Why Soft Skills Matter In Your Engineering Career

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When you think about the most important skills necessary for success in engineering, mathematical proficiency and technological expertise probably come to mind.

But while these hard skills are certainly the bread and butter of an engineer, soft skills are becoming increasingly valuable for new grads trying to navigate today’s workplace.

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Soft skills matter because they can help you thrive in a rapidly-changing technological landscape.

We’ve identified three soft skills that we think are especially relevant for anyone working in engineering.

Check out these tips to learn how you can further develop these soft skills in the workforce!

Communications

Meetings, presentations, reports, even emails – all of these are day-to-day activities that require solid communication skills.

As an engineer, you’ll often be required to communicate with other engineers and with co-workers from different departments, as well as with upper-level management.

It’s important to remember that non-engineers don’t have the same background you do, so you’ll need to walk a fine line between simplifying complex concepts and communicating in a clear and direct fashion.

Don’t be too technical

Stay away from overly technical language whenever possible.

While it’s still important to relay any valuable information, don’t delve into the really technical stuff unless absolutely necessary.

Use analogies

A good idea is to try and use analogies to describe complicated engineering concepts.  For example, a common analogy in physics is to relate the flow of current in an electrical circuit to the flow of water through a pipe.

By comparing an engineering process to a simple everyday operation, you can convey a basic understanding of a complex subject to a layperson, without them needing any specialized knowledge. Finding the right analogy can be difficult, but it will make communicating with your non-engineering colleagues that much easier (and they will be grateful for it!).

Adaptability

The tech industry is constantly evolving, and as a result companies often have to make abrupt changes in policy in order to keep up.

Part of being successful in your career is being able to quickly and effectively adapt to challenging and unexpected work situations.

Have the right mindset

Simply having the right mindset can make a huge difference when dealing with unforeseen issues at work.  Always approach a project with the expectation that things can change at any time.

This way, you’ll be mentally prepared for any problems that may arise, and the quality of your work won’t suffer.

Keep records of your work

Document your work whenever possible.

It really helps to have clearly laid out procedures to organize and manage all of the information, you’re working with so that you can easily retrace your steps and make changes to your work if necessary.

Of course, it can be difficult to maintain up-to-date records when you’re in the midst of a busy project.  However, even rudimentary documentation–like scribbling notes down into a notebook–can make a big difference in helping you make sense of your work.

Teamwork

Due to the size and complexity of many engineering projects, engineers often have to collaborate with large teams in order to complete their work.

To be successful in a team environment, an engineer must be able to communicate effectively with other team members and adapt to changing working conditions.

Sounds a bit familiar, right?

That’s because teamwork is not strictly a soft skill in itself; rather, it’s the process of combining and putting into practice many different skills, some of which we’ve already talked about.

Be open to feedback

Communicating effectively at work doesn’t just involve speaking with your co-workers; it also means listening to what they have to say. Listening to feedback about your work is one of the best ways in which you can facilitate dialogue and promote greater cooperation amongst your team members.

By demonstrating that you’re willing to listen to constructive criticism, you can help create an environment in which your co-workers are comfortable voicing their questions and concerns.

This will lead to more open and honest discussions with your colleagues, which will in turn improve group cohesion and make your team more effective in the long run.

Be aware of what your teammates are doing

For engineering projects, there are often many people working together. That means that roles and responsibilities are bound to shift and change.

You might be asked to help out a co-worker, or take over their role entirely.

In order to be able to handle these changes, it’s important to always keep yourself updated on what your teammates are doing. Even something as simple as shooting your co-workers an email or giving them a call every now and then can help keep you in the loop.

Working on team-based projects also means it’s even more important for you to document your work as you go along, since this will make it much easier for another co-worker to pick up where you left off if they ever have to take over your job.

Learn more about engineering careers in TalentEgg’s Engineering Career Guide!

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About the author

Justin Louie graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2010 with a BA in History/English. Since then, he's bounced around various industries, including telecommunications and sales, but now he's finally returned to his passion: writing. A massive history buff and trivia aficionado, Justin's interests include martial arts, enjoying the Vancouver outdoors, and accumulating massive amounts of useless information. You can follow him on @louie_justin.