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Understanding the Importance of Soft Skills for Engineers

written by: Meetu • edited by: Swagatam • updated: 3/23/2010

Every company looking for professionals or even in the case of an entrepreneur, a blend of soft as well as hard skills is considered an absolute essential to succeed and grow. Engineers tend to ignore their soft skills while pursuing their education and even in the formative years of their careers.

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    Introduction

    Success at the workplace for engineers is determined primarily by two skill sets. The first are the hard skills and the second are the soft skills. Before we can take the discussion further, it is important to understand the difference between the two.
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    Hard Skills Vs. Soft Skills

    Hard Skills are easy to identify and define with respect to a particular profession. These are the technical skills that are associated with a respective profession. For example in the case of a mechanical engineer the hard skills would be the personnel’s ability with machines, for a software engineer it would be his or her proficiency level with a programming language.

    Soft Skills are not that easy to define. Soft skills are also referred to as people skills as these are the skills that determine a persons interactions and dealings with coworkers. Examples of soft skills are ability to think critically, leadership skills, attitude and motivation to specify a few.
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    The Importance of Soft Skills

    There is no doubt about the fact that the hard skills are an absolute essential for an engineer to perform his job diligently and efficiently. The fact that the second skill set, that is, the soft skills along with the hard skills are an absolute essential for growth of an engineer in the organization. A blend of both is what determines your level of success as a professional. Soft Skills are what are termed as people skills or interpersonal skills. These determine an engineers attitude towards his work, organization, clients and colleagues. Soft skills are not just limited to the workplace of a professional but extends to other spheres of his life too for example social and family. Soft skills is not just about communicating, but includes ability to manage stress, ability to organize, ability to provide solutions. Most of the times the importance of soft skills is ignored and not given adequate attention for engineers. The education that goes in to make an engineer does not concentrate on the people skills. The curriculum tends to ignore the fact that at the and of the day an engineer would be working in a team, reporting to someone, taking reports, dealing with work pressures, giving presentations, attending phone calls, sending mails just to specify a few. In all such situations along with technical skills, experience and physiological maturity of an individual is going to play an important role.
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    Categories of Soft Skills

    Soft Skills can broadly be classified in the following three categories: Interpersonal Skills: Interpersonal Skills are all aspects that require a person to interact with his or her colleagues. These skills help the professionals to start, set and solidify communication channels. Networking, Communication including verbal as well as non-verbal communication and team work are examples of these skills. Professionalism: These are the skills which directly impact how a professional is seen at his work place and by his colleagues. Discipline, Integrity, Dedication, Attitude and Motivation are examples of professional skills. Problem Solving: Last but not the least are problem solving skills. The ability to think critically, take decisions, and act in a logical and a systematic manner are the best example in this category.

    A well-drafted resume will not only list the hard skills of an engineer, but will highlight the soft skills of the professional too. A resume highlighting the above-mentioned soft skills is sure to get an interview call as companies look for professionals possessing the necessary people skills. Try your best to highlight the above-mentioned skills in your resume.

    One of my favorites lines to begin a training session with engineering students is “What do you want to be in an organization, a problem provider or a solution provider?” The truth is that I am able to link all my ensuing sessions with this one question. Soft Skills are a skill set that makes you an effective solution provider rather than a problem provider.

    Remember, you don’t have to be born with these skills and it is never to late to learn !