Strong communication skills, the ability to speak in plain English, building positive relationships with stakeholders, and showing inspiring leadership qualities – typically called “soft skills” – are becoming increasingly essential for engineering and manufacturing professionals.
Many engineering professionals assume that their technical expertise and experience are the only thing that will get them a job. However, this is changing as engineers are increasingly expected to partner with the business, and these soft skills – when coupled with the right combination of technical skills – are in great demand, and can set you apart in a highly competitive jobs market.
In Australia, for example, where demand for engineering is currently down, those who are recruiting are looking for those who are transformation-focused, rather than those who are tied to tradition.
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What are soft skills?
Soft skills are all those personal attributes that sit outside of your professional qualifications and work experience. They refer to how you interact, lead and communicate with other people, and they’re an essential foundation for any successful career.
Here are four top soft skills to emphasise in your next engineering or manufacturing job interview:
1. Good communication skills
Strong communication skills are essential in the engineering and manufacturing field, as you may often need to explain technical information to a non-technical or “lay” audience. Technical knowledge is critical, but the ability to communicate it accurately and concisely to an uninitiated audience is just as important so that all stakeholders are included in the conversation and are on the same page.
2. Strong leadership
For real career progression, professionals in the engineering and manufacturing sector will typically need to display management potential. This may involve managing teams, individuals, projects or entire organisations. Some people have natural leadership abilities, but good management skills can be sharpened with the right training and development.
3. Lateral thinking
Whatever your role is, lateral thinking and problem-solving skills are always beneficial. Organisations will always appreciate someone who can keep a cool head in a crisis and find innovative, creative solutions to complex business issues.
4. Influencing skills
The ability to negotiate with people at all levels of the business, forge productive relationships, and persuasively present ideas and opinions is an important part of modern engineering roles. Confident influencers and decision-makers are always in demand.
Demonstrating your soft skills in interviews
Don’t underestimate the importance of your soft skills to a prospective employer. Although a strong CV, track record and technical expertise may get you to the interview stage, they may not always get you the job.
At the interview, an employer will be looking for strong, clear evidence of your soft skills, such as your communication skills. How you present yourself in the actual interview will be telling, but you might also be asked to provide examples of your soft skills in action. Try to outline a number of scenarios where you displayed solid soft skills and how they positively influenced the business performance or stakeholder relationships. For example, if you managed to get stakeholder buy-in for a project, you can demonstrate both your technical skill as an engineer and your interpersonal skills as a communicator and business partner.
So if you’re looking to move upwards in your organisation, or simply to a new engineering and manufacturing job, always remember to promote a good mix of technical ability and soft skills like leadership qualities and communication skills to help you stand out from the crowd.
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