I thought I’d write today about my early experiences as an artist fresh out of college. I felt like a new, bright, shiny puppy who was ready to take on the world. But I’ve learned over the years that enthusiasm and optimism are both wonderful qualities to have. But being realistic, industrious and having soft skills matter quite a lot more then I thought.
What do I mean by soft skills? I mean the ability to relate to, empathize with, communicate and actively ask questions of managers, clients, peers, teachers, mentors, and classmates. This skill has helped me more then any other in building the relationships and ability to carry forward and take a big stab at being a full time freelance professional.
Being by yourself and not asking for help will not only make your work suffer, it may kill your career before it has time to really get off the ground. I’ve watched a number of other artists, some talented and some not put their foot in their mouth by not being able to open up, by humble, ask questions or advice and thus not building a relationship with other artists. People skills matter more then I think a lot of young college grads realize. Your like-ability can take you far in life. Because really, who wants to work with an awkward jerk? No one, that’s who.
I used to have a kind of snobby, bad attitude towards the idea of asking questions. I wanted to be able to figure out everything on my own and be completely self sufficient. Unfortunately life didn’t treat me or my bad attitude very kindly, so instead of fighting it, I adapted and became less of a pain in the butt about my autonomy.
So in conclusion, people skills matter. They matter a lot. Like…. a lot a lot. So cultivate them if you don’t have them, face your fears and get out there, ask questions, network, and build the relationships that will carry your career forward. Because no man is an island, and we need each other to survive.