Published on October 20, 2015
Even though the word “soft” makes these abilities seem second-fiddle, soft skills are the vital abilities you depend on in job environments across fields and expertise. Soft skills are what make you a great employee instead of simply capable of performing professional duties. Bringing a developed and well rounded set of soft skills to a job environment will make you a valued employee and coworker. Why intern abroad? An internship abroad is an excellent way to improve or learn these desired skills.
1) Verbal communication
While working in an international office abroad, strong verbal communication skills are key to getting work done as a team. When dealing with cultural differences, especially foreign languages, you really have to pay attention to what words you use. Having to pay more attention and focus more on communication within an international office will make you a more astute employee and communicator for years to come.
2) Body language
Body language can say a lot. And it says something different in every culture. Spending time working in a foreign office will make you realize that communication isn’t just verbal – and communication is very different in each cultural context. Body language is something you have to learn and adapt to. This is an important lesson to learn because the way you physically present yourself does send an important message to others that can affect the success of presentations, sales pitches, projects etc. Learning how to physically present yourself in a positive and open way is a key skill to master in order to make others feel comfortable around you.
While communicating in a foreign language, listening skills are essential. Individuals who live abroad have to pay close attention to what words are being used – because it's likely that they won’t understand all of them. Having to dedicate even more effort towards listening to others while living in a foreign country is a transferable skill that will improve overall listening abilities and communication skills overall.
Collaboration is an essential skill for the workplace. Learning how to work well with others takes time and can be especially difficult when you have people collaborating on a project that come from different cultures and may have differing ideas on the best approach to reaching a goal. Living and working abroad will challenge an intern’s collaboration skills, taking into account cultural differences. An intern will have to learn to work with people from different backgrounds while still respectfully bringing their own ideas to the table. After having completed a work project with an international team an intern abroad will feel much more confident in their ability to collaborate with others.
Anyone who has spent more than a few days abroad can tell you the experience requires a good sense of humor. Often the discomfort and tension that arises from cultural differences can be smoothed over with a dose of comedy and a good laugh. Learning how to diffuse potential conflict with humor is an important skill for an office in making the overall environment happier and more open and comfortable.
6) Conflict resolution
Life abroad makes you more vulnerable to misunderstanding while navigating a new culture and country. This ultimately leads to some sort of conflict with the new country. Learning how to effectively resolve these conflicts while keeping calm, positive and levelheaded is a life and professional skill that will serve you no matter where you end up.
7) Emotional intelligence
Being able to read your peers and understand how to make other people feel comfortable and welcome around you is an incredibly valuable skill for an employee. Employers want people working for them who are able to be social and make the workplace a better community. Emotional intelligence and social awareness is absolutely a skill you can develop abroad. As a foreigner to the culture where you’re interning, you’ll have to pay closer attention to social cues and be even more sensitive to those around you.
Nothing requires resilience more than living in a foreign country. Trying to adjust to living abroad requires an incredible amount of patience and strength. Once your resilience is tested and you rebound with even more enthusiasm, passion and dedication – you only become stronger and more able to handle future challenges, whether they be international or not.
Photo 1. based on GDC Europe 2010 Talks, Conversations, Presentation, by GDC Europe, CC-by-2.0