Context - How we Work!
Interpersonal Skills
Tolerance and Culture
Negotiation Skills
Interdisciplinary skills
Context - How we Work!

MODULE 2 Context - How we Work!


The focus of this module is the theme “Context”. The module is divided into 7 skills, comprising 2 exercises per skill (14 exercises in total).

The units in this module reflect fundamental skills, and capabilities which could fit individuals well to operate optimally in the modern workplace. This module bridges reflection on the self, with what individuals bring to any workplace or operational setting and enables the development of new skills and introduction to new concepts and theory which supports efficacy in the modern workplace and job market. Again, any self-generated narrative feeds forward into the portfolio.

Each unit is envisaged to require 30 minutes to two hours for completion. Ideally all learners should complete two exercises to aid portfolio building. Other extended activities are optional.

Each unit focuses on a soft skill; the definition, why it is important and exercises to aid development of, or reflection on, the skill. Upon completion of the module (and its 14 exercises) learners will have developed their abilities regarding the following soft skills:


  1. Teamwork
  2. Interpersonal skills
  3. Tolerance and Culture
  4. Negotiation skills
  5. Networking
  6. Leadership
  7. Interdisciplinary skills



MODULE 2 Context - How we Work!



The ability of a group of people to work well together




Introduction to the soft skill


Teamwork means the ability to cooperate, using one’s individual skills and talents to provide constructive feedback and come up with new common solutions, even though individuals may have personal conflicts among them. “Team player” is a term you will find in many job offers, as almost every job requires good teamwork related skills, a positive attitude towards working with others that will help teams work well.

People with strong team working skills demonstrate leadership, collaboration and good communication, among other things.


Why is this an important skill?


There are concrete advantages to building a well-functioning team, such as planning a methodological procedure that unites people's points of view on the management of daily operations or learning a set of rules within the group that agrees the timing of meetings or for any updates related to long-term projects.

Team working ensures that the tasks, distributed to all members of the group, are carried out with a joint effort; the division of labour and recognition of each member's role specifications facilitates the circulation of information creating a solid basis to exchange ideas and discussing project development.

Working as a good team player means that personal interest is subordinate to corporate/group interests; this allows all team members to direct the group's skills and commitment towards a concrete accomplishment of the objectives. Teamwork facilitates the process of identifying the individual contributions possible within a group, providing adequate motivation and drive for the integration of people, clarity of roles and distribution of tasks based on the skills of each person.


Open Education Resources + Icebreakers


    • Teamwork Skills: Communicating Effectively in Groups – Class Central

    • Teamwork – WikiJob




Exercises to help you develop this skill


Exercise 1: Which kind of team player are you? 


Phase 1:


Firstly, you will use the Belbin Team Role Inventory  (see table below) to assess your behaviour when carrying out teamwork. The aim is to use this categorisation to think about which of these team roles appear to match your style most closely when working in teams and understanding your strengths, weakest points and how aspects  factors  may possibly affect the rest of team members.

This step will be easier if you think about one or two scenarios where you have carried out a teamwork activity. You might not always act in the same manner;  it might change according to the other team members present and according to the topic you are working on. Take this opportunity to analyse yourself and your behaviour and realise which are the strongest points in your type of team role. Make notes.


Phase 2:


Now let’s invest more time thinking about the type of people you enjoy working with and those with whom you may have problems. Taking once again a real experience you went through as reference, and using Belbin’s table as a guide, make notes on what you are discovering about yourself. Make a conscious effort to think  about the positive attributes related to those team roles you think you are more in conflict with (e in these roles whom you find more difficult to understand and work with or attributes relating to the team roles that you find it most difficult to express)  and think how you could use them more effectively when you work with them in order to achieve the team’s goals.



These are just some examples that will help you reflect on which qualities you have as a team player. It is not a complete description of reality and nuances and characteristics can be added and suggested.


Exercise 2: Show yourself as a strong team-player


In this exercise we are going to work on how to present your strengths when working in a team, based on your actual past experiences, in a way that could bring you success in your job interviews. Using a real interview template where the interviewer is trying to assess your teamwork skills, you will identify those moments in which you showed yourself to be a valuable team member and you will think about how to express strengths now that you have found out more about your type/s of role in teams.


Go through all the questions below, finding from your memories those moments where the questions can be applied and return to answer the questions. Note down everything you discover about yourself in the process.


  • Do you prefer to work independently or in a team?
  • Mention a time you worked well as part of a team. What was the context?
  • What role have you played in team situations?
  • If you did not agree with a decision of a team leader, what would you do?
  • Have you ever had an experience where there were issues or strong disagreement among the team members? What did you do?
  • How would you motivate the people in a team?
  • Describe a time when a teammate of yours was not taking her part. What did you do? What was the outcome?
  • Have you ever been a project leader in a team? How did you handle/face issues?
  • How would you communicate a problem in your team?
  • Give an example of when your team motivated you. How did this gesture enhance your performance?
  • Have you ever had to adapt your work style to fit team objectives?
  • Have you ever been on a team project that failed? If so, what did you learn from that experience?



After having completed the exercise, please make some notes and take some time to reflect.


Next steps

Having completed these exercises, what new things have you discovered about your own behaviour when performing in teams? Which kind of role/s do you think you adapt to and how can you make the most out of them? Which ways can you find to better work with other types of team roles?


