Working World

Issue 450

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April 27 - May 18, 2015 20 Working World l FEATURED ARTICLE by Don R. Crawley A re you fully prepared for a successful career in IT? The most effective IT professionals possess a particular set of skills—five of them, to be exact. Your mastery of the five critical skills is critical to your career success. These five skills will, when mastered, allow you to positively influence not only your career, but also the people around you, and even the world. 1. DEEP TECHNICAL SKILLS In any field, you must have the technical skills necessary to solve technical problems quickly and permanently. In addition, your technical skills must be deep enough to allow you to anticipate and prevent future problems. You gain such a deep level of skill through education, reading, experimenting, and experience. Attend seminars, workshops, and conferences. Go back to school and take courses related to your field. Work on professional level certifications. Set up test labs at home or in the office using virtualization tools. Strive to be the best in the world at the technologies your support. 2. A SENSE OF COMPASSION The second skill is compassion, the act of caring about the well-being of another. Being compassionate means having a profound awareness of another's suffering combined with a desire to alleviate it. When our end users and customers place themselves in our care, they are first and foremost human beings. We may not like their political views, we may not like the way they look or act. We may not like anything about them, but they are still human beings deserving of our care, understanding, and respect. When you genuinely care about what happens to other people, when you are truly compassionate, you instinctively look for ways to better their experience. 3. EMPATHY FOR OUR FELLOW HUMANS Empathy is the ability to connect with another individual emotionally—to feel what they're feeling. It's often known as "putting yourself in someone else's shoes". The use of empathetic phrases, such as "I'd feel that way, too, if it happened to me.", or "I can see how frustrated you are and I don't blame you" goes a long way in establishing and building relationships. It's also important to be authentic in your empathy. If you simply can't relate to the other person's situation, it's okay to say so when you combine it with honest human understanding. For example, you can say things like, "I've never been in your situation, so I'm not going to tell you I understand. I can't even imagine what that's like, but I am going to do everything possible to help you." Be careful though; if you're simply saying the words without trying to understand what the other person is going through, you'll come across as phony or condescending. The key is sincere, human-to-human empathy. 4. EXCELLENT LISTENERS The fourth skill is the ability to listen, meaning that your sole focus is on what the other person is saying. It takes practice, so don't expect to master this skill the first time you try it. Effective listening means focusing on the other person instead of yourself. Many listen attentively, but while they're listening, they're also preparing their response. To be a great listener, focus entirely on understanding what the other person is saying. A technique that can help is to listen as though you're going to be tested on what is being said. If you know there's a quiz, you'll find a way to sharpen your focus on the speaker! 5. ACTING RESPECTFULLY The fifth critical skill is the ability to treat everyone with respect, regardless of how you might feel about them. In fact, it's not necessary to respect The Five Critical Skills for IT Success

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