Student Innovation Night With STARTedUP Richmond: A Conversation with Some Really Smart Kids

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Have you heard about the STARTedUP Foundation and STARTedUP Richmond? It’s an organization focused on empowering student innovators and entrepreneurs. As Kevin Schamel, the founder of STARTedUP Richmond explained, “the idea of ‘go to college, pick a major, work the same job for forty years, moving up the same ladder,’ is quickly becoming an old model.” STARTedUP Foundation strives to teach students how to thrive in a changing world.

Student Innovation Night is one way these skills are taught. The night consists of local businesses and non-profits presenting a real problem they are facing. Attending students break into groups and apply out of the box thinking for out of the box solutions. There’s also a presentation from an entrepreneur, business leader, etc, discussing the soft skills needed for their particular line of work.

Kevin generously invited me to present at this month’s Student Innovation Night!

a teacher at the STARTedUP Student Innovation Night
Kevin, a truly passionate teacher

What Are Soft Skills, Anyway?

Hard skills are job-specific skills and knowledge. They are learned in educational settings: classrooms, technical schools, certification programs, etc. A hard skill needed for computer programming would be competence in Ajax programming.

A catch-all term for soft skills is interpersonal skills. Soft skills are personality attributes, social skills, and communication abilities needed for success. Some examples of soft skills are:

  • Adaptability
  • Positive attitude
  • Creative thinking
  • Communication/listening skills
  • Empathy
  • Work ethic
  • Teamwork
  • Networking
  • Decision making
  • Time management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Flexibility

An individual can be the absolute best computer programmer in the world, but if they alienate clients, disrupt meetings, or annoy coworkers, they’re not going to be working with others for long. Equal emphasis must be given to both hard and soft skill sets to succeed as a complete employee and individual.

Soft Skills And Blogging

Of course, a few hard skills are needed for blogging. Writing and some understanding of basic computer programming springs to mind. But those skills can be learned, practiced, and refined in more straightforward ways. In my opinion, soft skills are more important in blogging/social media careers.

The soft skills that help me most as a blogger are:

  • Discipline and work ethic
  • Communication and networking skills
  • Insisting upon myself
  • Maintaining and strengthening the resilience needed to deal with “no”

student innovation night with STARTedUP Richmond

Cracking the Whip

Discipline is probably the most important soft skill related to blogging. Social media careers usually involve being your own boss. And being your own boss isn’t all fun and games. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work if you don’t feel like it—it means you absolutely have to work when you don’t feel like it.

Blogging is more than writing posts, taking pictures, and picking appropriate emojis. It’s extensive research, editing, dealing with a ton of emails, making images, posting consistently to social media, coming up with ideas, figuring out what people want to read, financial stuff, and promoting yourself and your content. You’re barely halfway done once an article is written.

It takes an extraordinary amount of discipline to keep up with this type of workload. Luckily, discipline is a muscle like the bicep. It can be consciously worked and strengthened.

What You Doing?

Now that we’ve talked about the day-to-day of blogging, let’s talk about the overarching theme. What are you trying to achieve with your blog/social media presence? Are you here to entertain or inform? Well, if you’re here to entertain, you better be funny. And if you’re here to inform, you better be an expert.

“Being funny” is a soft skill. It’s hard to measure, but can be practiced or studied (joining an improv troupe, studying stand-up). Attaining expert status relies on soft skills as well. No one ever “becomes” an expert. There is only a continual quest.

Ways that I personally pursue expert status include reading books, listening to podcasts, and attending training in my niche, joining organizations, boards, volunteering opportunities related to my niche, and establishing trust and consistency with my audience by posting regularly, engaging with readers, and practicing good business models.

The continual quest for expert status involves soft skills like discipline, self-reflection and awareness, and critical thinking. I need discipline to make myself stop scrolling through Facebook and attend to training materials. Time management skills are crucial for juggling all the family, work, and event obligations. And I need critical thinking skills to write content and run my business.

Megan speaking at Student Innovation Night with STARTedUP Richmond
I was making an important point, so of course, I employed knife hands, half-closed eyes, and a Very Serious Jawline.

Communication Skills

Soft skills like communication and active listening skills are absolutely essential to blogging and social media careers. You could be the most hilarious person or the expertiest expert, but none of that will matter if you can’t communicate that to your audience.

Blogging is, essentially, a conversation. If you can’t communicate with your audience how can you provide the content they want to click on?

Communication skills also include the ability to receive constructive criticism. You must be able to receive constructive criticism to best provide the content your audience wants.

Uncomfortable Asks

A huge part of blogging is insisting on yourself. Over and over and over and over. This asking involves the soft skills of charm, positive attitude, discipline (I told y’all it was the most important soft skill for blogging), and resilience. Cuz if you’re going to ask for things a lot, you’re going to get told “no” a lot. You must have the resilience to ask again, regardless. And again. And again.

I’ve had to make some uncomfortable asks to create viral content and continue my quest to become an expert. Asks like approaching people I don’t know for interviews, advice, positions, engagements, and collaborations.

startedup group photo

I’m not sure how Ish Mom or I will continue to evolve. But I do know I have a very particular set of soft skills—discipline and work ethic, networking and time management skills, adaptability and creative thinking, personability and audaciousness—that enable me to not just keep showing up but to shine.

What are your thoughts on hard versus soft skills? Let me know in the comments! Share this article and show STARTedUP Richmond (and some awesome young adults) some love!

Happy skill sharpening!


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Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She possesses a bachelor's degree in psychology, a flair for theatrics, and a whole lotta nerve. She lives in the Midwest (and loves it) with her wonderful husband and three young boys.
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