I had mentioned in many of my previous posts (that I no longer remember) that this summer I was (and am) focussing on developing new skills. I didn’t have any proper internship/ work experience organised for this summer. I have been volunteering and hopefully will be doing some work experience with lawyers next month.
Clearly none of this is relevant to any of the career fields I am considering or with chemistry but I am still doing all this. The sole reason is to develop skills. These experiences are bound to help me with personal development, taking initiative, communication and give me insights into the various sectors therefore broaden my horizon in terms of what is out there in the big beautiful world.
I have been lately thinking about all the skills I have or rather I don’t have. The trouble is my mind-set or rather my disappointment since I don’t seem to be born with any of the skills out there; which might be why they’re skills and not talents. So what skills are valued out there?
Verbal communication: I wasn’t like this at school but since starting university I have become very quiet. I must say I am beginning to enjoy this silence or rather this peace in my life but where everyone says your confidence skyrockets at university, mine seems to be going downhill. But then again, even though it feels like my confidence levels are dropping, I am beginning to reach out a lot more. I just find that I don’t engage in conversations that aren’t necessarily going to benefit me. Having said this, I am a whole different person when I am around my own group of friends. It is just with new people I take longer than normal to get comfortable but then surely it’s a good thing because then you know you’re building genuine, strong relationships with people who you become friends with. With regards to public speaking, as much as I fret that my nerves kick in, I have discovered that I am not the only one. Others have also said that they have similar problems therefore perhaps I should stop exaggerating my inability to do public speaking and stop seeing it as something that’ll prevent me from achieving absolutely everything in life.
Written communication: I read an article only yesterday on LinkedIn about how so many graduates coming out of university seem to lack written communication skills due to this mindset that they only need to be able to write emails, presentations and other little things and don’t need to bother much about longer pieces of writing. It has been highlighted as bad and I, deep down, feel so pleased with myself that I realised this much earlier in life and have therefore been working on developing my writing skills for a while. Besides writings blogs, I have recent begun writing for the Warwick newspaper – The Boar. I have already submitted two articles and am working on my third one for the Science and Tech section. I also hope to get involved with writing for the Boar Books section. Writing blogs is one thing. Writing articles is another where they take a lot more thought, structure, drafting and here I find myself a lot more on my toes since this is something new that I am trying.
What other skills are out there? Well, as a chemist, I am expected to be thorough, accurate, one who pays attention to detail, who has strong numerical and analytical skills, good with being methodological with her approach and this list goes on. The challenge isn’t always not having these skills or not knowing how to develop the skills. Another issue is sometimes failing to understand yourself or what you do enough to be able to realise that you’re actually using these skills in life all the time. You just don’t think about them or perhaps don’t see your work as if you’re exercising a skill. Such is the complexity of skills!
Another thing about continuing to develop is as you practice a skill, you become better at it which means you become more fussy about how you want things, you become better at distinguishing the better from just the good, and this could lead to chaos; ironically.
For example, I have had this blog for about three years now. Still, I have had numerous names, web-links, site designs, post formats, colours, and this list goes on. This is because everyday you learn something new and you implement it into your work but then you see the old and it makes you really cringe. I have been going over my old tweets in search of a particular tweet I needed for one of my other blogs and seeing how lame my tweets used to be only like a year ago really makes me want to sit down and delete them all. I know this is vacation season but I still don’t have the time to do this tedious task so I have decided to refrain from ever looking back at those tweets. It isn’t the everyday teenage guilt about having posted content I shouldn’t have. It is the little things like the hashtags I’ve used, the number of hashtags, the frequency of my tweets, the blogs I’ve shared (that have now been deleted), just the message in those 140 characters really makes me want to delete it all and start it all over again as I have done with my blog about three times now.
Such is this wonderful journey of developing skills. As you begin to become better, you want to disconnect yourself from the good-only content because you don’t want anyone to see you as just good. You are now better and that’s how you want to be seen by people. Regardless, such is life. You learn through making mistakes. You understand what good is after you’ve been through the “bad”.
Even if at some point in the future, I become a really good public speaker, I’ll probably always think back to those times when my hands shook in front of people whilst I spoke . Even if one day, I am an admired scientist, people might still dig around my old tweets and ask how I could possibly be so bad at designing science research posters (for now, I’ve done the job for you; see my recent Nuffield post for that poster tweet!).
Until next time