Looking for an engineering job within the automotive or transit industry? You might be surprised to learn that it is the soft skills that will set you apart.
Here are five soft skills that every employer wants you to have:
1. Ability to Work with Trades and Technicians
Technicians and skilled tradespeople are needed in every manufacturing process, ensuring that operations run smoothly, maintaining equipment and resolving issues. Manufacturing companies look for engineers who can communicate easily with skilled tradespeople and technicians, respecting their unique skills. Any experience working with skilled tradespeople and technicians, regardless of the context, is valuable.
Trades that you are most likely to work with include:
- General Machinist
- Industrial Electrician
- Industrial Mechanic Millwright
- Instrumentation Control Technician
- Metal Fabricator
- Tool and Die Maker
- Sheet Metal Worker
Most trades receive around 1,200 hours of in-school training and 4,000 to 6,000 hours of on-the-job training. If you have no experience working with the trades, you can learn more about Trades in Ontario by visiting the College of Trades website.
2. Ability to Work With or Lead a Team
Do your teamwork skills need improving? Here are some options:
Take the University of Kent’s Team Working Skills Test, it’s a free online resource.
Listen to the University of Waterloo’s podcast, titled: Teamwork Skills: Being an Effective Group Member, offered by their Centre for Teaching Excellence.
Complete the Coursera course: Teamwork Skills: Communicating Effectively in Groups, offered by the University of Colorado.
Additional resources include:
Companies place huge importance on their teams, especially in the private sector. Employers desire engineers who can work in a team environment. To be competitive, your résumé should include examples of team working.
When interviewing, you should anticipate being asked questions about how you handle issues within a team. Examples might include how you deal with conflict on a team, someone not carrying their weight or someone not meeting their commitments to the team. Your responses to these questions should be strong, including clear examples. Often they aren’t… even when we have the relevant team experience and know that we will be asked about it.
3. Communication Skills: Email
Here Are Some Options For Improving Your Email Communication Skills:
- YouTube is a great source for help with email communication
You can expect to receive between 40-60 emails per day from colleagues and suppliers, your response needs to be clear, and concise. Most emails are not and as a result they aren’t opened and if they are, they aren’t read in full, causing serious communications problems.
What does clear and concise entail? The Hemmingway App is a useful tool to help with writing in simple English. The app reviews your text, highlighting areas where it can be improved or shortened for easier reading. Test yourself.
4. Communication Skills: Verbal
Want to see if your verbal communication skills need improvement? Here are a few online tests:
- https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/tests/relationships/interpersonal-communications-skills-test (Free summary, Full report is charged)
If you want to improve your verbal communication skills, consider taking a continuing education programs. Here is a list of recommended communications courses:
- McMaster University’s Communication Essentials Courses
- Rice University’s Communications Skills for Engineers Course, available at Coursera
- University of California’s Communication I the 21st Century Workplace Course, available at Coursera
- Lastly, Balance Careers offers some helpful tips to use when being interviewed.
Whether in a team or one-on-one, verbal communications is a key component of engineering, each and every day. Companies want good communicators, some going so far as to test for communications skills. At the very least, your communications skills will be assessed during an interview.
We all think that we are good communicators. But, that’s not always the case. The important thing to remember is that communications skills can be learned and improved. Weak communications skills don’t need to be a barrier. But, you need to recognize whether those skills need strengthening.
5. Presentation Skills
Here are some options for improving your presentation skills:
- University of California’s Presentations: Speaking So that People Listen Course, available at Coursera
- Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) Effective Business Presentations with Powerpoint Course, available at Coursera
- University of Colorado at Boulder’s Successful Presentation Course, available at Coursera
- Open University (UK) Talk the Talk: How to Give a Great Presentation Course
It’s inevitable that at some point, you’ll need to present an engineering concept to a non-technical audience. If your audience doesn’t understand your presentation, they may conclude that you don’t really know your subject. It is fair to say that good presentation skills can lead to career advancement whereas poor presentation skills may hold you back.
Presenting to your classmates in college or university is good experience. But, workplaces have much higher standards. Unless you’ve had previous training in presentation skills, it’s best to assume that your presentation skills are not sufficient as-is and need to be upgraded.
Each of these five soft skills are as essential to your career as a recent graduate as they are to your progression along the management track.
One way to develop soft skills while in university is by getting involved with your Engineering Society. You can find and contact your Engineering Society’s VP External about available opportunities on the Engineering Student Societies’ Council of Ontario website.
Of course, your hard skills are important too. Here are Seven Technical Skills That Give Engineering Graduates An Edge.