Maybe you’ve been told “soft skills training is very important for your career, you have to take some”. And it’s kind of what I am saying with this series of articles about soft skills. However, if you would have told me this that way with the “careerbuzz word while I was already feeling overwhelmed and lost in my PhD studies, I just would have freaked out even more.

How to know “what is best for your career” when you don’t even know when you are going to finish?? When you can’t even think of what you want to do or what you’ll be able to do after your PhD?

Here is what I want to say:

You can’t know for sure what is best for your career, but it’s OK, we’re all in the same  mess  situation. I suggest trying one thing and see if it helps. It probably can’t hurt. It’s like an experiment for your research project, except here it’s an experiment for yourself. Maybe the result will be negative, or unclear and frustrating, but it is the best way to figure out what experiment to try next.

Some people think that taking soft skills workshops is only for people seeking non-academic job. I can assure you that soft skills can make a huge difference for your academic career, as much as for a non-academic one, it will help no matter what life brings you. This Nature Comment nicely highlights the benefits of soft skills training for an academic career:

Nature Comment – Leiserson & McVinney – 2015

“Being a professor is a human-centered activity. We work with people. We teach students in classrooms, mentor our PhD students, collaborate with peers and try to persuade people in funding agencies to give us money.”

“Although professors pride themselves on their rationality, they have feelings, too.”

“Participants often express amazement at what a little leadership education can do, from reducing the number of hours spent on interpersonal issues to supplying tools for motivating students.”

As scientists we bury ourselves into the everyday tasks of our research projects, experimenting, hoping, analyzing, failing, trying again, hoping again, working crazy hours… Sometimes we take a step back from the data and we talk about the big picture of our scientific project. But I feel that we forget the big picture of our own life. The big picture of ourself as a person, not even as a scientist, but as a person.

Stepping back from my biology bench work and attending soft skills workshops was like finally finding fresh air. It helped me find self-confidence and energy to successfully finish my PhD.


This is the third article from a series about soft skills, click here to see the first article about What are soft skills for academics and the second article entitled Academics: you already have more soft skills than you think and you can prove it. The next article looks at where to find soft skills training in academia.

I’ve put together the 6 articles of this soft skills in academia series in one PDF for easy reading, you can subscribe below to get it!

For more about the career question, check out the career category! :)