Despite recent layoffs at tech companies including Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce, and Meta job seekers should not assume this pattern will continue outside the tech industry.
According to Rucha Vankudre, a senior economist at Lightcast, a labor and analytics firm, many tech companies hired during the pandemic to keep up with consumer demand for digital tools in entertainment, shopping, education, and work. As life and work shift back to pre-pandemic spending and behavior patterns, companies are reducing headcount accordingly and to free up resources to pursue new business opportunities that were put on hold, or emerged, during the pandemic. In short, regarding layoffsVankudre says, “This seems really pretty niche (for the tech industry) at the moment.”
Leveraging soft skills in your job search
What job seekers should assume is that with layoffs comes competition in the employment market and to stand out they must be strategic.
Instead of looking for another job at a tech company, candidates should look beyond the tech industry where they may find higher pay and work life balance. Candidates must also proactively sell themselves in their job search and leverage their transferable soft skills.
Soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem solving, team work, and worth ethic are highly transferable between industries and can often be the difference between you receiving job interviews and offers or not.
A study by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center concluded 85% of job success can be attributed to strong soft and people skills while 15% comes from hard skills. Given this study was conducted in 1918, we’ve known for over a century that soft skills are integral in the workplace.
Let’s look at 3 ways tech candidates can identify and communicate their transferable soft skills to help them position themselves for roles outside industries they’ve previously worked in.
1. Ask your colleagues and close friends for feedback
There’s a strong chance you are unaware, or doubtful, of which soft skills you have. This is why asking current and former colleagues and managers can be an enlightening and confidence building tool.
Ask them what your best soft skills are and to provide an example of when they saw the skills in action. Or, you could ask them which 3 words describe you in the workplace. The answers might surprise you, in a good way!
2. Study job descriptions to find & prioritize your skills
Job descriptions hold clues to help you recognize what skills you have, and should highlight, when you apply for a role. But, you won’t find these clues if you don’t read and study the job description. Despite job descriptions not always being written well, that doesn’t give you license to not read them.
If you’re planning to apply for a job, make a list of skills mentioned. If you have that skill, identify tangible examples of how you’ve used that skill in previous roles. Providing evidence of your skills in action is more powerful than only saying you have a skill.
If you’re exploring opportunities in other industries and not intending to apply just yet, then use this as an opportunity to ask yourself if you have the soft skills the employer is looking for. Don’t let a lack of hard skills close the door on applying to jobs in different industries. Often times, teaching hard skills (eg. software or technical know-how) is easier than teaching soft skills.
3. Spotlight your soft skills in your career materials and interviews
Put yourself in the shoes of recruiters and hiring managers, they’re busy and they don’t have time to read every word on your resume or LinkedIn profile. This is why it’s critical that you are mindful about communicating your soft skills at every opportunity before you apply and during the interview process.
- On your resume, tailor the skills you mention for each role you apply to. This could be as simple as re-ordering the content of your resume so soft skills mentioned in the job description are higher up. Or, it could mean providing different examples of your skills in action.
- In your cover letter, highlight a maximum of three soft skills mentioned in the job description and don’t forget to provide examples from your past experience.
- On your LinkedIn profile, use your headline, the line below your name, and the about section to communicate your soft skills.
- During interviews, keep the top soft skills mentioned in mind so you can focus on weaving examples from past roles into your answers.
Though it may seem like employers put a lot of emphasis on hard skills, don’t discount how your soft skills translate to other industries and roles. A project manager who’s worked in tech for 10 years could easily leverage their experience at a large financial institution, hospital, or airline.
Hard skills such as software and methods change, but soft skills are timeless. Candidates who can successfully communicate the right soft skills for the roles they apply to have a greater chance of standing out in crowded candidate market.