This is a guest post by Nader Mowlaee
There comes a time in every engineer’s career where they’ll want to take their roles to the next level by managing others, overseeing projects, and even running their own engineering startups. It’s a given that to catapult your engineering career, you have to do what’s necessary to be successful in outshining the rest, and sometimes that calls for identifying and fine-tuning the skills companies need. Research shows that companies desire soft skills, such as complex problem-solving, people management, creativity, and critical thinking—four essential soft skills that are projected to be the top desired soft skills by 2020. While these skills are essential for being successful in your engineering career, they often overshadow the uncommon engineering skills that engineers need to achieve exceptional success the way Apple’s Tim Cook or Tesla’s Elon Musk did.
Yet, everyone can’t transform into Elon Musk overnight. If you want to accomplish extraordinary success, you have to look beyond the ordinary. You won’t achieve far-reaching goals by simply working harder or longer hours than everyone else on the job. Instead, shift your focus to developing the unconventional skills that engineers often neglect. Here are three uncommon skills every engineer needs to achieve next-level success:
Courage is a necessary skill for getting any project off the ground. Whether you’re an aerospace engineer looking to launch your first aircraft project for your current company, or you’re a mechanical engineer ready to go the entrepreneurial route by creating an engineering company on your own for the first time, there’s a level of an uncertainty and risk that comes with the territory of starting something new. But what sets those who achieve extraordinary success apart from the average engineer is their courage to begin in the first place. Courage enables you to start new efforts in the first place in spite of the unknown. Practice courage by taking on the projects that scare you and that no one else will take on. Step out of your comfort zone to build your “courage muscles“.
Even if you have courage, it’s still essential to build up perseverance. Without perseverance, you won’t stand the test of time when projects you launch fail or when challenges come your way. Perseverance allows you to keep going and to try continuously until you get it right even when you fail time after time. In fact, American engineer Henry Petroski made a career out of failure by using failure as teaching opportunities to learn from mistakes and improving processes. He’s highlighted how failure is a key component to engineering since engineering success involves the discovery of how an item or process stops working or fails altogether. So, it’s crucial to push through, pace yourself, remember the times your persistence paid off and keep going to achieve extraordinary success.
The power of influence helps you motivate others to believe in you and what you’re doing. So, it’s important to develop this soft skill if you want to achieve extraordinary success as an engineer. The great news is you can get started with increasing your influence by taking a few effective actions. Start by putting these practices into play at work to hone your influence:
Driving influence requires others to listen to what you have to say. But having a team of engineers hear you out is difficult if you lack rapport with them or if they don’t believe you’re being genuine. Build this skill by letting your team get to know you on a personal level so you can start building connections and trust.
Position Yourself as an Expert
Engineers who drive a ton of influence are viewed as experts in their lanes. You wouldn’t run to Tim Cook to help you build a space ship from scratch. But you may listen to him if he’s giving you insight on how to create efficient processes that improve production for the product you are building since Cook started out with a degree in industrial engineering and has since achieved massive success as an expert. Cook had a level of influence that helped him accelerate his career from the path of industrial engineering to being the CEO of a trillion-dollar technology company today. If you want to achieve extraordinary success, you have to highlight your expertise.
Listen and Demonstrate You Value Your Team’s Input
A great influencer also lends a listening ear. They know what the crowd wants because they listen to their needs. Learn your team’s pain points and what motivates them to take action on a project. But it’s also crucial to show that you value the opinion of others. Demonstrate how your team or audience can benefit from what you have to offer by using the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) model. Include them in the process and use terms like “We” instead of “I.” When others can see how they benefit from what you are doing and feel like they are a part of the process, you can have a greater influence on them to drive change and get projects started.
While developing core engineering skills is essential to launching your engineering career, it’s equally important to focus on developing uncommon soft skills to achieve extraordinary success. Even if you’re just starting out in your engineering career, you can hone the uncommon skills of courage, perseverance, and influence to achieve high-levels of success. Build the courage to get your projects off the ground. Learn what it takes to persevere through challenges you may face, and focus on honing your skills to influence key stakeholders to join you on your journey and believe in your purpose. By mastering these three uncommon soft skills, you’ll be on your way exceptional success that outpaces the average engineer.
About Nader Mowlaee:
Nader is a career coach who believes you can get everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want. He is inspired by motivating confidence in engineers and helping them take calculated actions to move forward towards their career and life goals. His mission is to enable engineers to break away from their fears and create the ideal lives and careers they desire. You can learn more about Nader through his LinkedIn account.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about how uncommon engineering skills that has helped you in your career.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success