soft skills

Fri 6 September 2019
What you think of yourself vs what others think of you could be like the difference between a horse and a seahorse. Why does it matter how well we know ourselves? What can we do to get a greater understanding of what others think about us? How do misperceptions of oneself even originate?


Self-Awareness is at the heart of emotional intelligence. The better you know how others perceive your actions, the easier it is for you to cater your communication in the way you want to be perceived. How others interpret you can be based on what you say to what you do to how you look. For example, Jay Cutler (the quarterback for the Chicago Bears) gives the impression that he doesn’t care when he plays football and many would care to argue that this is because of his face. Jay Cutler has a bad case of RBF (Resting Bitch Face) which turns people off and causes people to not like him, regardless of whether he is a likeable guy. If Jay Cutler made more of an effort to smile more, people would probably like him more. The point of this example is to convey that how self-aware you are can directly impact how well others like you.


Impressions are created in seconds, whether that is what you heard about somebody, saw in or on somebody, or what you perceive about somebody. Self-Awareness is the ability to understand what people think about you and emotional intelligence is the ability to cater your communication through language, body, and perception to the message you would like to embody.


It matters how well we know ourselves because the more self-aware we are, the happier we will be. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses and learning where your place is based on those strengths and weaknesses is paramount to finding the place where your perceptions meet reality. If you have an unrealistic perspective of yourself, you will consistently be disappointed because you will expect to be treated in a certain way and consistently not receive that response.


We gain a greater understanding of ourselves by listening to the feedback of others. The biggest difficulty people have with this sentence is the word “listening”. Humans possess an inherent drive to not admit our flaws. It is natural for people to get defensive when a flaw is pointed out because to us, flaws are a sign of vulnerability. What most humans don’t understand is that other humans like when people can admit their own flaws. For example, many comedians are extremely successful because they can make fun of themselves. Kevin Hart is hilarious because he fully understands how short he is and all of the downfalls (and silly upsides) to being short. People see this vulnerability in another person and it makes them comfortable to be vulnerable themselves.


Misperceptions of oneself build when we see an idealized version of what we think we can mold ourselves into. For example, many university business schools inform their students that employers are looking for students who have strong work ethic, listening skills, and communication skills. Many students, with the desire to eventually get a job from such an employer, tell themselves that they are strong in all of those skills (whether or not they have worked to develop those skills). When those “aspirational” strengths become so encoded into one’s mental view of ourselves, we build an unrealistic idea of how people perceive who we are.


Ambition In Motion is a company that helps young professionals develop key soft skills, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness. Ambition In Motion helps young professionals gain a realistic idea of what it means to be in the working world and helps unite a company’s business goals with a young professional’s personal goals. These skills directly correlate to higher job satisfaction, productivity, and retention.

Fri 16 August 2019
A goal without a plan is a wish. Is this common sentiment true? Is it impossible for us to achieve a goal that we never planned for?


The ability to set goals equates to an ability to possess control of the outcomes of your situation.


If you are in a job and think to yourself “I hate this job and would be more than willing to accept an offer from another company” but don’t do anything to get an offer from another company, how do you really expect to get another job? Your complaint falls on deaf ears. I have interviewed roughly 100 recent graduates in the past year that are seeking new jobs and about half of them aren’t doing anything to actually “seek” a job. In fact, the closest they got to “seeking” a job was telling me in that interview that they were probably seeking for a new job. I then follow up to ask them “how long have you felt this way?” and the response is typically at least a month to sometimes at least a year.


Why? Your career is typically one of the most prominent sources of professional aspirations. Why are young professionals so complacent in being unsatisfied? Rather, once they realize they are unsatisfied, why is there not a process of setting and achieving goals to get out of that unsatisfaction?


Actually seeking a new career is hard, takes time, and typically isn’t fun. The irony of getting out of a bad job situation is that you have to work even harder outside of that job to find a new one. The issue is that most people enable themselves to not work as hard outside of their job because of the stress they receive from their job. Then, through some random job opportunity (a friend mentioning it, a random email, etc.), you jump on it like it’s the gold rush without thinking “is this job in fact better than my old job?”


Part of goal setting, especially in a professional environment, requires self-awareness. Working to better understand yourself should be the first plan to achieving any professional goal. Taking the time to write down what you like and don’t like (in this example, in your job) is vital to understanding what your next move will be. This takes time and may even require the help of your peers, close friends, and family to inform you of what you like to do and what your strengths are. This is because sometimes you are so deep into what you are doing (and what you think you should be doing) that you can’t see the forest from the trees. From there you can analyze what jobs you think you might like and then reach out to people actually doing those jobs (LinkedIn is great for this) to get better insight on what the job is like. When reaching out to those people, don’t ask whether or not they like the job because that depends on their personality and work style and how that meshes with their work opportunities. Their work style is completely different from yours so their feelings about the job should be irrelevant to you. Questions like “is the work autonomous or structured?” are better because they are not as subjective.


