No hard skills? Being cool with rejection?
Kirjoittanut: Seungyeon Shin - tiimistä SYNTRE.
The summer is coming and my 2nd year of Proakatemia is about to end soon. Each semester goes so fast and by the time when the semester ends, I get so exhausted that it makes me just finish everything asap and go enjoy the break. Although I reflected on my near future in my learning contract like what kind of person, leader, and specialist I want to become, I believe it is a great time to share what have I learned in this semester with the community. In this essay, I would like to talk about 2 learnings. Coping with uncertainty when it comes to a career path that I want to build in the future, how to process rejection and disappointment.
At this point in the study, it is natural to think about what kind of profession I want to have after graduation. The question of “What do you want to do for a living?” has never been an easy one for me, instead, it has always challenged me to think about what is the one thing that I am good at. That one thing that has to be a hard skill, that I can say with confidence.
Similarly, when I am sometimes asked what kind of skills I have or offer, I always expect that I have to name all the fancy hard skills that can be described simply like the others. In fact, I believed that those fancy “hard skills” are better, meaning that they are more like to win and be appreciated in the job market than “soft skills”. Simon Sinek points out that when we talk about hard skills and soft skills as if they are in opposition to each other which is nonsense, but indeed, it is hard skills and human skills. Hard skills are the things that you need to do the job. And Human skills are the skills that make a better person and ultimately make better leaders which include the skills like listening, empathy, patience, and how to have difficult conversations. He gives an example of how the head of training for the United States Navy SEALs selects the elite group using two factors, performance, and trust, on an XY axis on the paper. The way they define “performance” is the way how we normally define performance, and trust is defined as what kind of person you are, meaning if I may trust my life with you. What they learned is that a person who has high performance, but low trust is a toxic team member, and they would sometimes prefer to have a low performer with high trust over a high performer with low trust (Sinek 2021.) Would it be different in the business world?
In the past, I think I blamed “soft skills” for the uncertainty of my career path, at least the big anxiety was coming from that. But what we learn here in Proakatemia is certainly different from the ones that the “normal students” from the university. Indeed, it is a more complex and unique way of learning when it comes to team learning, entrepreneurship, and time management. It doesn’t mean that we do not learn hard skills in Proakatemia, or they are not important for me, but I have to shift my mindset from the traditional way of naming the skills with only hard ones to a modern way with the skill sets that I have gotten from Proakatemia years. The biggest learning for me this year is that I don’t need to choose a specific hard or decide my career path like accounting or marketing now, in fact, that would make my view narrow and limited, which is not the way things work in today’s world. Instead, I want to keep the mindset: show up, put myself out there, willingness to learn, and the opportunities will come. That’s the way how to tolerate uncertainty.
Secondly, I have been recently thinking about rejection and disappointment from it a lot. Probably for two reasons: I applied for the assistant coach role position which I didn’t get chosen. And at HUBs, we hired 2 more people for the student team, and I was in the interview process for decision-making. I have been rejected multiple times in my life. I was rejected by the university that I wanted to, I was rejected from countless job applications, and even once I got fired from work. And come to think of it, I always seek the thing that I did wrong, and what I didn’t have or wasn’t good enough from rejections. It wasn’t different when I heard that I wasn’t chosen for the Apuva role. It made me sad, hurt, and disappointed. It led me to ask myself “What was the thing that I lacked, is it because I wasn’t good enough?”. But as I went through the interview process as an interviewer for new HUBs team members, I have learned that there are many things to consider when it comes to hiring, not just performance or numbers. It isn’t that they were not good enough or a bad person that made them not be chosen, in fact, they were excellent and really qualified with a lot of valuable experiences but are not relevant to the position.
However, it is still true that rejection hurts. FMRI studies found that rejection evokes brain activity in multiple neural regions that process physical pain. (TED-Ed 2023) I began to wonder if I would ever get used to it, or if the sadness caused by it would ever diminish for the sake of protecting myself from it. Or would it be a good thing that I get used to rejection and become indifferent to it? When I shared this with Annikka, the coach of our team, she said that the disappointment and sadness of rejection show that you really wanted something and that you chose what you really wanted. I believed that being seen as indifferent to getting rejected looks cooler than being seen as heartbroken and crushed, but is it really cool? I don’t have to pretend that everything is cool as it is painful and heartbreaking to get rejected. Indeed, I can be sad with tears, give myself a hot shower with melancholy music, and share my disappointments with people without any feeling of embarrassment. Because, in the end, I chose courage over comfort and vulnerability over indifference. That is what is important, and the way I want to live my life.
Again, as the semester goes by so quickly, it’s sometimes hard to list what I’m learning, but I have these big learnings from the 2nd year of Proakatemia, and now I have the ability to reflect and notice my learnings. I hope this essay would help some of the teampreneurs who might go through similar doubts.
-Sinek S. 2021. There is No Such Thing as “Soft Skills”. Published on 2.7.2021. https://www.facebook.com/simonsinek/videos/theres-no-such-thing-as-soft-skills/537080894000349/
-TED-ED. 2023. How to deal with rejection. Published on 24.1.2023. https://www.youtubecom/watch?v=KO6bbZOc2B4