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4 Soft Skills to Stand Out in an IT Job Interview

Use Soft Skills to Stand Out

As your graduation approaches and you begin to apply for positions, the process of landing that first job can seem intimidating.

As a hiring manager of entry-level Application Developers, I understand your dilemma – “I can’t get hired without job experience, but I can’t get experience without the job!”

While it may be true that you will be competing with others similar job or intern experience, you can quickly break away from the group by differentiating yourself in other ways.

Focus on Your Soft Skills

What are soft skills?

Soft Skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people.

While having the technical skills is a requirement for your job, soft skills can demonstrate your overall fit into the organization and culture. It can also help interviewers determine how well can you communicate or work with others.

Here are four tips to help you showcase your soft skills.

Soft Skill of Be Prepared:

Think through a list or projects or assignments that you have worked on and be able to apply your knowledge of those projects to the questions asked. As a new graduate, it is okay if you only have one or two projects that you keep referring to – using them shows me that you can apply your knowledge to the questions.

If you cannot articulate any projects or assignments that you have worked on, your technical skills will not stand out and you will not demonstrate that you can think on your feet.

Be Creative in Interview
Be Creative in Interview | Image Source: Pexels

Be Creative:

I know that your experience is limited, so think outside the box! If a question does not relate to a project you’ve worked on in school, but maybe a personal or non-technical experience demonstrates the quality they are looking for, so feel free to use it!

For example, if asked to describe a scenario where you managed to complete a project on time while presented with conflicting priorities, you may not have an IT assignment that relates directly. Instead you could speak to how you managed your course load during finals when everything is due at the same time. How did you work through that process? Did you succeed?

Be Flexible:

One of the latest employees I hired demonstrated to me how easily he could adapt within a changing environment. I accidentally listed his phone interview 30 minutes earlier on my calendar than it was scheduled. Upon calling him I immediately realized my error, apologized and offered to call him back at the agreed upon time. He pleasantly laughed it off and agreed to complete the interview early. While I certainly would not have held it against him to call back at the scheduled time, to see that he could “roll with the punches,” was one example to help him differentiate himself.

Try to find an example of a time you showed flexibility or the ability to adapt in a changing environment and you will stand out from the crowd.

Be Interested in Interview
Be Interested in Interview | Image Source Pexels

Be Interested:

As a new IT graduate, you may not even know what questions to ask your prospective employer. You can gain self-confidence by doing a little research on the company you are applying for and you can show interest by asking probing questions related to the questions being asked of you.

For example, if asked to share a time that you’ve had to explain a technical problem to a non-technical person, you could follow-up your answer with a question such as:

“Based upon your question, is this a situation that occurs frequently within the role? Will I be working with clients or other stakeholders on a regular basis?”

This demonstrates that you are interested in the role, are able to interpret information presented to you and think through it without specific instruction.

Wrap Up

There you have it! As you move towards getting hired at your first IT job, keep these tips in mind as you interview and you will quickly rise above the others. Just remember, it is just as much about who you are as a person and how you can fit within the organization as it is about your technical skills. Best of luck to you!

Do you have any other interviewing or job hunting tips that work to give job hunters an advantage?

Thanks for reading!

-Tracy

Looking for other career articles?

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Why Passion is the Key to Productivity and Success

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How Can Your Failures Lead to Success?

Can Failures Lead to Success

I have a confession to make.

I am a failure.

Financially and professionally I am a complete and utter failure. I was naive and foolish and things did not go as planned for me, that’s for sure.

Let me tell you why.

Can you relate to the dream where you want to be financially free? To make your own rules and live life on your own terms? I had that dream – big time. I had been laid off for the third time from my job, we were broke and I definitely wanted a change. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my online business, I just needed someone to help me build it.

I thought I did my homework.  I put my heart and soul into writing an air tight business plan and once I had all the details in place, I hired a highly recommended overseas web development company to build me that dream.

Can you imagine the excitement and anticipation I was feeling! I could hardly sleep those first few months.

… But then there was the waiting.

And the delays.

And the missed deadlines or requirements.

And the pulling out of hair in utter frustration.

Don’t get me wrong, the project was complicated but going well enough for me to continue to pay them. Unfortunately, it never was exactly what I wanted. They would rework it and try to fix it, but it just led to more and more delays. They clearly did not understand the requirements, I was in way over my heard and the project started to feel like a money pit.

