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Developing Your Soft Skills for Career Success

The most successful managers lead their teams highly effectively, through good times and bad, because they have the social and leadership skills that others crave. Conversely, a manager who cannot garner the same level of loyalty can quickly decimate a good team.

In life sciences, one would assume that the study of human health and medicine would automatically follow through to being good at dealing with people. But this is by no means always the case. Many scientists and medical professionals are indifferent to their engagement with others, and this can hold them back in their careers.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills, often referred to as interpersonal skills, are the way in which people engage with others, find emotional connections and develop appropriate methods of communication. Soft skills attract people to each other, develop trust and inspire loyalty.

People with good soft skills work well with others, make effective decisions and are adaptable, able to change the way in which they approach their tasks and deliverables to deliver wider benefits to their team and organisation.

Soft skills are highly sought after by biotech companies of all sizes. Early stage European biotech companies, startup and scaleup organisations, in particular, require that their employees be technically proficient but also able and willing to collaborate, to work outside the bounds of their own responsibilities and to contribute to team goals.

As these companies may have limited funding, having yet to attract venture capital investors, they will require a concentrated effort from everybody in their workforce to deliver against their aims and objectives, to fuel product innovation and solutions and to carve out a place for themselves within the industry.

Only by demonstrating these essential soft skills can staff prove their worth, solidify their reputation and continue their upwards career trajectory.

What are the most important soft skills?

1. Communication.

This is not merely the art of getting the right message across, but also listening to others, understanding the nuances of the message that you are receiving, and responding in an appropriate manner.

Communication covers written, verbal and non-verbal (body language) methods of delivering and receiving messages and, when mastered, helps people to feel valued, delivers clarity, and creates a culture of understanding.

2. Self awareness.

The best communicators are those who understand the way in which they are perceived by others and who are able to modify their behaviours and expectations as required to suit the situation.

To be self aware, they must understand their own strengths and weaknesses, be true to their values and prepared to grow and develop, both personally and professionally, learning from others and challenging themselves to be better.

3. Emotional intelligence.

People with high levels of emotional intelligence are able to monitor, control and express their emotions in an empathetic and authentic way, which not only helps them to remain in control of challenging situations but also to regulate the emotions and behaviours of others.

By demonstrating strong levels of emotional intelligence, people can build, nurture and develop strong interpersonal relationships, standing them in good stead for future professional success.

How are these skills demonstrated in the workplace?

1. Providing feedback.

Delivering feedback is essential for progress, yet too many people are afraid to give honest feedback or cannot strike the right balance between praise and areas for improvement. People with good soft skills are able to deliver feedback in a constructive manner, helping others to feel good about their achievements and to want to put in place performance improvements.

2. Good leadership.

Leaders are people that others want to follow. Good leaders help a team to feel connected and continually reinforce their mutual purpose. By demonstrating empathy, self awareness and good communication skills, the best leaders can motivate their teams to achieve success.

3. Coaching.

People with strong soft skills make excellent coaches. They can pass on their knowledge and experience to others in a productive and non-confrontational manner. They can help teams to be more effective without discouraging or demoralising them.

How can you develop your soft skills?

It takes effort, time and practice to master soft skills but when you do, you will reap the benefits of an improved ability to “read” people, to build and motivate a team, to deliver against your objectives and to achieve your career ambitions.

To develop your soft skills, you should look for ways to communicate. Try to find areas of common interest with your colleagues, take a genuine interest in their passions and understand what motivates them. Ask for feedback from peers and leaders and consider how you can modify your behaviour in order to meet their expectations.

Before you hit “Send” on an email, read it back and consider whether the message that you wish to deliver is clear and cannot be misinterpreted. If you are not sure, ask a colleague to review it for you, learn from their feedback and re-draft it.

You can hone your leadership skills by volunteering to support your organisation as an impartial advisor in mediation or dispute resolution meetings. This will help you to consider multiple points of view and to learn from the experience of seasoned communicators.

You could consider mentoring a junior member of staff, or supporting a project outside of your usual area of interest. By expanding your mindset to help others, you will also develop improved timekeeping skills, the ability to prioritise and to maintain a positive outlook in the face of adversity.

In conclusion, there are many ways in which you can hone your soft skills, and it is important to follow the path that feels right for you. Consider the environment in which you work, the people with whom you interact most regularly and the deadlines that you need to meet. By considering external factors and limitations, you will be able to tailor your self-improvement journey, creating a realistic path to career success.


If you found this insight interesting, we recommend reading How to nail a job interview in the first 5 minutes

ScaleX Consulting offer trusted biotech business consulting and life science recruitment services, to help you take the next step in your journey.