Make some notes now.


Make sure you know how to stress your strengths as a team player in an interview or when describing yourself in your CV or application form.  This is also a good moment to think about how to improve your weakest points and your relationship with other team members.

Remember that soft skills are not just learnt in the workplace! When you are thinking about how you have demonstrated these soft skills, draw from all your life experiences (both in and outside the workplace).


Why don’t you add this skill to your portfolio? [hyperlink]



Evidence based story


Can you provide some evidence of when you have demonstrated the skill of teamwork? Look at the examples below for some guidance.


  • In different subjects, at University, I was asked to carry out group work. The groups were often created randomly by the professor; it happened that I had to work with people with very different attitudes, personality and willingness to get the work done. I always tried to involve every member of the group and overcome all misunders
  • I have played guitar since childhood and, recently, I started to play in a band. There are five members and it is not always easy to come to an agreement when we must make a decision. I feel that through my hobby I have also learnt to step back when it is necessary for the sake of the band. It is paramount to give your opinion whilst respecting the opinions of the others if you want to maintain a good atmosphere and balance in the band.


Now it’s your turn!


Write an example of when you have demonstrated teamwork skills and it will be added to your soft skills. [hyperlink]



Interpersonal Skills

MODULE 2 Context - How we Work!


Interpersonal skills

The ability to communicate or interact well with other people.



Introduction to the soft skill

Interpersonal skills are often referred to as social intelligence. They depend on reading the signals others send and interpreting them accurately in order to form a response. Moreover, they are often demanded by recruiters since very few jobs nowadays do not need the application of such skills. We refer here not only to communication skills, but also to the capacity to understand the needs of others.


Why is this an important skill?


As humans living in society, we are somehow obliged to interact with other humans. The workplace is no exception! It is true that in certain jobs we need to use our interpersonal skills more than in others (it is not the same if you are a salesman or an IT technician), yet is also true that basic interpersonal skills are needed for all  jobs. Interpersonal skills can be an important asset to persuade recruiters that we are the right person for the job. However, these skills are not only important when it comes to passing the job interview, but also they are even more important in the workplace to help us develop and foster strong working relations with colleagues creating a more positive work environment. As a consequence, this could lead to an increase in productivity of the whole office.


Open Education Resources + Icebreakers


    • How to improve your communication skills

    • Interpersonal skills

    • How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace




Exercises to help you develop this skill


Exercise1: Spot your weak spot!


Overview: This exercise aims to enhance our self-awareness of the communication skills in which we are weaker.


Time estimate: 15 minutes + daily exercise


Material needed: paper and 1 pen or pencil


Activity: Because there are so many forms of communication, the best way to start to improve your communication skills is to determine which skills you struggle with. Sometimes, people struggle with all active communication skills or all passive communication skills. In other instances, individuals struggle with an individual skill, like listening or writing. Finally, some individuals may struggle with a certain skill in a specific situation. For example, many people struggle with speaking in public or writing under pressure.


Take some time to identify the communication skill(s) that you feel weak in, make a list and take some notes.


Once you have identified the area that you need to work on the most, begin by forcing yourself to try that type of communication in low stakes situations. If you struggle with speaking in public, join a public speaking group of others who struggle this way. If you struggle with listening, commit to being quiet and being an active listener. Keep a journal of each of these encounters — analysethem, and make a plan for the next encounter. As you master one area, move on to another. It’s slow going, but it’s the best way to produce an effective, long-lasting change.


Exercise2: Commitments to improve my adaptability


Overview: This exercise is designed to increase awareness of expressed feelings in a non-verbal way.


Time estimate: 15 minutes


Material needed: paper and 1 pen or pencil


Activity: Read each situation described and list the possible feelings that may have been behind the nonverbal expression.  Take some time to reflect on the answers.


  1. The radio is playing in the background while two flatmates are studying. One of them gives a big sigh, gathers her books and goes to her room.  What might she be feeling?
  2. The tutorial group is having a lively discussion when one member, without expression,suddenly changes the subject. What might he be feeling?
  3. Some friends are chatt As the chat continues, one friend starts tapping her feet, drumming her fingers and shifting in her seat.  What might she be feeling?


Now try to transfer these three situations into the workplace.


How would you react if you were the main character of the story?


Make some notes.


List some similar situations in which you were involved.



Next steps

In order to keep training your interpersonal skills you should remember how important it is to learn from others by taking notes and not being afraid to  ask questions.

Now is the moment to adapt all you have worked on to remember that soft skills are not just learnt in the workplace! When finding examples to demonstrate them, it is valid to draw from all your life experiences. These examples can be used in your job interviews, application letters and even in your CV.

Adaptability is the soft skill that will not only be highly appreciated by organisations but will also help you to have  renewed optimism about your career.


Why don’t you add this skill to your portfolio? [hyperlink]



Evidence based story

Can you provide some evidence of when you have demonstrated interpersonal skills? Look at the examples below for some guidance.


  • I am the captain of the football team in which I play. This means that, on the one hand I am in charge of talking to my teammates to motivate them, on the other hand, according to the rules, I am the only person allowed to talk to the referee during a match. This means that I must continuously change my register and try to mediate between my teammates and the referee. I try to always be polite but direct at the same time.
  • During my time at university I was living in a flat shared with six other people. In order to pay less I accepted the role of spokesperson responsible for the apartment. I oversaw talking to the landlord when there was any problem or when some action from his side was needed. I learnt to deal with different people at the same time and tried to communicate any issues relating to the apartment in the clearest manner.


