When you hear the word “engineer,” what comes to mind?
If you are like most people, you are picturing math problems, calculations, and complex diagrams. And if you are an engineer yourself, you might be thinking of your area of engineering and all the educational hours, specialized knowledge, and unique skill sets that you need to be successful.
But it’s important to recognize that engineering is about more than math, software knowledge, or drawing up specifications. Those are “hard” skills, otherwise known as the technical abilities, you need to have day-to-day to work as an engineer. And they are especially important. But having hard skills alone does not make you a well-rounded job candidate – or a world-class engineer. Just as important are the “soft” skills. These are more abstract and harder to define and quantify, but they’re vital to your career success.
So, what soft skills are today’s employers looking for in engineering candidates? Below, expert engineering recruitment agency PEAK Technical tells you about seven skills you should cultivate to shine in your next role:
#1: Effective Communication Skills
What good is an engineering diagram if it can’t be interpreted properly? What use does your engineering knowledge have if you can’t use it to support others in the workflow chain?
For any engineer, effective communication skills are one of the most important soft skills to possess. No matter the type of engineering role you find yourself in, there will always be a need to educate others, inform people about your work, and to ask questions. When communication breaks down, details are missed. Things are not built properly. Projects fail.
Communication skills – both verbal and written – are essential for any engineer, but they are even more important for senior-level engineers. It is often the senior leader’s job to communicate with the team, disseminate information, and make sure every part of a project stays on track. Without the ability to effectively listen and respond, even the most technically qualified engineering leaders will not be highly effective.
#2: Ability to Adapt
It’s safe to say that in any given engineering project, unexpected changes can occur at any time. Whether it’s technical difficulties or a last-minute request from a client, you will need to learn to adapt – quickly – to the job in order to be the best engineer you can be.
Engineers who are great adapters take a change in stride. Try to remind yourself to take a breath when a change occurs. Rather than getting frustrated, take some time to absorb the situation and think critically. Use the team members around you and rely on one another to produce practical solutions and choose the best path forward.
Are you a talented engineer with the ability to adapt to sudden changes? Employers are looking for qualified people like you. PEAK Technical’s engineering staffing services match talented engineers with top employers around the country – get in touch today to get started with us.
#3: Ability to Manage and Lead
Even if you are not in a leadership role right now, it can be helpful to have leadership and management skills when they are required. You never know when you might be called upon to head up a project, or when a group of engineers needs a natural leader to move work forward. Plus, having these skills makes it more likely you’ll be able to advance in your career as time goes on.
Management skills involve being able to look at a complex situation and break it down into organized, timely, manageable tasks. It’s also about making sure everyone on the team is aware of their responsibilities and what is expected of them.
Leadership is closely related, but it takes things a step further. Great leaders use their emotional intelligence to bring out the best in those around them. Leadership means motivating and inspiring the engineers you’re working with, as well as supporting them in whatever ways are necessary.
Have you ever thought about what your strengths are as an engineer? Your weaknesses? How might your personality affect those around you on the job?
If you have, congratulations – you are self-aware. If not, it is time to do some thinking. Consider your professional and personal strengths and weaknesses and how they affect your job performance. Think about what kind of organization you thrive in, and what kind stifles your growth and creativity. Doing some self-reflection is extremely helpful during the job search when it comes to finding an employer you mesh well with.
Are you an employer struggling to find engineers that suit your organizational style and culture? Connecting with an engineering recruiting agency like PEAK Technical means you will gain access to qualified engineering professionals with the skills and personalities you are looking for.
#5: Work Well with Others
Right alongside effective communication skills and appropriate self-awareness comes the ability to work well with others. Very rarely does an engineer work entirely on their own – and even if you do, there are certainly other non-engineers along the line whom you’ll need to interact with. It’s not just about having a good relationship with others on a personal level or being able to engage in some small talk by the water cooler. It is about having the ability to share ideas, actively listen, to collaborate effectively in a way that gets things done.
Put simply, if you can’t work well with others, you aren’t going to be at the top of any hiring managers’ lists. But when you get along well with most people, you’ll easily be able to mesh with a team – and you’ll be that much more attractive to engineering employers.
Closely linked to the ability to adapt is another key skill for engineers: resilience. This skill is twofold. It’s about being tough – sticking to your guns, standing up for yourself, and wading through difficult projects even in the face of schedule changes, increased demand, etc. – but also about being flexible. In today’s market, there will always be challenges, from supply chain issues and part delays to budgetary concerns and much more. The engineers who accept these difficulties and do their best to find solutions, rather than getting bogged down in the details or complaining, will be the most successful.
#7: Able To Make Quick Decisions
The engineering field can get higher stakes than you might think. Sometimes, quick thinking and split-second decision making is required – and that is especially true if a project is at risk of failure or if unexpected changes occur at the last minute. Engineers need to be able to think critically without wasting precious time and be able to produce actionable solutions fast to keep projects on track and avoid things spiraling further out of control.
If you are in a leadership position at your engineering job, or you are aiming for one in the future, the ability to make quick decisions is even more important. Often, the final decision will fall to a team leader – you’ll want to be adept at gathering opinions and feedback from your team, evaluating the possibilities, and choosing the path with the most optimal outcome. It’s easier said than done, but nurturing this ability makes for a great engineering leader, every time.
Conclusion: Develop Your Soft Skills to Benefit Your Engineering Career
Soft skills like the ability to communicate, adapt, make quick decisions, and have self-awareness are equally as important as the hard or technical skills you use every day. But soft skills are harder to quantify – and sometimes, they’re harder to develop. Focusing on these types of skills is especially important for your engineering career because the technical side is only half the battle. When you’re personable and effective with others, you’re both a skilled engineer and a valued member of the team.
Do you want help finding your next engineering opportunity? PEAK Technical is the engineering staffing firm to turn to when you’re ready to take the next step. Our engineering staffing services are designed to help you find a job you love – and one where you get to use all your skills to make a difference.
Need talent? Contact us today!
Are you an employer wondering how to spot these soft skills when looking for engineering talent? Partner with us, and we’ll do the legwork for you. Here at PEAK Technical we make it our business to connect the right people with your hiring team. If you’re looking for top engineering talent, get in touch with the PEAK team to get started.