Soft Skills Every Engineer Needs

Engineers need more than technical skills to be successful.

Engineers need more than technical skills to be successful.

Obtaining a degree in engineering is challenging but promising. The pay can be high with a strong job outlook. In fact, some specialties, such as biomedical engineering, are expected to see job growth of 60 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While engineering schools educate their students to have a variety of technical skills, some engineers lack the soft skills essential for success. Engineers might be known for having introverted personalities, but they still must interact with others to get projects done. Equip yourself with the skills that can improve your ability to interact with colleagues.

Communication

Communication skills are important in every job but engineers face additional challenges. Since many scientists and engineers are introverts, working in the engineering field can be especially difficult without the ability to meet and relate with others. If you're working on a design project with a team, organize meetings to regularly discuss progress. If you're training a new engineer on running performance testing, show the process but explain why you are doing each step. If you improve your communication skills and make an effort to be effective in all forms, you can become extremely successful. Communication skills go beyond just sending emails. Communication includes both verbal and physical communication. Verbal communication is important but physical communication, or body language, can be the defining element in face-to-face communication. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you say, it matters how you say it and how it is interpreted by the person with whom you are speaking.

Interpersonal Skills

More than communication, interpersonal skills involve active listening and understanding how to resolve conflicts. You can’t avoid working with others in the engineering profession. Companies are successful because teams of skilled people come together and achieve goals not possible to achieve alone. You may be highly skilled in mechanical engineering, for example, but you might need the help of an electrical engineer to finish the job. Since you're not an expert in electronics, building a good working relationship with this person builds mutual respect. Or maybe you need the support of technicians on the manufacturing floor. If you can develop a good relationship and work through conflicts in a positive way, these people can be great assets when it comes to completing your projects. Improving interpersonal skills can give you an advantage in the workplace and can give you the reputation as a positive and effective employee.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence affects how you manage behavior, navigate social situations, and make personal decisions to achieve favorable results. The primary driving factors in emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. If you are aware of your social surroundings and understand how to handle other people's emotions, you can better manage working relationships. Engineers are constantly solving problems and developing new concepts and approaches to design. Since much of your work is unproven in the early stages you might frequently encounter differing opinions and disagreement. If you can fine tune your emotional intelligence you can learn to navigate these obstacles without insulting your colleagues or causing them to lose respect for you. This skill is not taught in school and some people are naturally better than others. But with practice, you can to improve your social awareness and better control emotions.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand someone’s condition from their perspective. You can be more effective working with others if you can empathize with them. When working on a team, consider how your colleagues might feel or how certain decisions can affect them. For example, as an engineer you must often work with technicians to provide support. Being in a support role, they might not know the details of the project or why you are requesting help. Respect their experiences and remember how you would feel with only partial information. This helps you become more effective in your social interactions.

2016 Salary Information for Biomedical Engineers

Biomedical engineers earned a median annual salary of $85,620 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, biomedical engineers earned a 25th percentile salary of $65,700, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $107,850, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 21,300 people were employed in the U.S. as biomedical engineers.

 

About the Author

Auston Matta is an experienced engineer who has worked in the packaging industry since 2003. He holds a bachelor's degree in bio-engineering and a master's degree in engineering management. Auston has also contributed to "Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News."

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