Now it’s your turn!


Write an example of when you have demonstrated interpersonal skills and it will be added to your soft skills. [hyperlink]


Tolerance and Culture

MODULE 2 Context - How we Work!


Tolerance and Culture

The ability to withstand, respect and tolerate different cultures, beliefs, practices and work rhythm.




Introduction to the soft skill


This soft-skill could be defined as everyday respect brought into the work place. Respecting culture and tolerating diversity should be key aspects of a healthy and productive work environment. Due to the free movement of persons and workers within the EU and recent migration it is more and more frequent, in Europe, to work in a multicultural environment. It might seem that tolerance is often taken for granted by recruiters and that it is not so important, nothing could be further from the truth!


Why is this an important skill?


Tolerance is important because it opens the door to opportunities and increases the chance for success. People who have had exposure to cultural differences feel confident living in a diverse society.

Tolerance provides an opportunity to learn from others while respecting and valuing their differences in religious and ethical beliefs. Tolerance works as a barrier to prejudice and brings people of a community together.

Being a good role model and setting an example showing respect can teach others to be tolerant. Celebrating the heritage and differences of others is a fun way to both learn and teach tolerance to children and other generations.


Open education Resources + Icebreakers

    • MMSA

    • Diversity Activities Resource Guide

    • Why cultural diversity matters | Michael Gavin | TEDxCSU



Exercises to help you develop this skill


Exercise1: Venn Diagram of Tolerance


Overview: In this exercise we are going to meditate on differences and similarities between us and a colleague/classmate.


Time estimate: 10 minutes + reflection time


Material needed: A pen or pencil and paper


Activity: Think about someone that you had to work with (whether at university or at work). Now that you have him/her in mind, try to list 3 things, using the Venn Diagram, that you have in common and three things that are different.



- Take some time to reflect on the things that you have in common with this person.

Make some notes about some positive and negative situations in which you noticed  these similarities.


- Take some time to reflect on the things that divide you from this person.

Make some notes about some positive and negative situations in which you noticed  these differences.


Exercise 2: Circles of my multicultural self


Overview: This activity highlights the multiple dimensions of our identities. It addresses the importance of individuals self-defining their identities and challenging stereotypes.


Time estimate: 10 minutes + reflection time


Material needed: A pen or pencil and paper


Activity: Download here the template. Place your name in the centre circle of the structure below. Write an important aspect of your identity in each of the satellite circles: an identifier or descriptor that you feel is important in defining you. This can include anything: Asian American, female, mother, athlete, educator, Taoist, scientist, or any descriptor with which you identify.


  1. Think about a time you were especially proud to identify yourself with one of the descriptors you used above and make notes
  2. Think about a story about a time it was especially painful to be identified with one of your identifiers or descriptors and make notes
  3. Write down a stereotype associated with one of the groups with which you identify that is not consistent with who you are. Fill in the following sentence:


I am (a/an) _____________________ but I am NOT (a/an)_____________________.


(Ex. if one of my identifiers was "Finnish," and I thought a stereotype was that all Finns are radical, my sentence would be:

I am Finnish, but I am NOT a radical.)



Next steps

In order to keep training your tolerance and culture you should remember how important is to learn from others, by taking notes and not being afraid of asking questions.

Now is the moment to adapt all you have worked below to remember that soft skills are not just learnt in the workplace! When finding examples to demonstrate them, it  is completely valid to draw from all your life experiences. These examples can be used in your job interviews, application letters and even in your CV.

Tolerance is the soft skill that will not only be highly appreciated by organisations, but also will help you to have  renewed optimism about your career.


Why don’t you add this skill to your portfolio? [hyperlink]



Evidence based story

Can you provide some evidence of when you have demonstrated the skill of tolerance and culture? Look at the examples below for some guidance.


  • During my Erasmus semester abroad, I developed tolerance towards diversity. At the beginning some behaviours of my flatmates, friends and university mates were very weird and sometimes annoying to me. After some time, I perfectly adapted to the life in the new country.
  • In my neighbourhood there are many foreign families. In my free time I offered many times to work as a nanny to the children of my neighbours who are not from Europe. During the time spent with the kids I had the chance to learn a lot about their culture and their way of life and I feel blessed to have learnt so much.


Now it’s your turn!


Write an example of when you have demonstrated tolerance and resilience and it will be added to your soft skills. [hyperlink]



Negotiation Skills

MODULE 2 Context - How we Work!


Negotiation skills

The ability to arrive at a mutual agreement between two or more parties.



Introduction to the soft skill


Negotiation skills should be considered within the scope of a give-and-take process where communication, assertiveness, decision-taking, conflict resolution, understanding of the other and even empathy among other aspects are included. The involved parties in a negotiation context work to identify and share some kind of common interest, but also have different interests and preferences regarding these common interests.

Negotiation skills involve a wide array of communication and interpersonal skills such as being a good observer and listener, knowing the basics of body language, being open, flexible and patient, but also possessing a good deal of leadership qualities and questioning skills.


