SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 24 July 2020Soft Skills: Why They are Harder Than You Think and How You Can Acquire Them
“Those movies sure got me into a rut.” - Elvis Presley
What? How can making movies result in being in a rut? It’s not like Elvis was stuck at a corporate job for the past 10 years! He was making movies!
Being in a rut can apply to everyone and everything, make no mistake about it. You can be in a rut at your job, as a self-employed individual or, yes, even as the late King of Rock and Roll himself! Anytime you are doing the same thing over an extended period of time no matter what it is, can make you feel stuck.
Some of the fears that people have associated with being in a rut are losing creativity, motivation, and drive. All valid! Identifying that you need to make a change is the first step in the right direction and the best way to get out of a rut is to change your environment.
The Solution: Change your Environment!
There are many benefits to changing your environment, one of which most recently proven by a study done by the Applied Cognitive Psychology Journal, which demonstrated that a change in environment improves memory retention. They conducted a study in which they separated two groups of children to complete mathematical problems led by an instructor.
In the experiment, half of the children learned by studying repeated examples of one equation, say, calculating the number of prism faces when given the number of sides at the base, then moving on to the next type of calculation, studying repeated examples of that. The other half studied mixed problem sets, which included examples of all four types of calculations grouped together. Both groups solved sample problems along the way, as they studied.
After studying the separate groups, they found that the mixed problem set group outperformed the other 77% to 38%! The study showed that the brain doesn’t operate well when doing the same thing for an extended period of time.
Take note of the following steps to get out of your comfort zone and start creating new opportunities:
Change your surroundings!
Whether at home, school or work, you can get out of a rut by changing your surroundings and doing something different for a while. Perhaps all you need is to take a walk to clear your mind, watch motivational youtube videos, or maybe rearrange the furniture in your room. Will Craig, Managing Director of LeaseFetcher, had this to say after changing the layout of his office.
“We rearranged the layout of our office, so that employees could more easily network with each other to solve issues when they arose, rather than relying on email exchanges. Doing so has massively improved the speed and overall efficiency of how our business operates."
This approach helped his employees grow by getting out of their comfort zone and helped his company grow by increasing productivity. Like Will Craig's employees, you too can change your environment! Next time you feel like you are in a rut, just change something around you and you’ll find that your mind will be clearer and your motivation will increase.
Expand your network!
This is the first and most important step you can take towards success. Learn to take advantage of all the resources you have available to you, and if you don’t know what those resources are, then be proactive in looking to find out what you could be missing out on. If you want to own your own business, for example, join an entrepreneurial club! Find out where they are located in your area.
Meetup.com is a great place to start. You can search by fraternities, interests or location and in doing so you will meet up with like-minded individuals who want to get to know you as well! You will not only grow your network, but you will culture yourself further and get to see new places. Here are a few other examples of how you can start to expand your network:
1.Take advantage of LinkedIn - Don’t just create an account but actively search for contacts that you can connect with. It can be scary sometimes to connect with people but by doing so you are pushing yourself and getting out of your comfort zone.
2. Connect with friends and family - They won't look down on you and they will help build you up as you are on your pathway of change. Also, the great thing about friends and family is that those friends and family, who you care about, also have their own friends and family. Step out of your skin and ask for referrals of who they might think would be a good person to connect with.
3. Look outside your niche - Remember though, the only way to grow is to step out of what you are used to and try something new. To do this, you need to look outside your nice. You will be surprised to see what you find. You may find somebody who can introduce you to a contact that works within your industry.
4. Volunteer - Find an organization who needs your help. It could be something related to your field or something totally different. Either way, you will start to expand your network and enjoy life more by helping others.
5. Contact former professors or college alumni - One of the strongest ties you have are people you have gone to school with or professors that have taught you throughout the years. Connecting with college alumni or professors will you give you a strong base to help grow your network because you will have common ground with those you connect with.
If you're already working for a company, you can network with your fellow coworkers! Caleb Backe from Maple Holistics says,
"Expanding one’s network can also give you more support at work and help you be more productive. If you work in a smaller office, bringing in baked goods is a surefire way to make people smile and provide an easy opportunity to start a conversation with them. Another idea is to ask a colleague for help with a task or consult with them about a new idea you have."
Cold emailing is a great way to make new connections and get out of your comfort zone! No one wants to send out cold emails, but sometimes you have to - and when it’s done right, it can benefit you greatly! Whether you are sending out emails to a large number of people or tailoring each message to an individual, be mindful of sending the emails to the right people.
You can look for emails using Linkedin and Google. Refer to this website for other commonly used methods to find email addresses if you are unsure. Don’t give up if you don’t hear back right away - here is an example of one person’s tireless effort to meet up with the CEO of Snapchat. Never give up! If you are unsure on how to get started, here are some great sample templates for writing cold emails.
If you are a freelancer your job lives off of the connections that you make. Technology can be your greatest foe! Don’t waste time catching up on Netflix shows and let valuable time slip away. It’s easy to get distracted by technology that isn’t working towards your advantage. Before you know it the day will be gone!
You won’t get much social interaction working inside of your living room, but a cafe may get you just what you need. Stay open to meeting new people and working in new places! If you are a student and you have a group meeting, make the suggestion to go to the common areas on campus instead of meeting in the library.
If you work in an office, take advantage of the environment. Instead of sending your co-worker an email, get up and talk to them in person. Not only will this help you be more social but getting up and leaving your office for a time will help recharge yourself. If you find difficulties in talking with others then make small goals every day such as, “I am going to talk with 3 people today”. These small goals will help build up your social skills and keep you from going crazy from sitting in your office all day.
You should strive to be seeking out new opportunities at every stage in your career. If you do not currently have a job, it doesn’t mean you can’t be searching for opportunities to grow! Changing your environment will help you step out of your comfort zone and help you reach your goals. Get out there and start creating new opportunities today!
Article Updated 10/18/18