Improving Your Soft Skills

Faye PicBy Faye Morley, University of Birmingham.

Over the past three years at university I have worked hard to change from a painfully shy person into one who is frequently described as confident. I even find myself offering to present in front of large crowds without so much as a second thought.
This article will give you some tips to make this development yourselves, just bear in mind that the majority of soft skills will come naturally with gaining confidence.

1. Placements
The main advice I can give is to just keep talking. If you ever get an opportunity to talk to a patient, take it! You don’t necessarily need to talk about anything pharmacy or clinically related if you are not comfortable with it, all you need to do is sit down, introduce yourself and ask to have a chat. In my experience, patients love to talk about themselves and this will increase your confidence in approaching and talking to patients.

2. Practice
This is always the obvious point, but I have found that it’s rarely done effectively. Practicing presentations shouldn’t just be reading it through a few times, but should include presenting to a friend to gain feedback, in front of a mirror, or my personal ‘favourite’; recording yourself then playing it back afterwards. Although this can be embarrassing to watch back, it has drastically helped to improve my skills.

3. Reflect
This may not come naturally to you, but reflection is a skill vital to pharmacists. You need to reflect on presentations and consultations to investigate ways to improve for next time, and then implement these changes. For example, if you find through reflection that it’s presenting in front of a large crowd that makes you nervous, why don’t you plant a friend on the front row to smile at you if you start to panic? If your hands shake, maybe you should stand behind a lectern or hold onto something until you become more confident.

4. Grasp Opportunities
Although it may be seen as making more work for yourself, you really cannot underestimate the importance of gaining these soft skills, so you should grasp every opportunity for development that is offered to you. I have found that taking the opportunity to be a RPS student champion has vastly helped as I have had several sessions on improving my presentation skills, as well as the chance to present the benefits of joining the RPS.

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