Why is this an important skill?


we think of the origins and etymology of the term “negotiation”, we can easily understand the importance of possessing good negotiation skills. Negotiation originates from “negotiates”, which is a Latin expression for “doing”, “carry on business”. “Business” in this case involves negotiation scenarios at professional and personal level, e.g. in buying and selling, employee and employer interaction, between business partners, but also between friends, among family members, relationships etc.

During all these instances, and many others, we negotiate throughout our lives. In a professional environment, like a work-place setting, negotiation skills are highly important for the same reasons they are important in all the other cases. So why do we negotiate, and why are negotiation skills important:


  • We negotiate because we want something from another party. So, we need to reach an agreement.
  • We negotiate because we want, for example, to “beat the opposition”.
  • There are cases where we must negotiate in order to compromise or settle an argument.
  • Lastly, we negotiate simply to make a point.

In all these cases, negotiation skills are certainly your best partner in achieving what you want!


Open Education Resources + Icebreakers


    • Procurement academy – 7 Key skills for successful negotiation

    • Management Study Guide – Negotiation Skills / How to negotiate effectively:

    • Thebalancecareers – Important Negotiation Skills for workplace Success:

    • ProjectManager – How to negotiate in the workplace: A practical guide:



Exercises to help you develop this skill


Exercise 1: Negotiation and emotions


Negotiations, and thus negotiation skills, are associated with feelings and emotions and ways to manage, control or channel them to desired ends. Feelings can erupt and blow up or lead to success. Some people end up getting riled in negotiations, others stay calm and collected, while a third group just freezes up, being phobic even when merely thinking about negotiating or bargaining.


This exercise will help you to better prepare and warm-up for negotiation, especially by placing at the middle of negotiation, and negotiation skills, the capacity to become each time emotionally ready and prepared to negotiate in an effective way. You must keep in mind that each negotiation process is an emotionally complex process, so being able to draw on yours and others’ feelings in order to maintain focus and engagement on behalf of all parties involved is highly important.


Here is what you have to do:

Think of the following questions and write down a list of your emotions, desired state, or other aspects for each of the question as prompted (you can consult the guidelines in the Responses column). You can draw from past negotiation experiences which you have had, and based on them, you can then project a different, more fine-tuned or more effective version of you as a negotiator to a future/imaginary or real negotiation scenario, following the flow of these questions. This will help you to become more self-aware of your own, desired emotional state during a negotiation, and identify your “hot buttons” and your strengths and weaknesses in managing your emotional state.


Questions and responses table:




1. Which are the desired feelings/the desired emotional state for you, entering a negotiation process and why?

You can use straight-forward feelings/emotions/states like ‘focused’, ‘relaxed’, ‘alert’, ‘calm’ etc. or provide a more general description. Explain to yourself why you would prefer to enter a negotiation this way.

2. How would you best prepare before a negotiation event in order to reach the desired emotional state?

Think of practical suggestions and draw ideas from processes of preparing yourself in other demanding scenarios (e.g. exams, interviews, presentations etc.). You can include certain activities like listening to music, reading, relaxing etc.

3. Identify the things that could ruin your desired state during the negotiation process.

Think of external and internal factors, including behaviours from other parties, undesired thoughts of yours etc.

4. (Responding to question 3) What could you do to get back to your desired emotional state?

Think how you would fight certain feelings of anxiety, or anger. What would your ‘antidotes’ be?

5. What would your desired emotional state at the end of the negotiation process be?

Think of yourself reaching the end of the negotiation process. Write down the positive, neutral and negative emotions.



Exercise 2: The role of…bananas in negotiations


The following video presents a negotiation process between 2 parties – an employer (or higher rank executive) on the right, and an employee on the left. The negotiation subject is a raise in salary, introduced by the employee. The negotiation process is presented following three different scenarios.

In the first scenario, neither the employee, nor the employer have a “banana” to bring out during the discussion.

In the second scenario, the employee has a “banana”, while in the third scenario, they both have a “banana”.

But first let’s explain what Banana means in the world of negotiation:

Banana is a concept used to better remember the famous concept of BATNA which stands for Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement. By this, we mean the absolute need to always enter a negotiation having one or more alternatives. Banana is about options – option to just walk away, to come up with a suggestion, to say that you will think things over, or to re-position yourself.


Here is what you have to do:


Although this is not a straight-forward, traditional exercise, it offers a useful opportunity to observe behaviours and chosen negotiation tactics – including the words used – by both parties in the three different scenarios. You can choose English subtitles (automatically generated) that are not optimal but will however help you to follow the dialogue and negotiation.


  • Go through the whole video once. Identify the 3 different scenarios i.e. no banana – employee banana – employee and employer banana.
  • Watch each scenario again in isolation. Start with scenario 1 (no bananas). Take notes on how the discussion is being led by both persons. Identify the parts and statements that lead to the respective result.
  • Move to scenario 2 – employee with banana. Check the point when he is bringing his banana forward. Check the reactions from the other side (the employer).
  • Finally, go to scenario 3. Notice the difference as compared to the former scenarios. Check the turning point (of the employee), following the employer banana. This is almost an alternative brought forward on the spot. Check the importance of the word ‘creative’ used by the employee.