Then disaster struck. They “lost” all the files in a server crash and had to start over. To say I was devastated was an understatement. While I found it difficult to believe they had no backups, I helplessly allowed them to start over.

It didn’t go well the second time.

Eventually the project just collapsed. After they were running 18 months past the launch date and no longer showing a solid commitment to the project, I made the gut wrenching decision to just walk away. I just couldn’t afford to stick any more money into it and trying to get money back from an overseas provider wasn’t a mountain I knew how to climb. I understood how naive I had been, and I was emotionally spent.

The emotional toll was bad enough. What I didn’t mention was that in order to pay this web development company, I had put a second mortgage on our home. A big one for us, and now I had nothing to show for it – except a hefty monthly payment.

Imagine the shame I felt each month when I had to write a loan check for three more years to pay off this failed business venture. Imagine trying to look my husband in the eye when we were barely making ends meet. I was still out of a job and this extra mortgage was the reason we couldn’t move to be closer to job opportunities.

These were certainly not my happiest days. I felt like my dream had died and my family was paying a big price for it.

I felt like a total failure.

But was my dream truly dead?

Thankfully, during my many months of frustrating work with the web development company, I did not just sit idle. In trying to learn why the project was failing, I took coding classes. I read tutorials on databases and I took on practice projects on my own. After my project failed epically, I realized I had learned enough to land a few contracting jobs as a web developer!

I also started networking and interviewing – a lot. I needed a foot in the door. While I had a college degree, it certainly was not in IT or web development, so having zero experience in this field was a bit of a hurdle. I just didn’t let that stop me. I swallowed my pride and kept at it.

During one memorable interview I recall saying “I don’t know” so many times that once I left the building I promptly broke into tears of embarrassment.

But something very, very interesting happened.

They offered me that job the very next day.

I still remember taking the call. For privacy, I was standing in the rain outside an office building when the offer came in. I literally felt like I was being blessed at that moment. Suddenly I had a full time position that paid me more than any job I held previously. Suddenly our fears of losing our home vanished. Suddenly I could breath.

Why was I offered this amazing opportunity?

They told me I was given the job because I was honest enough to tell them what I didn’t know, I was eager enough to tell them I would learn whatever it took to be successful and they had seen the hard work I had put in to get as far as I did.

I was simply amazed how it had all worked out! … Can my failures lead to success?

The funny part is, that isn’t even my happy ending.

Shortly thereafter, My self-confidence grew. I met an amazing mentor who encouraged me to get my MBA due to my strong desire to be a leader and entrepreneur. “Knowledge is power,” he always said. Never. Stop. Learning.

So I did that too. I went on and earned my Master’s Degree and within a short time, I obtained a high level IT leadership position. I have also had the great opportunity to run my own successful online retail business since 2012. (Who needs sleep, right?)

While it didn’t happen in the timeline I expected, my dream did not die with my failure. It came true because of it. I am living my happy ending because of the risks I took and the lessons I learned. I guess being a total professional failure has its benefits!

Want to hear another confession?

I am nothing special. I am not a “one in a million” success story. You are just as entitled to have your happy ending as well and can achieve it by following these simple steps:

How Failures Lead to Success:

  1. Push Your Boundaries. Follow that dream, even if it is scary! Do your homework to try and reduce as much risk as possible, but you will never grow if you don’t try new things.
  2. Embrace Your Failures. If it doesn’t turn out as planned, take an honest look at what you can learn from it. Don’t let it defeat you – use failure to your advantage.
  3. Put Yourself Out There. Build a network and share your skills. Never give in to rejection.
  4. Work Your Butt Off. Work harder than anyone you know. Learn from every interaction and remember: never stop learning.

Are you ready to let your failures lead to success?

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10 Unstoppable Ways to Develop Self-Confidence

Develop Self-Confidence

Is it true that we get more comfortable in our skin as we get older? Hopefully we do, but many of us look to be more comfortable in our skin right now. While it may feel like everyone else on the planet has more self-confidence than you, many people look to build higher self-esteem, including me. I have worked hard to overcome shyness and I would like to share the list of 10 steps I have taken to develop self-confidence.

