6 soft skills you can't learn at University

University is valuable. However, there are certain invaluable soft skills which we do not learn at university. Suleiman Faruqi, Business Sales Graduate at Telefonica UK, takes us through his six must-have soft skills both within the workplace and without.

Teamwork is crucial to any organisation with an employee base of more than one. Interacting and working well alongside a team of like and un-like-minded people is an invaluable skill that is not explicitly taught. On the graduate scheme I have had the privilege of working on numerous projects both with my peers and with new people. Understanding what each individual brings to the table and how our micro skills can make a difference on a macro level has been both challenging and rewarding.

Ask yourself this: would you want to sit next to yourself on a 15-hour flight? Bringing an optimistic attitude to each and every situation is difficult in truth, but also hugely gratifying. Being the person who conquers the spectre of gloom is positive for you and others around you; people will feed off your positive energy! Being part of the graduate ‘family’, with its mix of personalities, has meant that whenever I have been having one of those days, it has been nearly impossible not to find someone who can offer a fresh, enthusiastic outlook on any bleak situation.

Adaptability is key, said Charles Darwin. From getting used to a new pair of shoes to understanding the culture of a new country, accepting change is essential. Without getting too philosophical, change is constant and it is embracing fluctuating landscapes that differentiates between individuals at a company and assets to that company. Whilst on the graduate programme, change has almost become a part of daily life. My line manager was reassigned after the managing partner who hired me in January moved roles just before I started. Five months into my new job, I was assigned a new line manager as the incumbent, too, took on a new role within the company. We can’t beat it, so we might as well embrace it.

Being able to crystallise ideas in your mind, and translate them into succinct oral or written communiques is as crucial as being able to listen well. I have had ample opportunity to do both. Having come into this business without any prior background in telecoms meant I had to learn to listen well. Similarly, with peoples’ schedules being so busy, it has been obligatory to deliver communication in a swift, coherent manner.

Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration? Yes, in fact it is. Despite having less telecoms knowledge than others on the graduate scheme has not compromised me in any way. Work ethic and diligence is noted, be it on the smallest or grandest of projects.

Knowing what to say and when to say it is crucial in any work environment. The close ties formed between the graduates over the course of our time together has meant that there is always someone ready and willing to tell you if what you’re doing may have negative connotations. This level of honesty is invaluable as receiving this feedback from peers is far less intimidating than being hauled up by your manager when you’ve done something wrong.

We, as graduates in the corporate environment, are in an incredibly fortunate position. As well as an innate self-awareness of the importance of soft skills, we are offered limitless opportunities to improve these in our working environment. Outside of the office, the opportunities are even greater – with the excellent Times Graduate Challenge a great proof point of this.

Despite this developmental culture, it can be challenging to chart progress in how you’ve developed your soft skills, and our 121, IPR and APR conversations are naturally skewed towards competence and deliverables. If you don’t have a 15-hour plane journey on the horizon, take some time to self-evaluate your soft skills portfolio. Replay meetings, greetings, passing conversations, body language and phone calls to yourself – how do you come across? Where are your development points? After all, what use is a wolf in sheep’s clothing?