A Surprising Way to Start Mastering Soft Skills as a Beginner Developer

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

A Surprising Way to Start Mastering Soft Skills as a Beginner Developer

Applying soft skills will accelerate your software career. Learning them early will do it sooner.

Every time someone asks for help with soft skills, they get the same old boring answer:

"Read books like 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'! Try 'The Magic of Thinking Big'!" - well-intentioned bookworms

I like these books. But like push-ups, you don't get better at soft skills by reading about them.

So how do you apply the lessons in these books?

This is going to sound crazy.

Improv comedy courses.

(even if you have no desire to become a comedian.)

Let me explain.

"Playing pretend for two hours a week is the best thing I've done for my career." - me, often

Improv is hands-on application and practice of soft skills. You have to:

  • Adapt quickly

  • Listen actively

  • Pivot to new information

  • Empathize with your scene partner

  • Be creative under crazy restraints

  • Make decisions with incomplete information

  • Understand somebody's point of view quickly

Practicing these skills makes them more innate to you. You will not only see yourself becoming more personable in your job, but in every aspect of life.

Dating, talking with strangers, flirting, making decisions, being comfortable with mistakes, impostor syndrome.

All of it.

Here are all the excuses I've heard:

"I'm not quick on my feet!"

You don't have to be. Your instructor should create a space of trust. Mistakes become opportunities. The bolder / weirder the choice, the better. You will be celebrated for not being quick on your feet.

"I'm scared."

Give it one class. Instructors will usually let you try it before committing. If you don't see the value, don't go. But if you see even a speck of value, stay. Anything worth doing is initially scary.

"I don't want to perform publicly."

Ask the instructor to leave you out of the showcase. "Improv in Private" is where you practice the skills, not on stage.

"Improv is cringe and I hate it."

I'll agree that I've seen some REALLY cringe-y improv shows. But being bad at piano is cringe too, right? But you grow as you practice. The perception of public improv is cringe, not necessarily your practice of it.

"I don't want to spend $200+ on an eight-week class."

Google "Improv jams near me." These are low-cost, low-commitment ways to try it.

"I don't have any theaters near me."

Google "Remote improv jams."

If you have any more excuses, I am happy to hear them!

If you do take a class, please let me know how it went!