Decoding soft skills for career success.

By Applaudo Studios




Decoding soft skills for career success

Secrets to keeping up with soft skill development in a fast-paced world.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a conversation with a highly skilled professional who was struggling with the pressure of adapting to a new role amid challenging circumstances. Although he had never been called out for poor performance, it intrigued me how repeatedly in our conversations he mentioned expectations were burdening him. In his efforts to adapt quickly to his new role and prove to those around him that he was capable, he was draining his energy, feeling most anxious, and resisting the weekly urge to quit his job. 

Time and again I’ve encountered in many others this same experience disguised as “performance anxiety”, “self-sabotage”, or even “impostor syndrome”, a phenomenon that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years and is commonly used to explain that excruciating feeling of self-doubt in the academic or work setting.  Through it all, one thing is certain, the speed at which today’s world demands us to unlearn and adapt is much faster than it used to be, and it can leave most people feeling barely equipped to remain strong and certain for so long, despite great experience, knowledge, or seniority.  

I see a great opportunity in this challenging scenario to broaden the conversation around soft skills, a term that has historically grouped all the non-technical skills related to your everyday work.

For the most part, the focus always seems to be on how we build relationships with others in the workplace; the Oxford Dictionary even defines it as a “series of personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people”. Nevertheless, this definition ignores the fact that some struggles, such as the ones from my friend described previously, are mostly rooted in the relationship we have with ourselves and with the present time, which ultimately impact the way we show up for others, and how we take on new responsibilities and challenges in our daily work. 

At Applaudo, we believe that growth pushes us to expand our comfort zone. A fast-paced world challenges us to keep empowering excellence

Through our Coaching Program, we support both technical and soft skills development because we know they equally require constant actualization. We welcome the whole experience, and we allow it to shape us into a better version of ourselves.

In the following lines, I would like to share based on my knowledge and experiences, some key principles that will help you decode the conditions needed for sustained soft skill development no matter what stage in your career you are at. Each principle paves the way for an experience that can offer you a different perspective; or even better, a new starting point.

1. Be willing to let go of preexisting notions of yourself

Growth is commonly associated with adding things up. Reading more books, having more information, more discipline, more resources. What nobody tells you, is that in the field of soft skill development what is most crucial is first identifying what you need to let go of, starting with limiting beliefs: about yourself, your capacity, and your context. They exist in all of us, they come masked as truths about ourselves that we dearly hold on to because at some point they have given us a sense of identity. They were probably useful in the past to manage certain situations, but they might not be serving your next level of growth. They are not who you are, but all that you’ve known. That is, until now

Beliefs must not be confused with values. If values serve as a compass to your life’s purpose, beliefs are nothing but routes available on the map of your life. Actualizing belief is key to uncovering new possibilities. 

If you are committed to your growth and constantly bettering yourself, chances are you are not the same person you probably were three years ago.  Ask yourself, what “truths” about myself do I hold dearly to this day? Which ones have I carried for most of my life? Which ones have changed along the way?  Is there one specific that’s been challenged today? 

 If you’re seeking to apply this exercise with a specific soft skill you may ask yourself: What beliefs do I have about this soft skill and people who I consider to be good at it?  Are there any beliefs about myself holding me back from starting or persisting now?  What belief do I need to let go of first, to be able to truly commit to this learning process? 

2. Be curious about what you discover and write it down

Observe everything that might come up. Write it down as it comes. Don’t judge it and don’t judge yourself. Resist the impulse to excuse it or seek an origin story for it. Sit with the question and possible answers with ease. If you end up with a long list, pick the one aspect that you feel most resonates with your present situation. This curious approach will create the space and openness to keep learning about yourself and will be extremely helpful in the future for recognizing and rewiring limiting belief patterns.

If you find this process to trigger you emotionally don’t avoid it, pause, take as many deep breaths as you need, and ask yourself: “What is this feeling trying to communicate to me?” Chances are you might be encountering urgency to change, frustration, shame, anger… whatever it is, let the feeling pass through you as you breathe. 

The more “triggered” you feel about this process, the more you probably identify with that belief. Be aware that it’s there for a reason, it served a purpose once, even maybe more than once, still, you’re allowed to actualize it if it turns out it is no longer serving you. 

This awareness will set you out on the road to lasting change, that is, if you remain open to learning how to manage discomfort, allow the space for it to pass through, and then let go.  

3. Let your “future self” guide you to the next level

Now that you have sailed the questions and identified that one limiting belief that you want to let go of, I want you to close your eyes, bring awareness to your breathing and start imagining what the opposite of that limiting belief would look like for you.

Don’t describe it, picture it.

As you start imagining yourself in a more empowering state, mastering that skill, I want you to purposefully bring up a feeling of safety, and calm strength in your body. Embrace any comfortable and affirming sensation that might help you portray it more clearly.  Give yourself a minute and then try to come up with an equally affirming phrase or mantra, like: “I am worthy”, “I am ready”, and “I am capable”. These are very generic examples, but the point is for you to choose the most powerful phrase you can come up with that can help you recall this experience of your empowered self in the future while you are still learning how to become it.  

It’s important that you say it out loud, more than once, until you feel it resonate with every pore of your body. With this process, you are wiring your nervous system on possibility, embodying your empowered future self. You can fuel on this memory whenever you need it.

4. Seek momentum

Now that you’re ready to take on this new development journey commit to progress, not perfection. Don’t stop if one day you can´t show up fully, instead, focus on just keeping your practice moving in whatever form you can. Little steps and consistent action will make you one day arrive without realizing how you got there. 

Contrary to popular belief, what keeps us going is not motivation, is momentum. This term that comes from physics, teaches that there is nothing like the impetus gained by a moving object. Or in this case, by living and moving intention.

5. Surround yourself with people that support you

Think of at least two people you trust who might agree to be your development partners. In the process of persisting, it is important to have someone who can understand and support the journey you’re in. Someone to share your struggles with, and celebrate your accomplishments.

Who knows? You might end up inspiring others along the way.

About the author

Andrea Cuellar

Andrea is a Senior People Coach at Applaudo, a licensed psychologist and expressive arts therapist with +7 years of experience working in the people development field. In the last 5 years, she has worked in the finance and IT industry building capabilities and coaching leaders. Highly attuned to her creative side, Andrea is a passionate promoter of the arts for mental health and wellbeing.

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