Top Essential Soft Skills You Should Master in 2019

Soft skills are skills that you can take with you in any job. You can apply these skills in almost every job out there. Knowing these skills just might make your life way easier. So, today I will briefly write about a few of my favorite soft skills.

  1. Business Communication: No matter what your job title is, you’ll need business communication. Writing a great email and text message is as important as anything else in an organization. To be specific you should at least know the following:
    • How to write and respond to business email. 
    • How to write a formal application/letter.
    • How to write memos, bulletin, and notes.
    • How to write a report.
    • How to write and respond to text messages.
  2. Graphics Design: Graphics design is another skill that is often undervalued and overlooked. But knowing the basics of graphic design with some advanced skills will surely set you apart from the rest of the bunch. You can design the next leaflet for the office picnic or design the official banner for the next event. Do a good job and people from higher places will notice you. There is much-specialized software in this category. The Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator are among the most feature-rich and most popular in the industry.  
    • How to design report cover.
    • How to design small, medium-sized banner, wallpaper, and leaflet.
    • How to design a print advertisement.
  3. Word processing: You will need to use Google Docs or Microsoft Word in almost all the decent jobs out there. So, there is no point in trying to skip it. Though it doesn’t look as sexy as graphics design, you can do a lot of things and achieve great success with the two applications I mentioned above. You should learn the following things:
    • How to customize the built-in templates in Google Docs and Microsoft Words.
    • How to build templates in Google Docs and Microsoft Words.
    • How to efficiently use the built-in templates of Google Docs and Microsoft Words.
  4. Presentation: Presentation is an essential skill in business and corporate world. Having great at presentation will set you apart. Microsoft PowerPoint and Apple Keynote are the two most popular software in this category. Google Slides is a popular Microsoft PowerPoint alternative.
    • How to organize and display information.
    • How to choose color, fonts, and images properly.
    • How to communicate and deliver information efficiently.
  5. Microsoft Excel: Microsoft Excel is the de facto leader in spreadsheet department for organizations around the world. It is probably the only software in this list that has no alternative in terms of the number of features and usability. So, knowing Excel is a must for anyone who wants to work for any kind of organizations. Google Spreadsheet is a Microsoft Excel alternative which is growing popular slowly. Microsoft Excel has a lot of use cases. Even I know only a few of the things that excel can do. So, be sure to check out some courses and books regarding Excel training. You won’t regret investing in this skill.
    • How to prepare an invoice.
    • How to do budgeting.
    • How to organize and interpret information.

Soft skills are a crucial part of self-development. Knowing a couple of these skills can help you a lot in real life. These skills will also help you stand out in the job market and make you more confident in life. So, for the next 4 months, try to learn and hone your soft skills.

IT Support 101: How to Write Documentation Properly

We use technology to make our life easy and comfortable. However, oftentimes things don’t work according to our expectations. Facing difficulty when using a piece of technology is very common. The workstation may not work the way it should have. Maybe a particular software is crashing after the last update or maybe the user cannot figure out how to install or use certain new applications. Solving such issues are the purview of the IT Support Specialist. While some problems are unique, time-consuming, and difficult to resolve; others are simple, time-consuming, and recurring. In all of these cases, documentation can help the IT Support team a lot. In technological terms, documentation is the process of writing down the solution to an issue or to clarify some things or keeping a record of a process, etc. For example, software documentation (aka software manual) is the process of writing down the steps to use the software. There are two main ways we document information in the IT industry. The first one is the ticketing or bug system. Tickets are a common way of documenting an issue. Bugs are issues with the system that weren’t caused by an external source. If you receive an email every time something goes wrong, then it will be difficult to scale and manage by the Technical Support team. That’s why the IT industry has specialized services that can efficiently handle bug tracking and ticketing issue. Two of the most popular application in this category are as follows:

  1. Bugzilla
  2. JIRA

These applications are all in one solution that can help you track user issues, communicate with the users, and provide updates. A great way to use this system is to update a ticket with what the issue is, the steps you’re following to resolve the issue, and the solution you have arrived at. This is important for two reasons.

  1. It keeps the user in the loop. So, the user knows what you’re doing to solve the issue. 
  2. It helps you audit your steps in case you need to go back and see what you did.

