What skills are employers seeking in IT graduates
It goes without saying that if you’re seeking a career in a tech-heavy role like software developer, software tester or network engineer, you will need to be proficient in the relevant programming languages and possess the technical skills employers seek. Some employers are noting a skills gap among graduates, so you may need to invest in extra study beyond your degree to acquire all the skills necessary to land that job you desire. Spend time researching the specific skills you need to develop for the types of IT graduate schemes that interest you, and invest time outside of your university studies to acquire these skills.
Having a range of programming languages will mean a wider range of career opportunities is open to you. Areas related to programming are amongst those in highest deman. While Java is hugely popular, graduates with such languages as C#, .NET, C++, HTML5 and Python are also sought by many employers, as are those with a strong understanding of digital design. Employers often find that the graduate candidates most well versed in the relevant programming languages have acquired their skills through work experience, or they are programming hobbyists who spend their own time developing their programming language skills. Such individuals have the advantage of being able to display their ambition and enthusiasm for this area.
If you can show a prospective employer a practical example of your skills in use, rather than simply your qualifications, you will have an immediate advantage over other candidates. While in university, build a working website for yourself or a family member’s small business, or if you’re confident enough, establish yourself as a freelance web designer while studying. The ability to show that you already have the trust of clients of your own (even if it is only a relative), will be appreciated by potential employers. Plus, it’s a way to make some extra cash before you land a graduate job. While in university, think about founding a club or society based around your interest in coding or designing. Not only will this help you develop your skills and learn from your peers, it will show employers that you have initiative and leadership skills, and enjoy being part of a team.
An area where invaluable experience can be easily gained is in the world of Open Source projects. Open Source Software (OSS) is software whose copyright holder has made its source code available to the public to develop and work with. Users are encouraged to find solutions to problems within the code, or to add to the code. Hundreds of Open Source projects are looking for contributors at any one time, with most adding their projects to github.com, where you will find Open Source projects from a variety of sources; even the U.S. government’s usually secretive National Security Agency has begun to share Open Source code. This gives you a chance to gain experience and add some very impressive names to your CV. It will also show employers that you possess the ability to contribute to team projects.
While your technical skills are your bread and butter when it comes to landing a role in IT, it’s not the only thing employers will look for from applicants. Particularly for more business-focussed roles like consulting, IT graduate schemes will require soft skills and commercial awareness. For such roles, technical graduates will often find themselves competing with arts or social science graduates, so developing your soft skills is vital. Below we look at the five most essential soft skills you should work on developing.
Technology may be present in every business, but it still takes humans to run those businesses. IT professionals are required to possess an ability to communicate effectively with people at all levels in an organisation, from PC end users and help desk assistants to company directors. An ability to listen and understand, and to explainthe relevant technology to clients with varying degrees of understanding of said technology, is crucial. Those IT professionals in client-focussed roles must be able to communicate clearly with clients to understand and define system requirements. Demonstrate your communication skills by: keeping verbal and written communication clear, concise and confident; displaying an understanding of your audience and an ability to tailor your communication to them; showing you can listen to and consider the views of others; thinking before you speak.
Planning and organisation
IT is a project-focussed industry, one in which good planning and organisation skills are essential. The need to manage tasks on a variety of projects with differing deadlines and competing priorities means effective planning, and the ability to anticipate problems and challenges and transform them into positive opportunities, is a must. Demonstrate your planning and organisation skills by: showing that you can add structure to a task or project; highlighting how you scope out an activity and allocate time to individual tasks; displaying how you anticipate challenges and issues that could arise and plan contingencies.
Drive and enthusiasm
To work in this incredibly fast-paced industry, drive and motivation are essential. Candidates need to enjoy accepting new challenges, pushing boundaries and looking towards the future. Graduate recruiters appreciate enthusiasm from their candidates because they know enthusiastic people are motivated people. Demonstrate your drive, motivation and enthusiasm by: displaying your determination to achieve an end result; demonstrating that you can maintain your optimism and enthusiasm, even when things get rough; showing an ability to bounce back from setbacks; knowing what makes you tick and what types of tasks and activities you most enjoy performing.
Working in tech requires an ability to define problems in a timely manner, identify the root causes and subsequently gather the relevant information to find appropriate solutions. But problem solving goes beyond resolving technical issues alone. You may also be required to suggest enhancements to existing procedures and processes to deliver improved service, a better product and most importantly, satisfied clients. Demonstrate your problemsolving skills by: displaying that you can take a logical and analytical approach to problem solving; showing that you can view problems from a number of angles; demonstrating that you can anticipate potential pitfalls and act to prevent them happening.
Teamwork is essential for sharing knowledge, establishing and building relationships and supporting the people involved on a project. It requires interpersonal skills and, at times, leadership qualities so that you can consider and respond appropriately to the behaviour and motives of others, adapt your personal style accordingly or step out in front to bring others with you. Demonstrate your teamwork skills by: displaying an ability to build and maintain positive working relationships; demonstrating how you share information with others, support others and show respect for alternative views; showing how you have contributed to keeping projects on track and to achieving a final goal. Working sensitively and cooperatively with others; showing how you have considered and identified what motivates others and how you have led by example.