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Looking for an IT Job? You Need These Skills

Looking for an IT Job? You Need These Skills
IT job seekers need more than tech skills to stay competitive in today's IT job market. / Credit: Tech image via Shutterstock

IT job seekers listen up: if you want to stay competitive, it's not just IT skills that are in demand. Employers are increasingly looking for well-rounded IT staff who are capable of doing more than just working with computers, devices and IT infrastructures. These days, having both tech and non-tech skills are key to landing your dream gig.

There are two types of skills that IT job applicants need, said Jeannie Copley, assistant clinical professor at Personalized Learning, an online, competency-based program at Northern Arizona University. These are job-specific skills and generic skills. Job-specific skills include things like software and programming languages, while generic skills have to do with management, communication and other day-to-day aspects of the organization.

"It is still very important that anyone who desires to get in the IT field strives to focus on one or two IT specialties," Copley said. "These special skills, acquired either by prior experience or institutional education, will help them build their career." [50 Job Interview Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer]

One of the most in demand specialty skill sets is in software development, particularly in Developer Operations (DevOps) and Javascript.

"IT is a broad field," said Avi Flombaum, dean of developer bootcamp The Flatiron School. "I think in terms of software, there is a lot of opportunity to stay competitive."

DevOps — the ability to programmatically manage server infrastructure with technologies like Chef and Puppet, powered by new methods of virtualization, such as Docker and Vagrant, utilizing cloud infrastructure provided by companies like Amazon Web Services and DigitalOcean — is a huge growth field starving for talented individuals to help organizations scale, Flombaum said.

The Javascript ecosystem, on the other hand, is quickly maturing and becoming responsible for increasing functionalities, he added. For instance, technologies like Google's V8 has enabled frameworks like Node.js to handle more of a server-side role and is quickly growing, and frontend frameworks like Ember.js allow web application developers to create ambitious applications with more of the logic existing on the frontend. "These skills are tremendously in demand," Flombaum said.

In terms of pay, it's no secret that some specializations are worth more than others. A study by salary comparison website Payscale.com revealed the following as the top five IT skills that have the highest impact on workers' pay, along with their typical percentage of pay increase:

  • Scala — 22 percent
  • Tivoli — 19.2 percent
  • Hadoop — 18.3 percent
  • Distributed Control Systems (DCS) — 18.2 percent
  • Natural Language Processing — 17 percent

Other skills include Git, Machine Learning, NoSQL, REST, Cisco UCCE/IPCC and Big Data Analytics. All else equal, workers with these skills tend to make more than those without these skills, researchers said.

IT certifications

Listing job-specific skills on your résumé isn't enough, however. IT recruiters are increasingly looking for certifications.

"The IT industry is big on certifications," said Tony Sorenson, CEO of recruiting firm Versique Search & Consulting. A list of the most common IT certifications can be found at certification.info, he said.

Although not all employers require certifications, they are often preferred, Sorenson said. "A 25-year Project Management Professional (PMP) certified veteran Project Manager put it to me this way: He said, 'When a hiring manager sees certifications on your résumé, they see that as you taking your career seriously.'"

While the lack of certification doesn't necessarily mean that other candidates are not qualified, but the effect is all psychological, Sorenson said. "You took the time, energy, and spent the money to take your skills to the next level, and for that you shall be rewarded," he added.

Where IT job applicants place certifications on their résumés also makes a difference. Certifications should be placed directly underneath education, along with the year they were earned; but if a certification is required or preferred for a specific job, it should also be mentioned in the header of the résumé, Sorenson said.

Moreover, job applicants should tailor their summary to the top five to 10 required or preferred skills at the top of their résumé, Sorenson added. "Managers receive a flood of résumés for every job and more times than not they will look at the first, sometimes second, page of the résumé. You have to get their attention right away. The more pertinent your summary and top skills are that match the role as opposed to a general résumé, the higher probability you will get that job offer."

In addition to job-specific skills, there are generic skills that make job candidates stand out from the rest. Copley listed these six generic skills as project management, communication, mobile, programming, data management and management skills.

1. Project Management

Project management should be first skill that every IT employee should be aware of or trained on. It applies to either top-down or bottom-up organizational structure. This skill encompasses the very basic skills of team environment, time management and project scope to the very complex skills of risk management, cost analysis and quality management. There are very few select IT projects out there that would have a solitary participant — and even those projects would highly benefit from learning project management.

It boils down to working with other internal and external business entities to get the job done. It is a breath of fresh air to come into a meeting and everyone in the room understands that we are all accountable for the project and that there are stakeholders to our success. It is even a bonus to have a team member provide a status report, especially if it involves successfully meeting a milestone. Each individual involved in a project, large or small, should be aware that time is money and the key participants (people) are the movers.

2. Communication

I am not referring to essay writing or email etiquette; this type of communication is pretty inherent in today's IT generation. It is more important to possess communication skills within the context of basic and complex technical writing skills. This affects all aspects of the IT job industry. For example, in a software development team, it is critical that both junior and senior programmers know how to document their codes; it provides modularity and ensures sustainability. It would be easier to transport or re-use codes and easier for another programmer to pick up the maintenance and support. Unless, of course, the intent is the opposite and nobody will be able to read the code.

Technical documentation, such as writing basic 'how to' documents for your internal and external customers, is also very important. This includes writing technical training materials or creating a simple video on how to perform a simple task. Nobody needs to be left behind guessing.

3. Mobility or mobile app development

The future is ahead of us and it will include new technology heavily engaged in mobility. Today's IT consumption has moved toward agility and freedom of movement. Consumers want IT with them, and they wanted it yesterday. With that said, anyone who wants to be in the IT field must either know how to develop in the mobile world or fully understand and can intelligently leverage and offer services with mobility in mind.

4. Programming

It will be beneficial to engage or learn programming language — defined as an artificial language designed to intelligently communicate instructions — specifically to computers. When hiring IT techs, I always make sure to ask if they have any coding experience, such as C#, PhP, etc. Any coding is better than none. There is a fundamental discipline that learning how to code teaches you "logic." One does not have to be an expert in programming, but it helps when you can intelligently understand the logic when someone discusses their ideas and share your own logic as well; it just makes sharing of information a little simpler. In the end, you will still need to contribute to the organization. Believe me, this is very much appreciated by the back room coders.

5. Data Management

In any IT field, it is all about the data. Even if the device is designed to do simple tasks, sooner or later, someone will tap you on the shoulder for some "data." There is massive amount of data floating in our technology world and there has been an increasing demand for jobs relating to managing the "data," such as Database Administrator, Data Engineer and Data Management specialist, to name a few.  I am always amazed when a team member will raise his or her hand and volunteer to write a "script" to manage our data. IT techs need to understand that "data" is what drives management and management drives the organization.

6. Management Skills

You don't have to be a manager to be a "manager." Quite often I see organizations faced with having to hire expensive "managers" for the sole purpose of managing people's time and accountability in the organization. It is always great to hire an IT tech who knows how to manage his time and is well aware of this cost. IT managers should be able to determine the personalities and dynamics between the team. It is beneficial if the individual team members are aware of how their skills can contribute to the team and what their limitations are for improvement. IT managers should be able to design the team with succession and sustainability in mind. Managers in the IT industry should be more agile and able to survive the fast growing technology trends.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Sara Angeles

Sara is a tech writer with a background in business and marketing. After graduating from UC Irvine, she worked as a copywriter and blogger for nonprofit organizations, tech labs and lifestyle companies. She started freelancing in 2009 and joined Business News Daily in 2013. Follow Sara Angeles on Twitter @sara_angeles.