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People skills count

Sure you're the crackerjack network architect for your company's e-business strategy. But if you can't explain the reason for a systemwide upgrade to a subordinate or superior, you're probably going to come away disappointed when you go for that next job or promotion.

Soft skills, says Robert Welling, a manager at high-tech headhunters RHI Consulting, are becoming critical to networking professionals who want to advance their careers. According to a recent RHIC poll, 27% of approximately 1,400 CIOs surveyed about qualities they look for in senior IT management cited interpersonal skills as more important than any other talent, including advanced technical ability.

Moreover, the CIOs predict these so-called soft skills will become more essential as cross-functional project teams become the rule within organizations over the next five years.

"IT is no a longer single-person endeavor," observes ContractFIRST's Robert Waring, a technical recruiter with more than 20 years' experience. To succeed in this brave new world of network computing, Waring offers these tips:

* Speak and write well. "Some people will talk for 10 minutes and not relay a single piece of useful information," says Waring. Others will lose points because their e-mails and written reports ramble and are filled with errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling.

* Listen up. If you can't gather and convey accurate and relevant information from network users and co-workers, your boss may also question your ability to perform a thorough technical analysis.

* People skills count. Networking professionals today have much more face-to-face contact with colleagues, trainers and outside vendors than in the past. "Other people's perceptions of you are significant," Waring warns. "A negative image can get back to someone important."

Marilyn Cohodas is a freelance journalist in Newburyport, MA.

This was last published in July 2000

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