takes to be an outstanding communicator. It's a learnable skill -- you just have to choose to make it so.

About the author:
Kevin Beaver has worked for himself for more than 11 years as an information security consultant, expert witness and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. He specializes in performing independent security assessments revolving around information risk management and is the author and co-author of many books, including The Practical Guide to HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance and Hacking for Dummies.

This was last published in September 2013

PRO+

Content

Find more PRO+ content and other member only offers, here.

Essential Guide

Successful career strategies for IT administrators

Join the conversation

8 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

Not sure who in IT you interview for your stories, but in my experience, employers could care less of you can only grunt, spit, scratch your nads and have bad breath; they just want to know if you can code enough for them to make money from you.
Anything else is a surprise.
Cancel
It varies from company to company (doesn't it always) but if you want to survive, you need to be technically competent. If you want to thrive, you will need to hone your inner political animal, much as it pains me to say that. Also, it depends on what "success" looks like for you. If you want to have seniority and technical discretion, your hard skills are what matter. If you want to rise in the ranks, that's a people management game, and that is a totally different skill set to master.
Cancel
Great points, Michael. Thanks for your perspective. I've known so many people in IT over the years who, to quote AnonymousUser above, were grunters, spitters, nad scratchers with bad breath who were super technical, way smarter than me, and could work absolute wonders in their niche areas. However, no one took them all that seriously because of their people skills and they were doomed forever to "work for the man" - achieving the goals of someone else. No need to interview anyone to gain that insight but here's some new research highlighting the issue:
http://www.fiercecio.com/story/new-study-looks-epidemic-jerks-it/2015-02-19?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal

You're right, it depends on what "success" means to you. People have differing priorities, for sure. I saw a quote from CEO of FedEx, Fred Smith, recently that ties into this:
"You are the way you are because that's the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different, you would be in the process of changing right now."

In the end, it's whatever makes you happy.
Cancel
Unless you are just going to sit at a desk and blindly code all day you need communication skills. How else do you expect to develop an applications without input and feed back from the user? You need to be able to talk to the intelligently with out sounding condescending. You may have to talk superiors if you run into roadblocks and stall tactics if the user fells their job may be in jeopardy. You need to be articulate in order to show that you have the confidence in the quality of your work. If you cannot communicate well others may sense a lack of understanding and lose faith in what they are being told.  
Cancel
I've seen many smart, technically competent people with poor communication skills maintain stable careers in IT. However, the ones who become leaders and move up in the organization are those who are able to persuade and influence. If you're not a people person, you can certainly keep your head down and write code, but make no mistake; your management and your peers are taking note of your communications skills (or lack thereof). If "soft skills" aren't something that comes naturally to you, I think that it can still go a long way towards having others view you favorably if you simply observe and show awareness of the people and interactions going on around you.
Cancel
Well said, abuell.
Cancel
Unless you are just going to sit at a desk and blindly code all day you need communication skills both verbal and written. How else do you expect to develop your applications without getting input and feedback from the user? You need to be able to talk to them intelligently and without sounding condescending. You may have to talk to their superiors if you run into roadblocks and stall tactics or if the user feels their job may be in jeopardy. You need to be articulate in order to show that you have confidence in the quality of your work. If you cannot communicate well, others may sense a lack of understanding or confidence and may lose faith in what they are being told or asked.
Cancel
One quote comes to mind.

"One can for example, hire mere technical ability in
engineering, accountancy, architecture or any other profession at
nominal salaries. But the person who has technical knowledge plus
the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse
enthusiasm among people - that person is headed for higher earning power." ~ Dale Carnegie
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchServerVirtualization

SearchCloudComputing

SearchExchange

SearchSQLServer

SearchWinIT

SearchEnterpriseDesktop

SearchVirtualDesktop

Close