  1. Practice and Master a Skill: What do you love to do? Determine whether your interest is photography, basketball, video games … whatever! Figure out what makes you tick and practice it enough to feel very confident in your abilities. Have you ever read about the practice routines professional athletes put themselves through each day to reach and stay at the top of their game? They work very hard. Those stories are a testament to focusing and a mastering a skill. Being a master at something will certainly boost your self-esteem.
  2. Use Power Poses: Do you ever get nervous before a speech, interview or asking someone out? If so, take a few moments to practice these Power Poses beforehand. (And please note, you will feel silly the first few times you try it, but they do work.) Find a secluded spot (bathroom, empty room, etc.) and make your body as large as you can. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and either raise your arms above your head and reach for the sky or boldly place your hands on your hips like Wonder Woman. Now hold this position for a few minutes and breathe. Your body chemistry will change and make you feel more powerful. Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School social psychologist, speaks that maintaining power poses such as these for a few minutes can cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both males and females. Give it a try!
  3. Smile When You Walk: I had to train myself to do this because I must have a serious look on my face quite frequently when I am walking and concentrating. Even when I was perfectly happy, people would ask me what was wrong, or tell me to smile more. Those statements would aggravate me and make me self-conscious, so I chose to make a change. I am not necessarily advocating that you walk around with a huge grin on your face as it may make people think you are a bit strange, but I noticed that if I made a conscious effort to make a small smile or relax my expression, those comments completely disappeared! That helped me feel less awkward. Trust me, it feels less strange after you have done it a few times and it eventually becomes a habit. 🙂
  4. Make Eye Contact: Now step 3 and step 4 have to go together. If you walk around with a smile on your face, but look at the floor when people walk by, they may get confused and think you are hearing voices. If you LOOK at them with a smile on your face, a very strange thing happens … they usually say Hi! And, even if they don’t, it still leaves an impression of your self-confidence. You may even start saying Hi! yourself!
  5. Master Small Talk: If you are trying to develop self-confidence, mastering small talk is a must. Luckily, it is really not that hard if you just remember that people love to talk about themselves! Ask them something about themselves such as what their job is, about their family / pets, or what do they like to do for fun. Unless they are shy as well, it should get the conversation started. Be prepared to have answers to these questions as well, so that you can participate in the conversation.
  6. Actively Listen: Most people do not “listen” to conversation to actually listen or hear what the other person is saying. Most people listen so they can formulate an answer. That means most are spending less time focused on what the other person is saying and more about what they want to say back. Try to make a conscious effort to truly listen to what the person is saying. This will make it easier for you to speak to them again in the future as you will probably remember something from the conversation…people LOVE that!
  7. Make Healthy Choices: If you are not eating right, not getting enough exercise, enough sleep or are otherwise not making healthy choices, you will not feel confident in your appearance or your health. This will impact your overall confidence level. If you make some time to focus on yourself and make good changes for your body and spirit, your self-confidence will soar!
  8. Define Your Look: Once you feel better about your life choices, putting your look together will be a natural next step. Whether you feel good in casual looks or business attire, try to find clothes and hairstyles that allow you to stand proud. Conversely, if you are worried about your appearance it will shrink your posture and reduce your self-confidence.  I notice this recently when attending a funeral. While the first outfit I chose looked nice on me, it made me wonder if I may draw unwanted attention to myself with its bold pattern. I chose a classic black dress instead and felt more confident the entire day.
  9. Refuse Negative Self-Talk: Do you have a reel of non-stop inner dialogue going about how you don’t look good, or you are not smart enough or whatever? You need to stop. Period. I heard a quote by Dr. Phil once and he said something to the effect of, “People don’t think about you as much as you think they think about you.” That statement has helped me when my inner demons start in. Nobody cares (for very long) what shoes you wear or if your manicure is perfect. Do not let these small details keep you from moving forward. If you are hearing active criticisms frequently from others around you, please see step 10.
  10. Develop a Positive Support Network: We all need support. It may be from family, friends, co-workers or even your social network, but try to find others who can encourage you when you are not feeling confident and cheer you on to grow personally. If you are surrounded by people who criticize you, cut you down or hold you back from being your true self, then your self-esteem will certainly suffer. Please look to remove those relationships from your life so that you can grow in positive ways. If you need help, please seek the assistance of a trusted adult or counselor.

There you go, 10 steps to a better, more confident you! I guarantee that if you put even half of these tips together you will be unstoppable! Go ahead and give these a try. I am sure you will begin to develop self-confidence. I would love to hear your success stories or your own suggestions in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

-Tracy

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