Also, you can always write down procedures and policies to create a documentation trail. Such documentation can be stored in the local workstation, in a central server, or online cloud server. Just remember to make sure that it is accessible by everyone in your company. Some of the best documentation practices are as follows:

  1. No documentation: Not keeping documentation is the worst kind of documentation. As an IT Support Specialist, you’re bound to face issues. Not writing them down will cost a lot of time and energy. Plus, it is not possible to remember all the steps or solution of all the problems faced by everyone all the time.
  2. Update documentation: Systems and processes are constantly changing, and so should your documentation. You should routinely update all your documentation with the most recent information.
  3. Short, concise, easy to understand and follow: Best documentations are short, concise, easy to understand and follow. Documentation should be simple and clear-cut so that the user doesn’t have any questions when following the instructions of the documentation.
  4. 3 Steps of write great documentation: Great documentation should have 3 steps. 
    1. Step 1: Very specify and clear problem.
    2. Step 2: Background information about the issue.
    3. Step 3: Exact instruction on how to fix the issue.
  5. Great ticketing rules: If you face an issue frequently then you don’t have to write documentation every time. Rather, you create documentation and refer to it whenever you stumble upon that issue. Remember, a great ticket should start with what the user faced. Then it should follow up with how the issue was caused/created and end with what steps you took to resolve the issue. A good ticketing practice is to create a trail of documents so that later on you can refer it back and see what worked and what didn’t work.

Documentation is a practice that can help an IT Support Specialist a lot. It is easy to follow and time-saving. Always try write documentation that is easy for the user to read and follow.

This is an ongoing series where I am writing about what I learned from the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program. Feel free to read, comment, and share!

IT Support 101: The Necessary Soft Skills for IT Support Jobs

Employers around the world are aggressively looking for skilled talents who can deliver great IT Support experience, as the demand for IT Support related jobs are increasing rapidly. Often times companies headquartered in North America and Europe are outsourcing their help desk and tech support to countries like India, Thailand, and Vietnam, etc. Today, IT Support roles required more than technical knowledge and communication skills. To shine as an IT Support Executive, you’ll need a range of soft skills at your disposal. I will briefly talk about a few of those skills in this post.

  • Exhibiting empathy: This is one of the most important traits of an IT Support Specialists. Empathy is important because it creates the right tone at the beginning between the support executive and the user. When you put yourself in the user’s shoes and realize the pain/difficulty faced by the user due to this problem, you’ll see a bigger picture of the situation which will motivate you to solve the issue effectively and efficiently.
  • Being conscious of tone: Often times we forget about this crucial trait. Tone is an important issue for both in-person as well as online IT Support role. In most cases, a comforting tone works better than that of an assertive tone. It will put the user at ease and help you get more relevant information so that you can do a proper diagnosis of the issue. In the case of remote IT Support role, you’ll require to use proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence. Depending on the clients/users region, time of the day and gender, a proper greeting can play a vital role. Also, you might want to write down the issues/problems faced by the user to avoid asking the same questions multiple times.
  • Acknowledging the person: It’s only natural that you may not have the solution to the problem right away or you might have to search for more information, apply a potential solution, or writing down the issues faced by the user/clients. In such cases, it is better to inform the user about the process you’re going to follow and ask them to wait for the time being. This way, there won’t be any awkward silent waiting since the user knows what the support staff is doing to resolve his or her issue.

Just be professional, acknowledge the users, and show them some respect.

  • Developing trust: Trust building is a key to delivering great customer service experience but it does not happen overnight. As a Tech Support executive, you may have many support tickets that need your attention but for the customer waiting opposite to you, it’s his or her only priority. So, to provide great customer service experience, support staff should consider every customer in the queue as his/her priority and act accordingly.

Empathy and acknowledgment are a big part of building trust. Without these, you’ll find it difficult to connect with the users.

  • Follow through on appointments: If you give a commitment to do something such as installing an OS update or software, fixing a bug or resetting a password, you should keep it. If for some unavoidable reasons, you are likely to miss the deadline (promise) then you personally contact the client and inform the situation. You should apologize for the delay beforehand and reschedule.

Be honest with the user, even if you think they won’t be happy about it.

  • Keeping the communication channels open: When you provide a solution to someone’s problem, make sure to keep the communication channel open. By doing so you can make sure that the user is feeling that his or her problem is resolved and if the solution doesn’t work, later on, he or she will be welcomed to contact again for the support. Since the last five minutes of the interaction will set the tone for how the users feel walking away from the interaction, make sure to end on a positive note.
  • Showing extra patience and care on remote IT Support role: If you’re a remote IT Support worker then this is like a constitution for you. Providing solutions over the internet through Skype or remotely connect to the users PC may not be ideal, however, you have to make do with the resources that are available to you (and also to the user). Therefore, having patience and compassion is important. Just remember that what may be easy for you might be completely different for the user.

