AfriGens win the gold when it comes to technical skills. We are ‘technical-know-how babies’ (where my Nollywood fans at??) when it comes to hard skills that are easy to quantify like reconciling an account ledger or determining the right medication formula for a patient. But when it comes to soft skills, we could use a little sharpening. Soft skills center around how we interact with people and most of us struggle with soft skills. It’s an achilles heel for some of us first-genners because we were mostly encouraged to focus on hard skills and in lieu of creative endeavors that typically involve soft skills.
All isn’t lost though, I gift thee with tips to sharpen your soft skill tools. There are number of soft skills that will help you be successful at work regardless of your career path. There are tons of them ranging from communication skills to leadership skills. However, there are a few that AfriGens should focus on to take your career to the next level:
Self awareness – knowing and understanding what drives, angers, motivates, frustrates, and inspires you. Let’s get real for a minute. Growing up African, doesn’t leave room for freedom of expression; we weren’t allowed to freely tell our parents how we were feeling in the moment. Furthermore, we weren’t encouraged to take the time to focus on our needs, instead we focused on the overarching goal: surviving in a new country.
Now that we’re thriving, it’s important to learn about ourselves and become self aware. Being able to observe yourself objectively in a difficult situation and understand how your perception of yourself and others, will help you self-correct at work and help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in any given situation. Understanding your triggers and motivation will help you interact with your coworkers and be more confident at work.
Self promotion skills – In the African community, being humble is touted as a virtue. At times, children are given nonverbal cues to be seen not heard. We take this outlook into the workplace and think that our work will speak for itself without realizing that a bit of self promotion will make your career. You have to proactively promote your skills and work results to people of power at work. This means your boss, and your boss’s peers should hear directly from you when you have had a success. Bring it up by the water cooler or during a meeting. Use “I” statements. There is a fine line between bragging and self-promotion. Bragging is inccessantly letting people know everything you’ve done. Self promotion is selectively choosing big wins and sharing them with your boss and others of influence.
Communication skills – For some of first-genners we really suck at this. I am not talking about presenting in front of large audiences–we could all improve in this area–I’m talking about basic communication chops with a small groups of people.
We aren’t always good at effectively presenting our work results and ideas in a manner that captivates our peers’ attention. At times, we get so worried about coming across well, that we use big words that aren’t needed or ramble on without a cohesive message.
To counter this, you should always have a communication format in your head when presenting your ideas to a small group or a large group. The format should include: giving one concept and two or three supporting ideas, the ask (what you want your audience to do or consider) and a timetable, if necessary.
There are a number of soft-skills to be zeroed-in on to improve your career trajectory. We will cover a few more in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I encourage you to focus on the above three: self awareness, self promotion, and communication skills. These skills are a good foundation to begin slaying at work.