Many engineering professionals assume that their technical expertise and experience are the most important skills that will get them a job.
However, this is rapidly changing as engineers are increasingly expected to work with many areas, divisions and people, across a single organisation. Soft skills – when coupled with the right combination of technical skills – are in great demand, and can significantly set you apart in a highly competitive jobs market.
But what exactly are soft skills in the world of work today? And which soft skills are the most valued and therefore, will help your case to be interviewed for the best engineering jobs?
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are personal attributes that sit outside of your professional qualifications and work experience. They’re non-technical skills, meaning they refer to how you interact, lead and communicate with other people, how solve problems and also manage your workload.
Today, soft skills are an essential foundation for any successful career. Thanks to the advent of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, there’s a fast-growing need for soft skills in the workplace as the crucial ‘human element’ to tech-enabled data analysis and interpretation.
As technology, globalisation and changing demographics continue to shape the business landscape, the importance of soft skills is only set to grow. In fact, a report by Deloitte Access Economics predicts that two-thirds of all jobs by 2030 will rely on soft skills.
The top 5 engineering soft skills
In order to emphasise your soft skill abilities in your next engineering job interview, here are five of the most important soft skills to consider.
1. Strong communication skills
Solid, effective communication skills are essential in the engineering field, as you may often need to explain technical information to a non-technical or “lay” audience. Technical knowledge is critical, but the ability to communicate it accurately and concisely to an uninitiated or non-expert audience is just as important so that all stakeholders are included in the conversation, understand the content or information and are on the same page.
2. Leadership qualities
For real career progression, professionals in the engineering sector will typically need to display management potential. This may involve managing teams, individuals, projects or entire organisations. Some people have natural leadership abilities, but good management skills can be sharpened with the right training and development.
3. Lateral thinking
Whatever your role is, lateral thinking and problem-solving skills are always beneficial. Organisations will always appreciate someone who can keep a cool head in a crisis and find innovative, creative solutions to complex business issues.
4. The ability to influence others
The ability to negotiate with people at all levels of the business, forge productive relationships, and persuasively present ideas and opinions is an important part of modern engineering roles. Confident influencers and decision-makers are always in demand.
5. Problem-solving skills
Potential employers look for a proactive approach to tackling problems where textbook knowledge may not offer up an immediate solution.
A problem-solver who takes a creative approach to interrogate business issues is desirable in any industry – but especially in engineering where innovation and effective solutions are critical to success.
How to showcase your soft skills in an interview
Don’t underestimate the importance of your soft skills to a prospective employer. Although a strong CV, track record and technical expertise may get you to the interview stage, they may not always get you the job.
During an interview, an employer will be looking for strong, clear evidence of your soft skills. How you present yourself in the actual interview will be telling, but you might also be asked to provide examples of your soft skills in action.
Try to outline a number of scenarios where you displayed solid soft skills and how they positively influenced business performance or stakeholder relationships. For example, if you managed to get stakeholder buy-in for a project, you can demonstrate both your technical skill as an engineer and your interpersonal skills as a communicator and business partner.
Whether you’re looking to move upwards in your organisation, or to a new engineering job, always remember to promote a good mix of technical ability and soft skills like leadership qualities and communication skills to help you stand out from the crowd.
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