IT Support may not seem like a glorifying job like System Admin but it is quite satisfying. You get to learn a lot by solving real-life problems faced by many users. If you are passionate about it, work really hard and keep learning about the new stuff, it will take you to a different and exciting career path. So, enjoy being an IT Support Professional and keep on solving problems and helping others.

This is an ongoing series where I am writing about what I learned from the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program. Feel free to read, comment, and share!

IT Support 101: How to Provide Great IT Support

Providing great IT Support or Technical Support is a crucial issue for any organization. Anyone with some technical knowledge can provide some form of IT Support. However, to provide great Tech Support, you will require more than just technical knowledge and communication skills.

While I was doing the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program, I learned many valuable lessons. In the first course of the program, Technical Support Fundamental, I learned how to provide great IT Support. To be great at Tech Support, you’ll have to have passion for it. Your passion for helping others can make the difference you need to thrive in an IT Support role. Problem-solving ability is another key trait for IT Support Specialists. You’ve to analyze the problem and identify the root cause before applying the problem-solving skills and identify the solution. The third valuable key is communication. Good communication skills are  essential tools to connect with clients and deliver the desired solution effectively and efficiently. High Emotional Intelligence (EI), as well as empathy, can also help a lot in this role.

IT Support is about solving problems faced by others daily. And a great chunk of IT Support Executive’s time will go in troubleshooting related issues. Troubleshooting is the ability to diagnose and resolve a problem. To properly diagnose any problem, you’ll need to have sufficient information about that problem. An IT Support Executive should ask a lot of questions to collect as much relevant information as possible. Having sufficient information is a must to properly diagnose and resolve an issue. 

Troubleshooting is the ability to diagnose and resolve a problem.

Isolating the Problem is an important trait for an IT Support Executive. A user may face multiple issues and seek Tech Support. The Tech Support should identify and isolate the problem as it will help to provide more efficient support. Identifying the Root cause will help in this matter. A Root cause is the main factor that’s causing a range of issues. So, identifying the root cause and solving that may lead to solve other issues.

A Root cause is the main factor that’s causing a range of issues.

An IT Support Executive should follow the cookie crumbs. It means that you should start solving the first problem since that may lead to the solution of the latter problems. A great deal of valuable information can be found from the Error Messages and Error Logs. So, IT Support Stuff has to understand and make sense of this information. While providing a solution, it is better to start with the quickest step first since it will save a lot of time and energy. From the course, I learned about two common pitfalls faced by the IT Support Executives. Those are:
Pitfall # 1: Going into autopilot
Pitfall # 2: Not finding the root cause

Everyone may not face the same problem. Therefore, it is better to ask questions and collect information to properly diagnose the problem. Jumping to conclusions without knowing the backstory may create more problems and headache. Identifying the root cause may be the most efficient way to solve the IT Support issue. A Tech Support Executive must not fall into these pitfalls.

Last but not least, if you want to thrive in an IT Support role, you have to keep an open mind and always learn. Learning new skills, producing more efficient solutions may seem like a drag but it will help you keep on top of your game. Plus, add some empathy and politeness and you’ll become a great IT Support Executive in no time.

This is an ongoing series where I am writing about what I learned from the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program. Feel free to read, comment, and share!

Looking forward to 2020 and beyond

In 2016, the World Economic Forum published Global Challenge Insight Report titled The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The report covered the opinion and insights of the top executives from 350+ globally leading organizations in which they shade some lights about the challenges and opportunities that the Fourth Industrial Revolution may bring. They identified the following 10 skills as the most important for an employee for the year 2020 and beyond.

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgment and decision-making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

I am familiar with some of these skills as I have studied briefly about emotional intelligence, creativity, critical thinking, and decision making previously. Now, I am thinking about deep diving into these skills since 2020 is knocking at the door and I only have 4 months to build up a couple of skills from this list.

Learning new skills and obtaining new knowledge has always attracted me. I am a huge fan and a supporter of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). It has allowed me to learn what I want when I want and how I want. So, I will search for MOOC programs that cover these skills and participate. I reckon the challenge for me will be to complete the course on time and recall 80 to 90 percent of the newly learned knowledge. I will have to figure out some way to efficiently learn and effectively recall everything I learn from this point forward. 

The future is as exciting as it is challenging and I am ready to embrace it.