Data skills are a must for IR professionals at every level. Today’s institutions use increasingly complex data tools, including advanced predictive analytics, big data, and business intelligence systems. Certainly, that calls for hiring individuals with advanced data skills. However, data skills alone do not necessarily make a skilled IR professional. IR professionals will likely find that they need to have Data Skills+. That is, to be equally strong in the so-called “soft skills”, such as communication.
Traditional data skills have been–and will be—critical for IR professionals. A quick survey of IR job descriptions will surely return requested qualifications including: “quantitative skills”, “reporting”, “statistics”, etc. This makes sense. Years ago, specific, data-related skills may have been the bulk of the job description. But a review of more current positions may surprise you. Today’s IR jobs are looking for individuals with not only the data skills, but for prospects to have well-developed soft skills as well.
Communication is Key
As early as the 1990s, higher education researchers were beginning to recognize that being good with data isn’t all that valuable if your IR department doesn’t know how to share it effectively. Indeed, today’s position descriptions for IR jobs at all levels often look for applicants to have a variety of soft skills. Communication. Collaboration. Writing. Presenting. Also known as, the skills that help transform the data from numbers on the screen to actionable information in the hands of the right people.
What Do I Do?
A focus on soft skills in IR has implications for IR professionals at every level. If you’re looking to break into the field, you must figure out how showcase your soft skills via cover letters, resumes, and interviews. What examples do you have to show how you communicate information and work with others? How will you highlight those skills as part of the interview process?
Looking to advance your IR career? You should always be aware of how you are showcasing (or, uh, not) your soft skills in your current role. Are you bringing people together to discuss analyses and solve problems? Are you keeping lines of communication open? Are you developing reports and presentations in a variety of formats to best suit the audience you’re sharing with? Whether you are or not, seek opportunities to build and fine-tune your soft skills before you put in for your next promotion.
If you’re responsible for filling open IR positions, you’ll find there is so much more to consider than whether or not the applicant has mastered all the technical skills in the job description. It may be beneficial to consider the soft skills strengths and weaknesses of your entire IR team and look for applicants who can support the areas where you find room for improvement. Your ultimate candidate may not always be the data wizard.
Which soft skills do you find the most valuable in your IR role? Tell us in the comments!