Often in engineering and manufacturing jobs, the focus falls firmly on technical ability and sector experience. However, in an increasingly competitive job market, employers are looking for strong soft skills in addition to proven technical ability.
Those professionals who believe that their training, skills and experience are the only attributes under scrutiny could be putting themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a new role. Whatever your job function, strong soft skills can be absolutely crucial for career progression and beating the competition.
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 others and they are essential for any successful career.
Before an interview, it's a good idea to think about scenarios from your past roles where you have demonstrated good soft skills. You'll also need to demonstrate these skills once in your interview setting.
Four key areas:
Strong communication skills are essential in this field as you may often need to convey technical information to a non-technical audience. Technical knowledge is of course paramount, but the ability to communicate it accurately and concisely is equally important. The flexibility to communicate with a range of different audiences is also a key skill.
For real career progression, individuals in the engineering and manufacturing sector will typically need to display management potential. This may involve managing teams, individuals, projects or entire organisations. The ability to truly inspire and instil confidence is at the heart of all good leadership. Some people have natural leadership ability, but good management skills can be sharpened through training and development programmes.
Whatever your particular job, lateral thinking and problem-solving skills will always be beneficial. Organisations will always appreciate someone who can keep a cool head in a crisis and find innovative, creative solutions to business issues.
Experienced professionals in the engineering and manufacturing sector will typically find that influencing skills are essential for success. The ability to negotiate with people at all levels of the business, forge productive relationships and effectively present ideas and opinions are all important attributes. Confident influencers and decision makers are always in demand.
When it comes to your soft skills, don't underestimate how important these are 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 interview, an employer will be looking for real, demonstrable evidence of your soft skills at play. How you present yourself in the actual interview will be telling, but you might also be asked to provide clear examples of your soft skills in action in previous roles. Try to outline of a number of scenarios in which you displayed strong soft skills and how they positively impacted upon the business. For example, did you effectively lead your team through a difficult period or implement a new process that solved an ongoing business issue?
Always make sure you promote a good, healthy mix of technical ability and soft skills when pursuing a new job or a move upwards in your organisation.