Soft Skills They Don’t Tell You About
Week 5 is a bittersweet time. You are halfway through your 10-week program. It has FLOWN by. I keep saying that, but it never becomes less true. I hope everyone’s internship experience is going well, and I hope my tips are helping you all make the most out of these 10 weeks.
Soft-skills are the personal, social, and communication skills that ensure your success in the workplace. These are the skills we tend to forget about but are essential in being a well-rounded team member. I narrowed down the ones I noticed a lot of people don’t talk about. I also add in ways to help develop and refine these skills.
- Problem SolvingIf you are in the technology or business area, you naturally enjoy solving problems. That’s kind of our job but not many people know how to practice it. What helps me is when something is new, I ask a lot of questions. Not at the same time but in a way that helps me understand what it is, who it applies to, and why it matters. From there, I try to find ways I can improve or change it. Problem-solving deals with the Why questions which are personally my favorite ones. They help people think and challenge the way things are done. The problem-solving process will inspire creativity, innovation, adaptability, brainstorming, implementation, and learning. For example, let’s say I am learning about a new business process. I ask the What, the Why, and the How. Then I see if anything in the process is inefficient or unclear. You won’t understand something right away but a part of the problem is getting a clear understanding of the WHY. Once you understand that, you can analyze and make an informed decision about how you want to go about solving it. Be mindful that there are somethings that will remain inefficient. Although it may not make sense to you, the business works that way for a reason. Try to accept that and move forward.
- There is another post related to this so I won’t go into too much detail about the importance of networking. It seems like an easy one but a lot of people don’t know how to do it effectively. Networking can be super uncomfortable. You face professional rejection and you putting yourself out there can be hard even for us extroverts out there. 🙋🏽🙋🏽🙋🏽🙋🏽 The more you do it, the easier it happens. One of the things that helps me is knowing that the worst thing that a person can say is no. Networking doesn’t just mean cold-emailing people in the company. It requires you to go up to people before and after a meeting. Try to meet someone new and from a different team every single week. If you can, take your laptop to the break area or high areas of traffic to do your work and naturally someone will come up to you or see you. It’ll help you build valuable relationships inside and outside of the company. There is a more extensive post coming soon (or it might already be up).
Working with different personalities
- In college, you pick and choose who your friends are and in classes, you get put into groups for short periods of time. If you don’t want to work with someone, you avoid them or confront them. In the work world, you meet people who you have to interact with on a daily basis. You may be on a project with someone for 6-12 months so some of these people will be your allies and others will be bullies. I am a very sensitive person so when I encountered bullies in my internships I was taken back because I didn’t think they existed. Remember not to take it personally and you never know what someone is going through. You have to bite your tongue sometimes but there are ways to not let the bullies win. Be respectful, open-minded, and do not take things personally. Be someone who you’d want to work with. The energy you put out is the energy you will attract. You have to keep your cool, work hard, and don’t let the small things get to you. Work consumes over 40 hours of your week and there are things that go on outside of work that impact how we interact on the day-to-day. Try to be empathetic and compassionate towards people’s circumstances. You never know what battles they’re facing beyond the workplace.
- This goes with problem-solving but still an honorable mention. Managers want to know you are teachable, open-minded, and more importantly WILLING to learn new information. BE A SPONGE. Absorb all the newness that comes with your new job or internship. Ask the right questions when you’re learning something new. It’ll show you are engaged and interested. Having a good attitude about the projects and meetings you’re in will show that you are willing to learn new things. Take notes, be attentive, always ask questions, and remain curious. Keep in mind, there will be projects you don’t like to work on. During 1:1’s, be open to recieve criticism. It’ll show that you’re able to receive feedback and don’t be afraid to seek help if you’re stuck.
- Time can be your friend or your enemy, you choose. As college students, some of us do a bad job at managing our time. We have big gaps of time between our day usually filled with naps, work, or extracirccualrs 😉. In the workplace, your time is often crunched by due dates or sprints (for my Agile people out there). Managing your time as an intern is going to ensure your project’s success. If you are given something to work on at the end of your internship, create a calendar of what you’d like to get done by the end of the week. Talk to your mentor or your manager to see if this is manageable and if you are making best use of your time. Also, work can get pretty feast or famine. Some days you’ll have a lot more to do than others. Be flexible and if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask.
Soft-skills are the “people” skills employers and hiring managers value to see if you are the right fit in their organization. It’s important to understand that you can work on these skills in your day-to-day life too. Being a flexible, well balanced, teachable person is going to help you nail your next job. There are tons of resources out there that can help improve your skills. The internet is your oyster: keep searching.