Master these 5 soft skills to advance your engineering career

Join the engineering industry of the future or advance your career right now by mastering the soft skills that so often set apart one high-performing applicant from another.

As a specialist engineering recruitment agency, we’re seeing more and more employers with engineering job vacancies to fill that don’t just want a list of qualifications and hard skills.

They want candidates who are going to be a good fit for them and their team. They also want team members who are going to be willing to learn more throughout their working lives.

Because future stars in this sector won’t just have controls engineer or manufacturing engineer jobs. They will have a focus on things like AI or how humans and technology integrate. They will certainly be familiar with technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) right from the get-go.

So what do you need to distinguish yourself from other candidates applying for your dream engineering job? Here are some soft skills that might just put you out in front of the pack:

The key soft skills to have as an engineer

1) Critical thinking

It’s been a key engineering skill since the dawn of time. But it’s not always one that’s easy to gain or demonstrate that you have.

Whether it’s collecting and assessing data and feedback or creating solutions, the ability to think critically – setting aside your own biases and preferences to deal with the situation – is often what separates a skilled engineer from a truly great one.

The seemingly ever-expanding range of new technologies that enter the marketplace every year requires engineers who can think critically about their adoption and use. Critical thinking skills are also going to be a key factor in preventing technologies from replacing engineers in years to come.

Demonstrate occasions where you’ve displayed skill in critical thinking and you show prospective employers that you can complete tasks without requiring constant supervision too.

2) Communication skills

Not all engineers are natural communicators. That’s okay. But, like operating a CAD program or learning to code when you started out in your first software engineer job, communication skills are something you can practice and get better at.

Good communications skills will help you advance your engineering career in all sorts of ways:

  • Get your ideas across – communicate your ideas better in meetings or other discussions of plans and approaches. You might want to focus on improving the way you communicate with both technical and non-technical professionals.
  • Perform better and more comfortably in a team – becoming a better part of the team you’re in is helpful if you’re going to succeed on a day-to-day as well as a career-long basis.
  • Promote yourself – self-promotion is another thing that doesn’t come naturally to many engineers. But with good communication skills, you can convey a good appraisal of your own worth when it comes to negotiating better salaries or a job you want more.

There are many good books and guides out there. Several of these are written with the kind of methodical, steps-based approach to learning communication skills that often feels more natural to someone with an engineering mindset.

3) Emotional intelligence

Anyone with an engineering job – or, in fact, almost anyone who has ever worked in a team environment – will have been part of a team where there has been at least one person who was clearly made uncomfortable by the idea of working with other people.

They may remain quiet and not contribute in group discussions despite being competent when left to their own devices. They may not seem to want to participate in any office activities and the like.

If you want to become a leader in the field of engineering, learning how to bring everyone on board and get them working together smoothly is a key skill. This requires emotional intelligence, awareness, and sensitivity.

Equally, if you feel that group environments are situations that you struggle in yourself – even occasionally – know that, just like acquiring good communication skills, there are steps you can take to improve the way you feel and are able to act here.

This can often be just what you need to get your skills and hard work better recognised.

4) Presentation skills

Sitting at a crossroads requiring both good communication skills and some emotional intelligence, the ability to give a good presentation is a vital one for many engineering jobs.

Being able to explain a concept simply and concisely without devolving into jargon or going off on distracting tangents is an immensely valuable skill.

During a presentation, you will frequently need to field questions from higher-ups inside your company or external clients. This calls for a cool head, good recall of facts, and often the ability to read a room to bring people onto your side.

5) Negotiation skills

Another place where all the hard work you’ve put into improving your communication skills and emotional awareness will come into play is in negotiations.

Some positions, like sales engineer jobs, require negotiation as part of their daily tasks. If you don’t have good negotiation skills, you are going to need to train them before you apply for this sort of role.

But negotiation skills are important for anyone in an engineering field who wants to advance their career too. Negotiating a salary increase or a new position means knowing your value. It requires understanding the emotions and position of the person you’re negotiating with. And hopefully, using both to get to where you want to be.

Looking to take the next step in your engineering career?

Let’s talk. Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering recruitment agency. Every week, we place candidates up and down the UK in their ideal positions.

Reach out for a chat today. Let’s see how we can help you take the next step forward.