Monitor your feelings and thoughts during the video and write them down. Identify the points where you feel that negotiation fails – that the whole thing is about to fall apart, and each party will simply follow its own path in a lose-lose situation. Consider the following questions/aspects while putting yourself in the position of the employee negotiating a salary raise:


    • a) At which point do you feel that if it was you, you would lose control of your emotions and react negatively with respect to your goal? Have you been in a similar situation? What did you do and what could you do better?


    • b) Try to identify and evaluate the elements which, during the 3rd scenario, led both sides to put their bananas aside and try to collaborate rather than confront each other and create distance between them. Notice the language and words used (even body language aspects) when both parties end up considering the company plans as a joint project – notice the shift from negotiating a salary raise to integrating the same subject into a bigger picture which fits much better into a win-win situation.


  • c) Think of similar negotiation cases that you might have experienced in the past. What did you do right or wrong and why? What were your bananas, or which should they be in case you didn’t have any? How did your bananas perform?



Next steps

Having completed these exercises, can you think of any evidence you have that demonstrates your negotiation skills? What would someone who knows you well say about your negotiation skills?


Make some notes now.


By drawing from past negotiation experiences, you can sketch your desired profile as a negotiator building on your responses to the questions. Then, you can apply the emotional tactics you have prepared here to a real, future negotiation. It could be a simple and short negotiation scenario at personal or professional level. You can then go back to your responses to the questions and look for matches and mismatches, “successes” and “failures” which eventually will help you being more and more effective in the future.


Why don’t you add this skill to your portfolio? [hyperlink]



Evidence based story

Can you provide some evidence of when you have demonstrated the skill of negotiating? Look at the example below (short video) for some guidance.


Negotiation dialogue


Now it’s your turn!


Write an example of when you have demonstrated negotiation skills and it will be added to your soft skills. [hyperlink]




MODULE 2 Context - How we Work!



Establishing and maintaining contacts.



Introduction to the soft skill


Through networking, individuals will become more open to establishing new contacts and cooperating with others. This skill enables you to establish new relationships and build a broader, more diverse contact list. Through this network, there will be an exchange of information and ideas.


Why is this an important skill?


It is broadly agreed by experts that people who are better connected are more successful; therefore, networking is an important skill for employability and professional development.

If you invest time and energy in nurturing your networks, you may experience personal and professional growth. The broader and stronger your contact list is, the more information and support you will be able to access. Through this network, you will be able to expand your knowledge and experience in a range of areas whilst doing the same for those in your contact list.


Open Education Resources + Icebreakers


Have a look at some of the following materials before completing the exercises. Reflect on how and when these skills have been applied by you or someone else.



Exercises to help you develop this skill


Exercise 1: Constellations of Networks


Build Your Own Contact Tree


Think of the trunk of the tree as your strong ties, these are your family and close friends – people who you speak to regularly. As you “branch out”, you will access your weaker ties. These weaker ties are your broader network, your friends of friends. When it comes to networking and career development, these weaker ties might be able to open up doors for you that your strong ties cannot. It is important to remember that you will also offer them new opportunities and knowledge that their strong ties cannot provide them.

On a blank piece of paper, create a contact tree which includes your strong and weaker ties. When we can visualise our contacts, it is often easier to network.





Exercise 2: LinkedIn


LinkedIn is the world’s largest social media platform for networking and recruiting, it stands out by providing significant value to its users by:


– Connecting businesses with talent

– Enabling businesses to generate leads and sales

– Enabling users to showcase their professional history

– Allowing users to build relationships with potential job prospects and leads.


LinkedIn is a great platform for unemployed and underemployed higher education graduates to network on, as it enables them to expand their contacts and reach out to various employment opportunities.

There are many tips on the internet for creating the perfect LinkedIn profile. Here are some of them:


  1. Choose a professional profile picture where you are looking into the camera and you appear friendly and approachable. This is the first impression you will make on employers and recruiters, so make it a good one!
  2. Create a headline that answers the question “so what?”. Use the headline to specifically outline your specialty.
  3. Include a summary that is engaging and interesting. Think about your target audience and how you feel you can help them.


Look at the following statements, these are bad examples of a LinkedIn headline. Re-create the headlines in order to develop something which is interesting and engaging to potential employers and recruiters.


  • Management Accountant at BFS Management Accounts
  • Photographer
  • Freelance at ABC Marketing Ltd
  • Childcare provider


Next steps

Having completed these exercises, can you think of any evidence you have that demonstrates your networking skill? What would someone who knows you well say about your networking skills?


Make some notes now.


Remember that soft skills are not just learnt in the workplace! When you are thinking about how you have demonstrated these soft skills, draw from all your life experiences (both in and outside the workplace). You can include these as evidence in your portfolio. Examples may include teamwork skills developed from being part of a sports team, resilience skills developed from moving to a new city for university or leadership skills developed through role as a society committee member of a local club.


Why don’t you add this skill to your portfolio? [hyperlink]


Evidence based story

Can you provide some evidence of when you have demonstrated the skill of networking? Look at the examples below for some guidance.


  • Livia is attending a networking event; she is eager to meet people who she can support professionally and who can develop her own network. Through this event she is certain that all parties will expand their experience and knowledge.
  • Graham has been working part-time as a shop assistant, but he is eager to start a career in events management. In order to take this step, he has created a LinkedIn account where he is able to network and expand his contact list in relation to his ideal career.

Now it’s your turn!


Write an example of when you have demonstrated networking and it will be added to your soft skills. [hyperlink]



MODULE 2 Context - How we Work!



