Whether you are a fresh engineering graduate or an experienced engineer, it’s difficult to land a promising job in this field. Though having the latest technical skills can increase your chances of getting hired, you will need a combination of hard and soft skills to ensure a successful engineering career.
According to LinkedIn career expert Blair Decembrele, 59% of US hiring managers were struggling to find enough candidates with soft skills such as communication and critical thinking in 2016. “These traits don’t necessarily show up in a job posting but are essential for succeeding in the workplace,” says Decembrele.
The field of engineering is no exception to this shifting trend. In other words, not having a combination of technical as well as soft skills will significantly reduce your chances of having a distinguished engineering career.
Here is a list of 6 tangible skills that are always in demand for engineers.
1. Technical Know-How of the Core Subject
A firm grasp over the fundamentals of your core specialization is a must to become a highly-successful engineer. You must gain the technical knowledge required for your job profile. For example, if you are going to work in Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS), the employer will expect you to be fluent in computer languages, especially Structured Query Language (SQL).
The two most common ways to show potential employers that you have sound knowledge of the core subject are through certification and internship. You can take certification exams, showcasing an increasing level of proficiency in your niche if you are an experienced engineer. Usually, experienced engineers who have completed certification courses to expand their knowledge base are the most sought after candidates for senior level positions.
On the other hand, a fresh engineering graduate will benefit tremendously from an internship with a reputed company. Alternatively, you can also attend training workshops conducted by the local university, business or college. However, this doesn’t mean you should focus only on developing technical skills relevant to your specialization as having additional technical skills will allow you to stand out from your competitors.
2. Problem-Solving and Analytical Thinking
Engineering work mostly comprises complex systems, including software and hardware. Therefore, as an aspiring engineer, you must be fond of problem-solving. In a nutshell, problem-solving skills are the ability to assess a situation precisely to arrive at a practical solution. Analytical or critical thinking is the foundation of developing strong problem-solving skills.
Your problem-solving process will vary depending on the complexity of the situation at hand. However, the process usually includes four major stages:
Defining the problem
Implementing the most viable solutions
Usually, presenting a convincing argument to the interviewers based on the evaluation of a problem is adequate to prove your problem-solving skills. However, the assessment of these skills depends mainly on your job profile. If these skills are an integral part of your work profile, you may have to perform a real-time assessment during the interview. Learn to be objective in problem-solving. Don’t let your opinions or that of anyone else’s cloud your assessment. Resist the urge to jump to conclusions, instead develop a habit to analyze the situation carefully.
3. Willingness to Learn
The knowledge you have may not be adequate to excel in everything that the industry demands from an engineer, which is why the willingness to learn is among the best characteristics an engineer can possess. According to a new survey by staffing firm Accountemps, 30% of CFOs polled said motivation to learn new skills is necessary to get ahead. This was followed by interpersonal skills (27%) and ability to adapt easily to change (24%).
Demonstrating your enthusiasm to learn new skills can earn you respect from your peers as well as seniors. Here is how you can fuel your desire to learn:
Getting an advanced degree or certification is the best way to demonstrate your desire to learn new skills.
Alternatively, you can also join a local industrial association or organization to learn new skills.
You can also surround yourself with industry experts and your seniors to learn new skills from them.
Be open to accepting advice as well as criticism from your peers and industry experts.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid of failure. Instead, look at your failures as a way to acquire new skills.
Willingness to learn plays a critical role in developing the ability to innovate. As you acquire new skills, you also expand your ability to think out of the box, allowing you to find cutting-edge solutions. In other words, the moment you show your willingness to learn, the whole world opens up to you.
4. Interpersonal and Communication Skills
Interpersonal and communication skills are closely related to each other. Interpersonal skills are the ability to communicate with your team members and colleagues, while communication skills refer to those that help in expressing your thoughts and opinions to the target audiences.
As an engineer, you are most likely to be a part of a multi-disciplinary team. You may also have to work with colleagues from all over the globe. As a result, companies retain top employees who can be a valuable part of the team. However, working in a global and multidisciplinary team also means developing the ability to handle multiple modes of communication effectively.
You may also need to convey instructions and opinions received from non-technical members in a manner your technical team members can understand. On the other hand, you may also need to communicate with non-technical customers and team members conveying highly technical information in a layman’s language. So, improving your communication and interpersonal skills is a must for an engineer. The following tips will help you:
Avoid showing negative body language, particularly during a direct conversation.
Develop the habit of listening as good listening skills are crucial for effective communication.
Avoid being aggressive or defensive, be objective when expressing your opinions.
Learn to appreciate your colleagues and juniors, let your team members know when they do a good job.
As the tech industry is constantly evolving, your company may have to make sudden policy changes to keep up with the changing market conditions. As a result, companies are keenly interested in hiring engineers who can adapt to challenging and unexpected work situations. The following strategies can be used to maintain adaptability and flexibility:
Demonstrate a positive ‘can do’ attitude and a willingness to grasp opportunities through your body language.
Try to stay calm if something changes or a problem occurs out of the blue. You must not let your emotions get the best of you during such situations.
You should also show that you can adjust your working style or approach according to the demands of a situation or emergency.
Be open to working with new technologies, and different cultures and people from across the globe.
Problem-solving skills will also help you become adaptable. You will frequently need to come up with innovative solutions because as an engineer, you will come across several unpredictable problems throughout your career.
6. Planning and Organizational Skills
As an engineer, you are more likely to work on projects extending over a considerable period of time. That’s why you will need excellent planning and organizational skills. These skills are particularly important for those who have more supervisory or managerial roles to play. Usually, most engineering projects are divided into several different tasks requiring you to plan each team member’s priorities and responsibilities well in advance.
In addition to the planning skills specific to your job profile, you will also need to develop general organizational skills to manage your daily duties through careful planning, time management, and prioritization. Strong planning and organizational skills offer several benefits including eliminating procrastination, clutter, miscommunication, supply chain issues, and inefficiency.
As a team leader, you must also know how to coordinate your internal and external resources to avoid potential delays, particularly if your organization works with freelancers or remotely-located team members.
Set aside a specific time to plan or review your daily tasks. For example, some people may find it easier to use the first 15 to 20 minutes of each day for daily planning. However, others may prefer to plan for tomorrow at the end of each day.
You can use a “to do” list or a planning app to keep track of your scheduled tasks, deadlines, and resources.
Estimate the time and effort required to complete a task well in advance. Make it a point to adjust your priorities and approach according to the changing situations.
Make sure to identify the potential problems you could encounter in your project and prepare contingency plans to avoid delays.
Though globalization has opened several new doors of opportunities for engineers, it has also increased the competition in all engineering sectors. This is why pursuing your dream engineering career is getting tougher every day. In fact, we live in a world where having only superior technical skills is no longer enough to land an excellent job. Only the perfect combination of soft and hard skills will set you apart from your competitors. These in-demand tangible skills will help you seek a thriving career in the engineering sector.
Millie Rainer is a content strategist at ICRFQ that is an electronic components distributor & IC supplier in Hong Kong, China. ICRFQ specializes in sourcing hard-to-find components and ICs through its unparalleled worldwide network of supply.
Filed Under: Tech Articles