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5 Unexpected Ways to Work on Your Soft Skills

10/20/2023
6 minutes

When you’re learning to code to become a software developer, there are plenty of ways to practice concepts and frameworks outside of our courses and paths. Maybe you complete a project, build your portfolio website, or work through a code challenge, for example.  

The soft skills that you need as a developer — like being able to present ideas impactfully or strategize with stakeholders — are equally important, but a lot harder to practice. Even as an entry-level developer, you might be asked to reverse engineer a codebase, identify and solve a bug, or learn a new framework to meet a project’s requirements. All of this requires technical chops, of course, but career success is more than just technical skill development. You need to be able to solve problems, communicate effectively, and pay attention to details to get a job done.

In today’s AI-driven world, effective interpersonal and social skills will keep you a cut above. That’s why we’re offering exclusive soft skills training for Codecademy Pro and Plus members. Read on to learn more about these resources and ideas that will help you practice and improve your soft skills.

Get expert soft skills training

We recently held a three-part livestream series that focused on developing business and communication skills. The events were led by Merri Lemmex, a management and leadership expert who has decades of experience training people who work in tech and other industries around the world. These chapter events are exclusive to Codecademy Pro and Codecademy Plus learners. Missed the livestream? Folks with Pro or Plus can access recordings of the soft skills series through our forums. If you have a Basic membership, you can upgrade your plan or start a 7-day free trial to join.

Each of the training sessions covers a different soft skill: problem solving, planning and priority setting, and critical thinking. These soft skills can help you succeed in any job (and TBH social setting), but they’re particularly useful for folks in tech. At the end of the series, you’ll walk away with an impressive toolkit that you can carry with you throughout your career and life.

Learn something new for free

Read up on creative ways of thinking

You might think that soft skills are all extroverted, like public speaking, leadership, and communication. But knowing how to solve problems, prioritize your schedule, and consider different perspectives are also highly valuable soft skills to have. (You’ll learn how to get better at each of these soft skills in our exclusive training sessions.)

You can open your mind to new ideas just by reading a book or blog article. There are lots of books about working in tech that can help you develop empathy for people with different perspectives than your own. If you prefer shorter reads, consider subscribing to a tech and work newsletter to see how today’s thought leaders are approaching industry developments like AI, or learn how individuals stay organized and get things done. We’re big fans of Harvard Business Review’s Management Tip of the Day newsletter for easy actionable tips about how to do your job better.

Record yourself giving a presentation

In remote workplaces, meetings are often recorded so that team members can rewatch the material async. If you give presentations and have access to the recordings, go back and watch yourself. It might make you cringe, but take note of your body language, tone, and style as well as the feedback you received in the moment from team members in the meeting or in the chat. Without getting too wrapped up in self-criticism, watch how you referred to visual aids like slides, or used storytelling to engage the audience. You could also ask a trusted friend or team member to take a look and provide some constructive feedback.

Don’t get many opportunities to present? You can record yourself demoing a product feature you worked on or are familiar with, and just use it as practice. Another idea: Pretend you’re a developer advocate and make a video hyping up your favorite app or software. Or take a trick from public speaking classes and try presenting on a random topic you know a lot about — like your favorite sports team or how to cook your go-to meal.

Join an open-source project

October is Hacktoberfest in the tech world, which is the ideal time to get started with the vibrant open-source community. Getting to collaborate with developers around the world on an open-source project gives you experience working with a team, communicating with other devs, and receiving or giving feedback. You can also learn a lot about open-source workflow and how to prioritize tasks.

If you’re a newbie to open-source, we recommend starting by contributing to Docs, our community-driven documentation for popular programming languages and frameworks. With Docs, you’ll get experience with Git and GitHub, have your submissions reviewed by more advanced devs, and start building up a portfolio.

There are varying levels of involvement on open-source initiatives. If you’re a frequent contributor to an open-source project, you could volunteer to be a maintainer, meaning you create processes for the collaborators, manage documentation, and keep the project aligned with its goals. Leadership roles in open-source projects require more of a time-commitment than just contributing, but they’re also a great way to keep working on your soft skills.

Take time to practice mindfulness

Meditating in silence may not sound like the most productive way to practice soft skills, but studies show that mindfulness can enhance your ability to solve problems and think creatively. Research out of Harvard found that when engineers added 15 minutes of mindfulness to their workflow, it improved their ability to think out of the box and generate new ideas.

Cultivating mindfulness, defined as a state of “nonjudgmental, moment-to-moment awareness,” gives you mental space to consider different solutions, perspectives, and strategies. Not sure what mindfulness looks like in the life of a programmer? Try adding the mindfulness exercises in this article to your work day.

Rewatch our soft skills series

In part one of the soft skills series, we cover ways to identify obstacles that hinder effective problem solving, and tactics for approaching issues. You’ll also learn techniques for presenting your ideas in a way that will resonate with your audience. Part two is all about scheduling and prioritizing like a pro. In this session, you’ll pick up genius tricks for managing time and prioritizing tasks. And the third session is designed to take your career further with creativity and strategic thinking. No matter what level of your career you’re at, you can take away critical thinking tools and tap into your resourcefulness.

Watch or revisit recordings of all of the sessions led by Merri Lemmex. Make sure you upgrade to Pro or Plus to access this exclusive content.

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