This is just an example of setting a plan to achieving a goal, but the point is that it pays off to plan and not let things come at you as random happenstance.

Fri 9 August 2019
As humans, we have an inherent drive to be accepted and liked by others. Why? Where does this drive come from and how do humans go about achieving this acceptance? If you don’t believe or aren’t certain humans have an inherent drive to be accepted or liked by others, think about your first day at work. Were you nervous? Did you try to not screw up or ask dumb questions? Did you try to do extra tasks to convey your work ethic? If so, a primary reason you did one, some, or all of those things is because you have an inherent drive to be accepted and liked by others (in this example, your colleagues). The ability to build acceptance with those around you is the ability to build rapport.


Up until about the mid-1990’s, the only way to gain this acceptance was through your actions with others and how you communicated with others verbally. But in the 1990’s, amazing technological advancements allowed us to communicate and build acceptance from others nonverbally. How convenient? Why attend conferences and meet others in person to convey a message you are trying to get across to many people when you can just as easily write a blog? Why thank somebody in person when you can send them a thank you text just as easily? Technology has allowed us to communicate in ways we never thought possible 30 years ago.


I have interviewed over 1,000 professionals this past year and asked them what skills they think recent college graduates lack after graduation. Far and away the most common answer was recent graduates lack the ability to communicate. But why? With all of the technological know-how and all of the additional forms of communication, how can recent college graduates lack communication skills?


Has technology discouraged us to communicate face to face?


From these responses, yes! Today, you are considered weird and deemed socially awkward if you start a conversation with a stranger without some sort of goal or objective from the conversation. It is almost as if the efficiency that has been provided in technological communication has permeated into social communication. It feels as if physical conversations are a transaction and if the transaction is not apparent to both parties then nothing positive can be gleaned from that conversation.


Is this right? Can society function with purely technological communication and only communicate face to face “when needed”? I don’t think so.

Fri 2 August 2019
What is time management? Is it jotting down notes and writing out what your plans are? Or is it getting that burrito from Chipotle because you are already out and know that you will be hungry in an hour? Or is it separating your work into different topics to help you concentrate?


Technically, all of these are examples of time management. The key with all of these examples, and time management in general, is that it forces you to think of how you will spend your time in the future and what is the best way to allocate that time.


The funny thing about time management is that it takes time. It is like moving one step backward to eventually move four steps forward. This concept of time management has been so elusive to young professionals and recent graduates today because we are very motivated by the short term. We see the “one step backward” and instantly think “screw that! I’ll just go at it head-on.”


Let’s detail an example of this.


You get on your computer and you start checking emails. The first is from your boss in which you respond right away about how you will come into the office an hour early to get started with work because your company is entering the busy season. The next email is spam from JDate/Match.com/Christian Mingle because your dumb friend thought it would be funny to put your email on their subscription list and no matter how many times you try to unsubscribe and mark as spam, their stupid emails still seem to manage to get through. The next email is a LinkedIn update and you decide to check out the feed on LinkedIn, see how your profile views are doing, and maybe update your profile to “I am technically in a job, but am definitely open to hearing any offers because my job sucks!” and then you chuckle to yourself and quickly delete it. You then check your next email and find it is an accepted friend request from an old friend from high school. You scope their Facebook profile hard now that you are friends because before you were “friends” he had more privacy settings than your parents did on their “R rated” channels when you were growing up. You then think “Oh shoot! I can’t believe it has been an hour, I need to get to the office.” You commute the 30 minutes it takes to get to work to find that nobody is there. It turns out that in that hour it took you to check 4 emails, the 5th email was from your boss informing you that there was a fire in the office and he was canceling work for the day and wanted everyone to work remotely from their house.


This is a very elaborate example, but it is real! The person in this example very likely complains how they can never get their work done on time. Their audience will typically suggest “why don’t utilize some time management tactics.” The individual whines back “I don’t have time for time management!”


Hmm…This seems like an ironic statement. If the individual in this example would have planned to check all work emails first and then the rest of his emails, he would have not wasted the hour back and forth from work, he would have had a specific time allocated to checking LinkedIn and Facebook, and he would not be complaining how he can never get his work done.


The key caveat to not utilizing time management tactics is that it takes time to think about how to best utilize your time. The short term benefit of not expending 10 minutes now, for some odd reason, trumps the long term angst of losing 2 hours of productivity later.

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