Soft Skills for Industry

By Debra Nickelson, D.V.M.

When you study industry job descriptions, what comes to mind? Do you think, “Sure, I have the skills and experience for this job – I could really make significant contributions.” Or do you think, “I have never worked with an animal health company. I don’t even know what these terms mean, and I certainly can’t even think of applying.”

Please believe that your veterinary degree, your continuing education, your clinical experience, your problem-solving ability and your communications skills DO translate to jobs in non-clinical practice. Let’s start with a list of soft skills that are found on many job descriptions with this table of examples.

Job RequirementWhat that MeansClinical Examples
Oral and written communicationClear and convincing presentations, effective listening, clear, organized and convincing writingClient interactions, employee training, medical records, newsletters, community education
Interpersonal skillsEmotional intelligence, courtesy, tact, respect, appropriate responsesClient interactions, employee management, sales rep meetings
Conflict managementEncourage constructive differences of opinion, constructively manage and resolve conflictsClient interactions and complaints, employee and associate management
Team BuildingInspire and encourage team commitment and trust, facilitate cooperation, motivate team members to accomplish group goalsClient interactions, practice management, employee and associate management
Influencing and negotiatingPersuade others, build consensus, gain cooperation to accomplish goalsClient interactions, employee and associate management, salary negotiations, sales rep discussions
Developing othersCoach others to perform and contribute by providing ongoing feedback and opportunities to expand skillsClient interactions and training, employee training, evaluating employees, continuing education, mentoring
DecisivenessMake effective and timely decisions with limited data and possible unpleasant solutionsClient interactions, diagnosis, treatment plan, prognosis, triage, employee and associate management

Do you see a pattern? All these soft skills involve effective communication and you do that every day, with all sorts of clients. And you work with your team every day, when they are in all sorts of moods and abilities. So when you are asked in an interview, “Tell me how you would manage a conflict situation,” you can give an example of when a client was very unhappy because of something, how you responded and then what happened. That is called behavioral interviewing.

  • What happened
  • What you did
  • What were the results

See, you can do this!

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