Empathy & Networking: How Soft Skills Launched Veron’s Banking Career

Soft skills. Behaviors and mindsets. People skills. These terms are often used to get and keep the kind of career that makes an employee excited to head in to the office on Mondays. Most people would readily agree that soft skills are important, but can they really make the difference in an interview or when you’re preparing to change careers?

For Generation Universal Banking alumnus Veron, the answer yes. Veron came to Generation with years of work experience, most recently as a staff sergeant in the military. Veron had several friends who were now working in the banking and finance industry, and the opportunity to learn all about banking in just five weeks appealed to him. “I needed a change,” says Veron. “I wanted to do something different.”

When class began, Veron presumed that the Generation classroom would be like other classes he’d taken before. He thought that class would involve sitting and listening while an instructor explained the technical skills of banking, such as preventing fraud and handling cash. Veron quickly realized, “This is not a typical classroom.”

At Generation, instructors and mentors create a classroom environment that encourages participation and uses real-life scenarios and role play activities to simulate the challenges and responsibilities of a career. “[Generation instructors] keep it real. We’re adults, so they are preparing us for the realities of being in banking.”

During each classroom session, Generation blends the technical skills of a career path with modules focused on empathy, networking, communication, and teamwork. Generation also works one-on-one with each student to review their resume and conduct mock interviews. With his career experience, Veron was admittedly skeptical about how much he could learn from this part of the class. “I’m 28 and I did 4 years as a staff sergeant. Coming into this situation with 18 and 19-year-olds as peers, it taught me that I can be humble.”

Building a New Network

The classroom sessions focused on empathy and customer service surprised Veron the most, not because they were new ideas to him, but because of how often he uses these skills now in his personal and professional life.

“I’ve applied empathy throughout my life but learning how to pinpoint it and knowing when and where to do it as far as separating empathy and sympathy has been big in my life as a whole,” he says. “You end up meeting people you wouldn’t meet before and they end up becoming a great connection.”

In the context of the Universal Banker program, Generation students work through real scenarios that a banking professional will encounter on the job, including working with upset customers and explaining different banking and credit card offers. Generation employer partners WSFS Bank, M&T Bank, and Capital One worked with the Generation curriculum team to develop these examples of challenges past employees have faced on the job.

As the program continued, students worked with instructors and mentors to prepare their resumes and cover letters for the job application process.

“I’ve been working since I was 16. Coming in and having someone pick my resume apart, it was humbling. I saw it really made sense,” says Veron. “When I started interviewing after the program, I noticed how different my resume looked, how differently I interviewed having gone through the class.”

After graduation, Veron began interviewing with local banks and he now works at M&T Bank as a Senior Associate. He is continuing to build his network and applying the lessons of Generation to a new challenge: planning his ten year high school reunion. He looks forward to reconnecting with old classmates to share in their career journeys and offering encouragement to any friends who are looking to make a career change.

“If you’re looking for something, find a Generation program. It will open your mind to so many things and seeing what you’re capable of,” he says. “Generation prepared me for more in life.”