How Engineers Can Develop Necessary Soft Skills to Excel in Their Careers is a guest post by Tiffany Rowe
The five years of an engineer’s bachelor’s degree program are filled with complex math and science. Indeed, almost all of an engineer’s training pertains to the hard skills they will directly apply to problems in their field during the course of their career. Yet, what most new engineering grads discover as they enter the workforce is that they are woefully under prepared to function in the workplace because they have failed to develop their soft skills.
Hiring managers are always looking for well-developed soft skills, even in engineers. The ability to communicate, to work in teams, to think creatively and adapt swiftly to new situations are mandatory in the modern workplace, and it is unlikely that an engineer will find success without cultivating such skills. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to enhance one’s soft skills, both inside and outside an educational environment. Here are a few ways engineers can build the skills they need to excel in their careers.
Know What Skills Are Important in Engineering
Any good engineer knows that research is a mandatory first step for any project. In this case, engineers should look into what soft skills are important to their immediate jobs and future careers before they try to accrue any new ability. Though specific skill requirements may vary, depending on the size and scope of an engineer’s employer, most engineers should be well-versed in the following areas:
Projects assigned to engineers tend to be relatively complex and important, which means it is rare that a single engineer can tackle them on their own. Instead, engineers almost always work in teams, so teamwork is essential to succeed on individual projects as well as an individual’s career. The collaboration skill ensures efficient and effective work alongside professionals of varying backgrounds.
No professional is an island, especially not an engineer. Even when an engineer isn’t working in a team, they must make presentations to their superiors, their clients and other departments in their organization; they must write legible and comprehensible reports on their research and activities; and they must participate effectively in day-to-day communications like emails and phone calls. Logical engineers are often poor communicators, and the communication skill is an especially vital one to master.
Engineers might be assigned a rather straightforward project, but over the course of weeks and months, that project can become something completely different and much more complex. Though this might be frustrating, engineers must be capable of adapting to new situations or requirements if they hope to remain in the field for long. This skill is especially important to modern engineers considering the constant change wrought by disruptive tech.
Though it seems like engineers are no-nonsense professionals who apply facts and logic to solve problems, the truth is that engineering is a remarkably creative line of work. Often, solutions are not straightforward, and by utilizing creativity, an engineer can come to a conclusion with greater speed and efficiency. The creativity of an engineer might not be identical to the creativity of other professionals, but imagination and resourcefulness remain important skills in engineering.
Seek Professional Development
The best way to gain the above-mentioned skills – and others required by one’s desired role – is through formal education. For example, a Master of Engineering degree program provides engineers with a structured environment in which they can practice engaging skills necessary to advance their careers. Though advanced education like this also provides additional instruction in technical skills, including calculus, computer science and the like, master’s programs typically prepare students for careers in engineering management, which necessitates instruction in communication and similar soft skills.
Still, education isn’t the only option. Engineers can also develop their soft skills by joining a community for motivated engineers, a professional club, association or group and by attending professional events. Often, engineering groups offer seminars, white pages and similar resources that help members learn new skills while keeping up with emerging engineering trends. Additionally, these groups exponentially grow one’s professional network, which can be advantageous for ambitious engineers. Through these groups or other channels, engineers might also seek mentors, who can provide one-on-one guidance in acquiring key soft skills and putting them to use.
Regardless of how engineers begin acquiring their soft skills, practice remains integral to success. Though it may feel uncomfortable at first, engineers should implement their lessons on communication, creativity, flexibility and more in their daily lives to perfect their technique and become more adept in the workplace. With time and effort, even the stodgiest engineer can accrue soft skills.
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