When you long distance run there are tools and skills all of us crazy runners know we need; such as the proper shoes, endurance, hydration source, mental strength, solid fuel source, knowing the route, etc. What is not realized by a beginner runner are the other skills required to develop and maintain a good running career with minimum injuries. These items can be: modifying you’re eating habits to have adequate nutrition at the right time, performing quality interval training in order to increase speed, strength training, correct breathing pattern, and keeping an appropriate speed so you will not deplete your energy before the finish line.
When entering the engineering workforce, the same concept is applied. You have been through college and gained your standard professional skill pertaining to your field of study. This is excellent, but most classes do not emphasize the importance of soft skills that are required. For an engineer to thrive as a professional you must be able to navigate the group dynamics in a workplace. Following are a few examples of necessary soft skills for success.
When entering the workforce, engineers must interact with individuals from different backgrounds; they may or may not share the same technical knowledge. It becomes essential to have discussions in terms that everyone can understand. This is referred to as knowing your audience. The same concept applies when using written communication. If you are unable to be understood when relaying information on a topic, then you will not advance.
Most individuals become engineers because they want to “make things happen”. Engineers get themselves deeply absorbed in projects to the point that they forget the most important aspect; we are working for our customer’s needs (internal or external). Always try to look at a project form your customers viewpoint because they are the priority. If you lose track of what the project is about, this can result in providing a product that may work but not for the intended use.
Engineers usually have great problem-solving skills, but creativity is lacking. Engineers must work under many constraints of projects, some of these restrictions will require innovative thinking. An example where this can occur is if you found what you believe is the to be the best method to implement a project, but it is out of the budget for the company; you will need to find a unique method to implement a project with the same result but stay in your budgetary limitation. Creative engineers can always see new angles to find solution.
As engineers there are not many options for soft skills training so you must find methods to practice these skills. I enjoy practicing these skills by signing up to run races; this allows for interaction with all types of people, having a feeling that we’re all in it together rooting each other on, and evaluating the best method to achieve my next personal record. Find your why to practice your soft skills and you will be on your way to the finish line (Success).