Inspiring, enthusing and getting others "on board"



Introduction to the soft skill

Mobilising Others at work means the ability to inspire others and prompt enthusiasm. Those who possess strong leadership skills have the ability to support others to achieve valuable outcomes. This means they have effective communication, persuasion, negotiation and leadership skills.


Why is this an important skill?


Mobilising Others (leadership) at work means one has to communicate, motivate, take responsibility, give feedback and be able to solve difficult situations. You will need leadership, not only as a leader but also as an employee, to be productive and a positive member of your workplace.

Good leadership skills comprise more than one or two traits. It is not only about knowing the technical aspects of how to manage a team. A good leader has to be determined, innovative, kind, loyal, curious, focused, confident, collaborative and empowering. A good leader is brilliant at vocal and written communication. They can take risks and learn and recover from failures. They are not afraid to be different. Good leaders have to be innovative and creative with a vision of where to go and an ability to persuade others on that direction.


Open Education Resources + Icebreakers


    • 8 Essential Qualities That Define Great Leadership

    • How Good Are Your Leadership Skills?

    • How to develop leadership skills - Randstad UK

    • 11 Powerful Traits Of Successful Leaders

    • The Most Successful Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically, Every Day



Exercises to help you develop this skill


Exercise 1: Leadership in Life


In this exercise, you will reflect on leadership qualities in your own life. Take a notebook/paper and a pen (do not use electronic devices as they block thinking), sit comfortably and relax.


  1. Think first about the leadership skills that you use with your family, friends, job, hobbies or even with your pets. There should be interaction between people, a group of people or some other party like your pet.


Select three of them and write on the sheet of paper (or a page) headings for each of the three of them and below the situations where and how have you used leadership skills. For example:



1. My younger siblings

2. My cat

3. My hobby: Ice-hockey

When travelling with my parents, I support my parents in looking after them:

-          Setting a good example and doing things together in order to make the right decision together

-          Explaining why something is done and not done, and including them in these discussions instead of giving a simple yes and no

-          Doing things together

Trying to make my cat do anything:

-          Instead of telling what to do, persuading, creating trust and relaying on their natural behaviour; even making it a game we can do together and playing. In case of stubbornness, distracting them and doing something else instead.

Creating team-spirit for winning:

-          Creating unity and equality

-          Showing that each plays an important role

-          Supporting, listening and encouraging

-          Asking how they would do something and discussing about it with them

-          Going through the outcomes together and learning from them, and thanking everybody

-          Setting good examples



Did your methods work? What worked and what did not work? Why so?


  1. Next, think of a movie and a leadership role and how actors use leadership in these roles. Imagine different situations where they show their leadership skills, how they act in those situations and how other actors react to them. Write them down using the downloadable table.


Which methods worked and why? Was an aspect culture-related?


  1. Thirdly, think of other situations where leadership skills are important, how they show in people, how they act and what they accomplish with their actions. These can be for instance politicians, events, a character from a book, an influencer, etc. Choose 3 situations and write them up in a similar table (use the same downloadable table as above).


Which methods worked and why? Was an aspect culture-related?


  1. Observe these 3 different types of situations. What do they have in common, what don’t they have in common? What could you learn from them and use at work?


Exercise 2: Mission Impossible





In this exercise you will think about a “Mission impossible”, which, at the first glance, seems unlikely to succeed. Despite this, you will need to deliver it successfully.


The case description:


You have taken a project which does not have enough time, money, resources and…you name it. Not only is there extremely little time, but in addition, nothing is ready, nothing exists, when the project starts. You have to start from scratch.

The project timeframe is one month and the actual implementation time is about 2 weeks. You will need 10 people to deliver your project, but you still need to find them all. The project is new for everyone and you do not have time or money to pay and find experienced people to work for you. You will have to buy services from other companies or organise the work in other ways. The project is complex and it has many uncertain aspects.

You must use friends and their friends to get people involved in the project – it means you have to step out of your comfort zone and stretch your limits. The people you will gather are from different backgrounds and have different skills and they possibly have never done things like this before. The task you have is demanding and you need to have or find multiskilled people or you need to have these qualities yourself.


The task:


Take paper and pen again and write down your solutions on it.


  1. List first the tasks, timing for them, and possible obstacles you might face and how to solve them. Put the challenges onto a Gantt chart.
  2. Think next how you will encourage people to work together and deliver their tasks. What kind of tasks will they do and when? Add this information onto the Gantt chart building on the previous points.
  3. Now it is about leading the team through the project and the challenges. What is your approach? How will you lead them and guide them through the challenges you listed in the previous point and how do you plan to solve them? Are there aspects in the leadership qualities raised in exercise 1 you could use here? What is your role in the whole project – are you a demanding leader or part of the group? Think about potential different situations and what you could  do to solve such issues, should they arise? Think how you will lead the group, how you will inform people of tasks and consider how you will get things going smoothly.
  4. Think next how you will manage any changes in the team: what if someone is missing? How will you integrate new people into the team to do the work and fill gaps on work progress?


In this complex and demanding project, you have to observe from the outside every now and then to see the whole picture from a wider perspective.


  1. Once ready and satisfied with your solutions, reflect on the task and what you have learnt planning this kind of project. Take positive things and try to turn obstacles into opportunities to learn something new.



