Engineering is one of the most exciting fields today. New college graduates are going to see great changes and must be prepared to be a fundamental part of the change. And the demands in terms of skills required are intensifying as we speak.
Most engineering job descriptions today include some soft skills. If they are not explicitly mentioned, though, they are implied in the context of the job description.
In the next few years, some new and emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence will eliminate some jobs. Yet, this is going to create a huge demand for new skills and soft skills --also called interpersonal skills-- that many engineers perhaps don't have today.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to bring all sorts of change at a speed, scale, and force, unlike anything that you have seen before.
Change is going to affect every industry and engineering is not the exception. Historically, the previous industrial revolutions brought massive change to industries, society, and workers. Some jobs disappeared back then and many others emerged as well. Just like it is going to happen with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In the late 1700s, the First Industrial Revolution brought mechanical innovations like the steam engine, cotton spinning, and railroads. In the 1800s, the Second Industrial Revolution brought mass production through assembly lines and electrification. In the second half of the 20th century, the Third Industrial Revolution brought mainframe computers, personal computing, and the Internet.
In the 21st century, we are experiencing a radical system-wide innovation and this can happen in only a few years' time. The intersection between nanotechnology, brain research, mobile networks, 3D-printing, and quantum computing is going to create realities that were previously unimaginable. In the same way, jobs that don't exist today will also be created according to the new needs.
Old business models are going to become obsolete. Businesses resisting change will cease to exist. New business models in each and every industry are going to be transformed as part of the whole digital transformation.
Now is the time when preparedness becomes more crucial than ever before.
Engineers and other STEM professionals who have not yet developed key soft skills should start thinking about it in order to get ready for the change. A good dynamic set of both technical and soft skills may be what is going to make a difference when employers consider candidates for joining their team.
There are soft skills that prove to be essential in order to develop career success. Yet, those skills are often neglected by professionals in the engineering field since these professionals quite often focus much on the hard skills only.
In times of career change or advancing in the career ladder, learning or improving soft skills becomes paramount. Here, we have a look at some of the most common soft skills that are useful for today's engineers.
Having the ability to modify and adjust according to the different situations and according to unexpected changes shows one of the most important skills an engineer has to possess: Adaptability.
An engineer with good adaptability skills is able to identify solutions to unforeseen problems. Then, the engineer can make the necessary modifications to adapt to the new situation or new environment.
This also happens at a quite fast pace, since often the success of a project depends on assessing the problem fast and finding a flexible and thoughtful solution to it.
Engineers usually work with fellow engineers and also with other people from other departments. This implies working and interacting with a variety of different people, different personalities, and different levels within a chain of command.
In such cases, the ability to apply skills like verbal communication and body language as well as demonstrating a solid character and personality are crucial.
Communication skills are pretty much linked to being successful in collaborative environments. Yet, many engineers underestimate the importance of brushing up their communication skills since they believe their technical skills are the only ones that matter in their profession.
Being an adequate speaker, writer, and listener is particularly important in the engineering field, where clarity and understanding are required for completing teamwork projects. Public speaking and making presentations are also often in the engineer's agenda, particularly when companies participate in trade shows and conferences.
The interaction with stakeholders, partners, and clients must be free from misunderstandings. To be an effective communicator it is paramount to develop excellent listening skills.
Attention to detail
Engineers often work with complex projects. Having an eye for spotting a small detail that, if unnoticed, can cause the failure of the project in the future is one of the most valuables of the soft skills an engineer can develop.
If that failure is in the construction industry it can be fatal if it includes injuring people and not only losing money. Developing an eagle's eye will always pay off in your career.
Here is where thinking-outside-the-box becomes essential. Creative thinking is a skill required by many jobs across different industries. It becomes particularly important in engineering.
Finding ways to apply existing knowledge in a novel, creative way can take you further in your engineering career. Problem-solving is at the core mission of an engineer. Possessing or developing creative thinking is as valuable as the technical skills you use to identify and troubleshoot the source of a problem.
Creative thinking is a soft skill that more engineers and others in the STEM field should cultivate to become truly valuable as both a team member and as a leader.
As you advance in your career and your technical abilities improve with time, your expertise is going to be required in order to manage projects. Your new position as a project manager will require you to manage and motivate other engineers as well.
Delegating tasks, managing teams of people, and coordinating complex projects are going to be on your everyday list. To become a top leader, therefore, implies that you need to master as many soft skills as leadership requires.
What kind of soft skills do you think you need to cultivate and advance your career?