There is no doubt that every business school student should take part in group work as part of their programme. Having a repertoire of soft skills is essential in the world of work. Graduate employers will automatically expect you to have an array of people skills when you start a job, from emotional intelligence to your ability to work with others.
How to gain soft skills
While some people seem to have the natural gift of interpersonal skills, not all of us are graced with them from birth. The good news is, these essential skills can be learned through experience. If you are already on the job, or you are at university, exposing yourself to opportunities to practice your soft skills will serve you well in your next step. Whether it is working on a joint project, giving a presentation to your colleagues, or attending a soft skills workshop, it is better to step out of your comfort zone as early on as possible to make sure you are well-rehearsed for when it matters most.
Seek group projects & presentation opportunities
Here at Kent Business School, our BSc International Business students share their experiences of working together as a team to complete a consultancy project:
Led by Kent Business School’s Dr Carmen Stoian, the students were asked to deliver a group presentation on how they thought a specific company could successfully expand internationally in two new target countries. As well as expanding their knowledge of international ventures, the students gained essential and transferable skills:
‘This assignment allowed us to acquire practical experience of conducting rigorous research and analysis. Most importantly, the assignment taught us how to work effectively as a multicultural team. Some of us were friends before we started the group work- and we became even better friends afterwards. We also learned to compromise, use our individual strengths, motivate each other, listen to each other’s ideas and, ultimately be a strong team. We learned a lot from each other and together we did a greater job than if we had worked on our own.’
Ask for feedback from mentors
Whether it is your professor at university or your line manager at work, the advice of mentors is invaluable to you. Seeking opportunities to receive verbal communication, ideally, on a one-to-one basis can offer you great insight into how you come across to others and where you can improve.
Learning to listen and accept feedback is an important skill and will allow you to improve both personally and professionally. The students involved in the consultancy project for their module sought advice from their seminar leader and were open to feedback on their presentation that will prepare them for subsequent opportunities.
‘Dr Stoian and our classmates gave constructive feedback on our presentation and were impressed that we went the ‘extra mile’ and created a very detailed investors’ booklet that was perceived as imaginative, professional and full of very interesting facts and recommendations.’
Rise to challenges and step outside of your comfort zone
Even when you don’t necessarily feel ready, it’s crucial to step outside of your comfort zone to seek new skills and experiences that will enable you to develop. If you do not know how to do something you will learn how in the process of taking on the new responsibility or challenge and you must not hold back for fear of making mistakes. Even if it’s just small steps, seeking out new challenges will allow you to build confidence, learn about yourself and build new skills.
It is important to seek the support of others while taking on these challenges so that you can rely on trusted guidance and encouragement. University provides the perfect environment for this so you can build confidence early on with familiar lecturers and co-students. During their assignment, the Kent Business School students were ambitious in choosing their international business case and target countries for expansion but sought guidance when needed:
‘Although Dr Stoian, our module convenor, thought that this topic would be rather challenging, we stuck to our idea, which eventually paid off. With determination and creativity, we conducted an in-depth analysis of the macroeconomic and industry environments in the two countries. We also used theories and frameworks from the module and Dr Stoian guided us through the research processes and gave us useful advice when necessary. By using this and up-to-date and relevant data from reputable sources, we put forward several specific recommendations of how to make this expansion successful.’
Thank you to Kent Business School students Alexey Konoshenkov, Kaahchi Khatri, Martina Saiu and Kateryna Martovytska for sharing their thoughts on gaining soft skills at university. If you would like to know more about the BSc International Business, please see our undergraduate programmes.