Next steps


Having completed these exercises, can you think of any evidence you have that demonstrates Mobilising Others – leadership? What would someone who knows you well say about your Mobilising Others – leadership skills?


Make some notes now.


Remember that soft skills are not just learnt in the workplace! When you are thinking about how you have demonstrated these soft skills, draw from all your life experiences (both in and outside the workplace). You can include these as evidence in your portfolio. Examples may include teamwork skills developed from being part of a sports team, resilience skills developed from moving to a new city for university or leadership skills developed through a role as a society committee member of a local club.


Why don’t you add this skill to your portfolio? [hyperlink]



Evidence based story


Can you provide some evidence of when you have demonstrated the skill of Mobilising Others – leadership? Take a look at the examples below for some guidance.


  • Once, when I was a little girl, I was playing baseball. I was in a team that was not motivated at all and the other children simply stopped playing and even sat on the ground chatting with each other. No wonder my team was losing! As much as I disliked baseball, I disliked watching people giving up even more. Hence, I started talking to them and encouraging them, telling that it is of course only a game and although we were losing, this was a chance to show how resilient we are and that we are able to turn things around, but that giving up is giving up. I set a good example and played (even though I hated the game) encouraging the others at the same time. We still lost, but eventually at least we tried.
  • One summer I went hiking with a friend of mine who is afraid of heights. Not the best idea for my friend to go hiking on cliffs and high hills. Instead of screaming and getting angry, I took another approach: I tried to encourage and support the person, help the person to overcome at least part of their fear. During the trip, I encouraged my friend, pointed out some interesting things, stated how far from the edge of the cliff we were and that there was no danger at all. I also walked on the edge side, held my friend’s hand, made silly gestures to distract my friend, talked in a reassuring way and told my friend how well they were doing and how much more my friend had succeeded in doing than was expected. It was not perfect, but I managed to make my friend push through it and do something new.


Now it’s your turn!


Write an example of when you have demonstrated Leadership/Mobilising Othersskill and it will be added to your soft skills. [hyperlink]


Interdisciplinary skills

MODULE 2 Context - How we Work!


Interdisciplinary skills

The ability of exploring content or solving a problem by integrating knowledge and experience which come from more than one field or subject.



Introduction to the soft skill


Interdisciplinary skills refer to the ability of exploring content or solving a problem by integrating knowledge and experience which come from more than one field or subject. It is best to think about interdisciplinarity as a way of thinking, which allows one to draw insights from diverse disciplines and eventually apply them to the area of focus at hand. It is an approach that can remove barriers between sciences, knowledge fields and even practices. Interdisciplinary thinking promotes innovation, open-mindedness and creativity.


Why is this an important skill?

Through an interdisciplinary approach, the use of ‘multiple intelligences’ come into play. Globally, the workplace is transformed: New ideas, new products, services and most importantly processes are increasingly demanding a workforce that is able to deal with knowledge of the work at hand, a facility with technology, an ability to engage in and work with cross-functional teams. Thus, employees who have interdisciplinary training or have acquired interdisciplinary skills as a way to work and collaborate with others, have substantial advantage in  competitive and highly innovative ecosystems.

The demands of work are greater than ever, and thus employers in all fields are looking for so-called T-shaped employees; ones that can combine technical, job-specific knowledge with business and people skills. Interdisciplinary thinking and skills are valuable tools for any prospective or current employee, regardless of her/his formal education or background.


Open Education Resources + Icebreakers


These suggested readings will help you to understand interdisciplinarity and its importance in both the educational sphere as well as in the world of work and employment. The material will help you to benefit most from the exercises following.


    • The world needs students with interdisciplinary education - Issues in Science and Technology: Vol. XXXV, No.2, WINTER 2019 (Bear. A, Skorton D.)

    • Is interdisciplinarity a field or a skill? (McShane K.) Sep. 2015

    • 7 ways to develop your skills with interdisciplinary study – King’s Learning Institute

    • 4th conference on interdisciplinary teamwork skills for the 21st century - WORK LIFE REPRESENTATION AT THE ITS21 CONFERENCE



Exercises to help you develop this skill


Exercise 1: Understanding interdisciplinarity and interdisciplinary skills


Interdisciplinarity has become a sort of a buzzword, especially in academia; it is debated in diverse fields of research, in the fields of social and economic action, and the concept can be related to projects, solutions, and interventions at any level. In the world of work, interdisciplinarity involves the ability of employees to combine subjects through collaboration, in order that they can be exploited in new ways towards implementing a project or providing solutions to diverse challenges by crossing boundaries between fields and going beyond traditional thinking.

This is a mental exercise that will help you understand both the meaning and importance of an interdisciplinary approach, as well as the skills and attitudes that are required in order to successfully carry out an interdisciplinary process.


Let’s consider an example:


A disease is spreading through a community. There is a need to find out why this happens and how it can be tackled. So, in the first place, Biomedicine would be the knowledge field providing scientific information about the nature of this disease. The disease, however, is most probably spreading according to a model in terms of time and place. Statistics and eventually computer modelling would be needed to understand the dynamics of this model. In addition, the disease might relate to the density of those in certain communities, that is, the demographic structure of the community.

