Closing the Life Science Gap with Soft Skills

Hard skills will empower the start of your career
but soft skills help you excel in it.

Life sciences companies compete with each other and other industries to hire a talented workforce. It took many years for you to acquire the scientific and technical skills as well as the industry knowledge necessary to become proficient in your field.

These hard skills you’ve acquired, also called technical skills, are learnable, easy to quantify but applicable only in a defined context within companies or institutions embracing these activities.

Hard skills will help you get the interview, but soft skills will enable you to get hired and keep the job”.  

Hard skills will empower you to start a career, but soft skills will help you excel in it. 

Throughout their careers, scientists and others with technical backgrounds often must recalibrate behaviors to align with corporate expectations that desire both hard and soft skills as their roles expand.

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Much has been written about the importance of soft skills in life science industries, yet not many studies focus on which specific soft skills have the biggest impact on success because life science’s biggest constraint is TALENT.

For companies to flourish, expanding and developing the available pool of talent becomes a critical success factor. Beyond the scientific and technical expertise that enables industry entrance, soft skills are crucial to developing for professional and organizational growth?

Soft skills are about personal effectiveness, social interactions and leadership.

Soft skills encompass many subjects including listening skills, motivation, creativity, time management, problem-solving, flexibility, emotional intelligence, positive thinking, resilience and others.

Those are your personal attributes and communication abilities required for success in any career independently of your status and degrees.

It may be hard to quantify or measure them but working hard to improve your soft skills will make them very visible to others”.

In a recent research paper for the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation (MassBioEd), Karla Talanian, Luke Haubenstock, and Jennifer Lawrence attempted to remove some of the mystery surrounding these skills, by mapping nontechnical job behaviors most essential to the life sciences industry.3

The authors repurposed the word “soft” to define the four axes of this behavior map as “S.O.F.T”: Self — Others — Feeling — Thinking.*

They concluded that life science enterprises urgently need to accelerate the development of S.O.F.T. skills in order to decrease the talent gap that threatens the industry’s success in providing innovative therapies for patients in need.

People with good soft skills tend to have strong situational awareness and emotional intelligence to navigate difficult working environments while still producing positive results.

This is especially important for leadership positions because good leadership is more about managing people and directing their efforts toward the desired outcome rather than bringing any specific technical skills to bear.

Another benefit of soft skills in the workplace is that they help people to adapt to changing circumstances. Being able to communicate effectively during a time of uncertainty or collaborate with others when solutions aren’t immediately obvious is hugely important whether someone is in a leadership position or not.

Given their many applications, it’s hardly surprising that life science organizations are doing more to assess a candidate’s soft skills when looking to hire.

Soft skills and Hard skills Complement Each Other

A deciding factor for life science employers often comes down to a battle between the hard vs. soft skills of different candidates. 

A Udemy Workplace Trends 2021 report found that nearly 72% of CEOs believe that soft skills are more important to the success of their business than hard skills.

The question arises for many people who have the requisite hard skills – can my soft skills and hard skills complement each other to make me the total package an employer wants. 

 

Take, for example, a clinical research analyst. Working as an analyst requires a number of key competencies and skills and can be an extremely rewarding and satisfying as a career.

 

A clinical research analyst will have different responsibilities and roles depending on the employer, but they work within a team conducting medical studies, clinical trials, and research. 

These professionals conduct research, analyze data, and present their work to help inform decision-makers and stakeholders about a situation. Accurate knowledge of situations and circumstances, emerging diseases, and priorities are crucial to examining a project’s parameters, precise goals and project success.

Besides the math and specific computer if not data analyst skills, clinical research analysts will be accurately analyzing and communicating the data and research to management.

Analysts need excellent oral communication and writing skills to inform and update the stakeholders with recommendations and insights. This requires critical thinking, the ability to synthesize data quickly and accurately from a number of different data sources, and the ability to present the information in a public-friendly and non-technical manner.

Analysts need to anticipate and be prepared to answer questions about the methodologies conducted and the technical specifications of the statistical analysis performed.

Working in a Validation role or in Regulatory Compliance, as many of our LinkedIn Validation and Regulatory Compliance Professionals do, you have to interact effectively with people such as your supervisor and people above and below you on the work chart, as well as others such as customers, vendors, patients, and most likely clinical internists.

Companies seek candidates with both hard and soft skills when hiring for most positions. That’s because don’t communicate well, don’t work well as part of a team, and aren’t able to think creatively and critically, it may not matter how well educated and competent you are.

Having some set of S.O.F.T.* skills – Self — Others — Feeling — Thinking– helps you navigate difficult working environments while still producing positive results.*

Socialize, a leading professional development site for life science professionals, has courses, events, seminars and webinars that can help you incorporate both the hard and soft skills that will make you even more valuable for companies that are looking for the most talented people – and that is you.

 

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