Soft Skills for Academic and Career Success Part 2: Forge Strong Relationships is the second article in a three-part series targeting high school and college students and providing insight into key skills needed for academic and career success. Soft skills are presented within a framework of Readiness, Relationships, and Results in this article series.
Relationships are very important in your personal and professional life. Some people think they need not be concerned with getting along with others if they are competent at doing their job. This thinking is wrong. Further, the quality of your relationships influences the quality of your life. Similarly, your professional relationships and network of colleagues enhance your career success. Our discussion of Relationships includes effective communication, professionalism, synergy, and mentoring.
1. Effective Communication
Effective communication skills are essential for strong Relationships and contribute to academic and career success. Demonstrate authenticity and genuine concern for the people with whom you communicate. Try to understand the perspective of the people with whom you communicate, and communicate so that the other person can understand and benefit. In other words, focus on your audience, not yourself.
To communicate effectively, be clear in your content, context, and intent. Content, of course, is the message you want to communicate. Context helps the person understand the background of your message, and intent lets the person know the reason for your communication.
Professionalism refers to workplace standards. A professional is a person who is competent and who is an effective communicator. Professionals see beyond differences and work effectively with diverse groups of people. Professionals demonstrate high integrity, consistently produce quality work, and always follow through on commitments.
As a student, you can bolster your academic success by demonstrating professionalism in your school work. Eliminate grammatical errors, check your facts, and be sure you have followed all directions for your assignments. Properly cite every resource you use to complete your assignments. Turn in every assignment on time. Bolster your professionalism further by building a list of your pending commitments and make a deliberate plan to follow through on every one.
Synergy is an outcome of effective Relationships and refers to the ability of people working together to achieve more than if working alone. Synergy is enhanced as team members openly share ideas, give candid feedback, and have meaningful discussions. Speak up and share your ideas and insights when working with others. Be respectful, but voice your concerns and constructive criticisms.
Synergistic teams are results-oriented and hold their members accountable. Unproductive teams talk much yet accomplish little. Synergistic teams convert discussion into action by clearly defining who (X) is responsible for doing what (Y) and by when (Z). Follow up regularly on “X by Y by Z” to keep your team accountable, on schedule, and productive.
A mentor will help you make wise decisions, develop success skills, and work through obstacles. Find a mentor now if you have not already done so. You might select a mentor based on your career goal or based on a specific skill you want to develop. Make a list of three or four potential mentors and speak with each one before making your selection.
Your mentor may give you specific advice such as how to write a great resume or how to prioritize your time. More often, though, your mentor will provide perspective and insight to help you make decisions. Your ability to make informed decisions by evaluating facts and perceptions increases your potential for success. Leverage your mentoring experience by asking questions and by reflecting on the advice you receive.
Readiness focuses on you as an individual. Relationships focuses on your relationship with others. The next article focuses on Results, getting the job done. The ability to get the job done is absolutely essential to your success, regardless of what the job is.
Gain a deeper understanding of these and other components of Relationships by reading Leadership and Soft Skills for Students: Empowered to Succeed in High School, College, and Beyond. This book contains practical advice and hands-on exercises to equip you with skills needed for academic and career success.
Cary J. Green, PhD recently founded Leadership and Soft Skills Training. Prior to starting his own business, Green spent twenty years teaching, advising, mentoring, and supervising university students. He also spent ten years in leadership positions in higher education. He taught leadership and academic success courses, and mentored student leadership development organizations. Please visit Leadership and Soft Skills for free resources and more information on Green’s books and personalized coaching.