On the face of it, politics, economics, urban (or other) planning are involved, shedding light on demographic aspects and also to explore the reasons why this is happening. Therefore, social sciences are also involved, bringing in their scientific or other tools of inquiry and research. If now the community includes subjects speaking different languages and moreover the disease follows different models of concentration among native language speakers and the rest of the population, we need some foreign language experts, depending on the languages spoken.

The example shows how an interdisciplinary approach is called into action if we want to approach a problem or a challenge in a holistic manner. In order to understand the task or project at hand, we first need to identify the dimensions involved, beyond the obvious subject of inquiry (the disease). Each dimension, as it comes to the surface while exploring the ‘problem’, brings along further dimensions, requiring different sets of knowledge and tools (in the example, the spreading model, time, demographics etc.).

But there is more than this, and here lies the difference between considering interdisciplinarity  simple as a sum of experts or expertise looking at a problem ‘in the middle of the table’, and considering interdisciplinarity as a set of skills in being able to do the following:


Exploit the diverse knowledge in order to apply it according to the needs of the ‘problem’;


  • Being able to communicate knowledge of one’s own field to persons from other knowledge fields or educational backgrounds;
  • Being able to see the wider context of an issue in order to identify its dimensions, understand the knowledge required, and communicate these dimensions;
  • Being able to work in teams with individuals who come from different knowledge fields (especially when there is ‘theoretical’ distance between disciplines or subjects e.g. a Mathematician and a Historian);
  • Being able to suspend one’s own (often ‘dogmatic’) knowledge and beliefs grounded on our own educational background, in order to give space to complementary perspectives that work not in a contrary or competitive manner, but to the benefit of the desired solution.


Communication skills, teamworking skills and openness, are just a few of the skills required in order for interdisciplinarity to be effective. Using our prior example, it requires more than our  Biochemist to have basic knowledge of another subject related to her ‘job description’ (let’s say a Biochemist with some basic knowledge of social and cultural dynamics in a given community), interdisciplinarity and interdisciplinary skills require us to acknowledge the fact, that reality is a continuum that has been artificially compartmentalised into different fields of inquiry and knowledge. The ‘disease’ and those who are suffering from it in the example as used, don’t ‘know’ about this compartmentalisation.

 What interdisciplinarity really involves, is the process of looking at reality (real problems, real challenges) as subjects that ask more than what each scientific or other field of expertise can provide. And this is true for large and small, everyday problems and challenges we must deal with.


Exercise 2: Interdisciplinary approach: Test your application readiness across 4 interconnected abilities drawing from your own experience


Having gone through Exercise 1 as a mental exercise to understand interdisciplinarity as an attitude, please consider a situation from your personal experience (either as active participant or as a project, intervention, task you might have been aware of) and assess yourself across the four abilities that are facilitating the actual application of an interdisciplinary approach. Drawing from the situation you choose to scrutinise, do the following:


    • Identify the levels of presence or absence of these abilities (see below);
    • Make some notes of what the actual outcome of this ‘interdisciplinary’ task was;
    • Compare the outcome considering the situation at hand as supposedly approached in a non-interdisciplinary way;
    • Make notes of the dimensions having emerged through the interdisciplinary process, and how the abilities below were facilitated to benefit the solution provided.


The 4 abilities which you must apply to the aforementioned points are as follows:


  • Ability to ‘take perspective’ (understanding multiple and diverse viewpoints and differences between disciplines and knowledge fields);
  • Ability to develop structural knowledge (combining factual knowledge/information with knowledge and information based on processes ‘as you go’ in dealing with an issue/challenge;
  • Ability to integrate conflicting aspects and/or insights from alternative disciplines/knowledge fields (examining in a creative manner, rather than attributing to a single explanation);
  • Ability to understand how alternative approaches influence one another.



Next steps


Having completed these exercises, can you think of any evidence you have that demonstrates your interdisciplinary skills? What would someone who knows you well say about your interdisciplinary skills?


Make some notes now.


Remember that soft skills are not just learnt in the workplace! When you are thinking about how you have demonstrated these soft skills, draw from all your life experiences (both in and outside the workplace). You can include these as evidence in your portfolio. Examples may include projects and tasks you have been involved in during your academic years. For example  you might wish to reflect on  research or a paper you wrote, including more elaborate tasks like a thesis or a study you conducted.


Why don’t you add this skill to your portfolio? [hyperlink]



Evidence based story


Can you provide some evidence of when you have demonstrated interdisciplinary skills? Look at the example below for some guidance.


Maria works as a developer in a software company. It was decided that the new software application for a corporate client should be developed by setting up an interdisciplinary team and process (involving business experts, developers, designers, editors, marketing experts etc.), rather than a ‘strictly’ technical team. Maria, as well as the other members of the proposed team, shared a common approach before entering into the whole process, which eventually led to excellent results:


- Each member of the team valued and respected the knowledge of members coming from other knowledge areas;

- All members decided right from the start that so-called stupid questions should not be avoided in any case, and more than this, they should be considered as extremely important;

- A common language was found and agreed upon in terms of providing the ability to each member team to be able to deal with functional as well as other aspects, irrespective of their technical or other nature. All team members agreed in holding ‘the finished product’ (the subject-matter, the common goal) at the centre of this language, rather than the technical and other steps towards developing it.



Now it’s your turn!


Write an example of when you have demonstrated interdisciplinary skills and it will be added to your soft skills. [hyperlink]