20 May 2008

Geek works on soft skills

I am officially job-hunting, so I have plenty of thoughts to share. Last topic was career experiments, and today's is soft skills. Yeah, I know, geeks and soft skills...

I'm not gonna get into details about times when I couldn't answer any question that wasn't perfectly precise and small talk was just a programming language for me. Let's just say I've always been a true geek.

College is a bit easier with better soft skills, but it's not really the place where you get to work with people a lot or gain a lot of charisma. Well, you can in different clubs and associations, and these are loved on resumes, but with my two majors, I don't have time for that. I am co-founder of the .net club at my Uni, but, well, actually, I am on the co-founders list and not much more.

There are however some cool career days for students and I have been to a few. My first case study happened at one of these and was a disaster. In the first part, my team didn't do the task in the given time, so we kept talking when the presentations began, which was disturbing and made a really bad impression. In the second part, the team got much better, but my role was "living calculator". I was great at this - we were faster that a team with a real calculator - but the soft skills... I did find a good way to help the team, but wasn't really in it, didn't communicate much and stuff.

A few months ago, I went to another case study organized by a consulting company. I was hesitating, but Boyfriend told me to do it, saying that I could use any experience of the kind. I didn't like it at all - all we had to do was read some text, find out the problems of an imaginary company and offer solutions. I decided to stay away from consulting (in favor of coding) and further case studies, considering that last one a waste of time.

Back to the present and the job-hunting: I'm applying for several jobs and as part of the recrutation for the first one on my list right now, I took part yesterday in something called "assessment center", which included making a business plan for a circus... in a team. As I was sitting there wondering wether five jugglers were too much - it hit me: I've done that already! Not running a circus, but teamwork: I knew what it looked like and I knew how weak I was in it, how little I took part in the discussion, how I ended up hidden in the corner,... This time was different from the previous ones when I had nothing but a few hours to loose. I wanted the job and hiding in the corner was the last thing to do. I decided to do anything not to remain unnoticed. So when I was running out of things to say, I took the initiative and started writing down the team's ideas, sorted in categories. It lead me to becoming the moderator of the discussion: since I wanted things written down, I had to know how, so I forced the team to decide on each thing before moving to the next one. Finally, I did the final presentation without almost any stage fright.

I'm really happy about that last teamwork of mine. I still have to wait a week before I know whether I got the job, but, I have gained one thing for sure: better soft skills. Additionally, I have proved that they are learnable - that's good news for all the geeks!

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