The Importance of Soft Skills in Career Transition

By Anna Miller, PhD

Anna Miller
Anna Miller, PhD

Building and improving soft skills is an important part of scientific training. Soft skills, such as communication and interpersonal skills, problem solving, time management, and leadership and teamwork, are important characteristics that can be carried over into any position such as. Whether you work in academia, industry, government, or elsewhere, these skills are vital to success. We polled ASHG trainee members using the #ASHGtrainee on Twitter to see where current trainees are building skills most frequently: science communication, leadership roles, or time management. This article aims to highlight where current trainees are spending most of their time developing skills and to suggest other ways to build soft skills. 

Science Communication (38.1%) 

  • Write for a scientific blog or newsletter! This could be a volunteer position, such as a personal blog or for a scientific society like the Nascent Transcript. You could be employed to write too, such as writing technical pieces for a university or pharmaceutical company or writing scientific outreach for a company. 
  • Cultivate your social media, LinkedIn, or create a professional website. You can use these to express your scientific interests and career goals to future employers, network, and build your professional community. 
  • Scientific outreach: Spread your passion for science! This could be informally as a volunteer for DNA Day, through ASHG or a local group. You could also advocate for science by writing to your local legislature or taking part in a more formal training such as the ASHG Genetics and Public Policy Fellowship or the Advocacy Certificate for Human Genetics and Genomics Trainees. 

Leadership Roles (33.3%) 

  • Join a leadership team. Become a member of a local graduate student/postdoc organization or government. Apply to be a member of an ASHG committee. 
  • Mentor students. This could be inside or outside of the lab, informally or through a formal program. Build your skills in mentoring and leading others by helping a student with a project or meeting regularly to help them reach their goals. 

Time Management (19%) 

  • Learn how you organize best. Do you like having a physical or online calendar? Do you like making to do lists? Do you have 100 sticky notes that just make sense to you? Find what your strengths are and lean into them. 
  • Set reasonable goals and deadlines and check in on them often. Your responsibilities in your home life and work life change frequently. Allow yourself to adapt to those expectations and keep yourself on track. 
  • Practice delegating. If you work on a team, practice managing others and ask people on your team to pick up tasks as needed. Practice being a good teammate and pick up tasks from others as well! 

If you are looking to transition your career, remember the importance of soft skills. Working in research environments, we informally build them every day: when we coordinate with our lab mates for use of shared materials, when we write and present results, when we prioritize some experiments or analyzes over others, and so on! Make sure these important skills are highlighted in your career development and on your resume. 

For more information about building soft skills, updating resumes, and potential future careers, check out the ASHG Genetics and Genomics Career Accelerator. 

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