Do you communicate and write well and have excellent problem solving skills? Do you have outstanding technical know-how and experience? Well – you have improved your chances of securing a good job immeasurably. Naturally, there are other skills required and the over riding need for good experience relating to the job.  But...


Dear Colleagues

EIT Stock ImageDo you communicate and write well and have excellent problem solving skills? Do you have outstanding technical know-how and experience? Well – you have improved your chances of securing a good job immeasurably. Naturally, there are other skills required and the over riding need for good experience relating to the job.  But these so-called soft skills are hugely helpful in gaining and doing well in a job.

My dad used to jest with me about engineering graduates coming out of engineering school as illiterates. Certainly, I shudder when I read many of the final year engineering theses as to the quality of English and the inability to express oneself clearly. Not that I am claiming to be outstanding in this area, I hastily confirm.

However, if you are highly stressed at the thought of doing a presentation to a group or dither furiously when trying to put a simple report together – you are probably short changed in your career as far as advancement is concerned.

Communications and Problem Solving are Critical
Unlike a few decades ago – one generally works in a team these days and often has to interact with clients. And thus soft skills are a critical part of the job equation.

Typical soft skills that one needs in one’s engineering career include:

  • Communications (including presentation)
  • Working in (often multi cultural) teams
  • Problem Solving
  • Creative and Lateral Thinking
  • Business and Financial skills

Training Isn’t the Way To get these Skills
The typical solution proposed by the Human Resources powers-that-be to gain these skills for those engineering professionals lacking them - is to go on a training course. How a 2 or 5 day training course will miraculously fix the problem is beyond me. Certainly it can perhaps help but it is only a tiny part of the story in achieving proficiency.

The best way forward (like learning a new language) is to practice these skills with a mentor in an on-the-job environment over many months. Listen carefully to the guidance and keep working on slow and steady improvements. Don’t worry about the nagging criticism – just focus on gaining the skills and practising them at every opportunity. Communication skills are without a doubt one of the greatest skills for an engineering professional.

I like George Bernard Shaw’s so true comment on communication: The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Yours in engineering learning

Steve

Mackay’s Musings – 15th Nov’16 #626
780, 293 readers – www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay