Top Skills Engineers Will Need for the Future
It should come as no surprise that securing an engineering job is not just about luck or connections; it’s also about the skills that an engineer has perfected over the years. Due to the thousands of engineering graduates and highly-skilled professionals who are also looking for better opportunities, more benefits, and job security every year, competition is tough. An engineer can do something about it, however, by learning these top engineering skills to make themselves more competitive and indispensable.
1. Problem-solving skills
An engineer's job, no matter what their specific field, is all about solving problems. These may be math problems, unexpected situations in the workplace, or complex production challenges. Whatever the case, problem-solving skills are critical in this profession.
Engineering skills in problem-solving help engineers not only find an effective solution but also enable them to determine the root cause of the problem and prevent it from recurring. To improve one's skills in problem-solving, the following activities can be helpful:
Acquire more technical knowledge in the field. Problem-solving skills can improve in proportion to the technical knowledge an engineer has in their field. Engineers can enhance their technical knowledge by joining training sessions, conferences, workshops, and doing additional coursework.
Find opportunities to solve problems. The best way to find new opportunities is to place themselves in a new situation. Sometimes this takes the form of volunteering for new projects or working with another team. It can be uncomfortable, but that discomfort generates growth.
Practice solving problems. Role-playing can be a good tool to practice an engineer's problem-solving skills. Professional practice books or other resources are available online.
Observe other professionals who are working on a problem. Engineers who have a workmate who is a great problem solver can learn a thing or two from them. Observing how a colleague approaches a problem helps an engineer improve their skills.
2. Communication skills
The ability to communicate well is a critical engineering skill that can be an immense boost to an engineer's career. Messages that are poorly delivered can lead to workplace misunderstandings, breakdowns in team cohesion, and wasted time and resources. Excellent communication skills, on the other hand, lead to better work performance for everyone involved and great job results.
Engineers at all levels have to communicate daily, be it with their superiors, teammates, subordinates, other departments, or clients. Below are some tips on how to improve one's communication skills.
Don't interrupt when people are talking. When talking to people, remember to let them complete their thought. Avoid interrupting or talking over people. Not only is it disrespectful, but it can also lead to misunderstandings or make someone jump to conclusions before having all the information.
Learn to paraphrase. Repeating back what the other person said shows them that what they are trying to say is being understood. It will keep the conversation going and at the same time let them know that the other person is listening. If what they repeat is wrong, it allows the other person to clarify and ensure everything is fully understood.
Listen actively. Active listening means engaging and responding to what the other person says. Be conscious of how to respond to their statements and phrase those responses properly. The paraphrasing point above also plays into the engineer’s active listening.
Maintain eye contact. Maintaining eye contact is an important way to show interest in what the other person has to say. Not only does it let them know they have their attention, but it also helps you avoid getting distracted by other things.
3. Creativity and innovation skills
Engineers design things to make life easier. Creativity and innovation are two important engineering skills that help make this job possible. Engineers are often presented with problems that they have never seen before. With a creative and innovative approach, engineers can think up new and exciting ways to attack the problems and apply their expertise to solve them.
Some ways to improve an engineer’s creativity and innovation capabilities are:
Get inspired daily. To increase creativity and innovation, the engineer must find inspiration daily. They should make it a habit to do something inspiring every day. This may come by reading a book (or a great blog), listening to music, or even meditating for a few minutes.
Create something every day. To further enhance an engineer’s creativity and innovation skills, it’s important to do something with all this inspiration. This does not necessarily need to be a big project, but rather small things that can get those creative juices flowing. They can try to write articles, draw maps or artwork, or even tinker about with some tools and materials.
Take breaks. Knowing when to stop and take a break helps in boosting creativity. Forcing oneself to solve a problem, especially when tired, will not help at all. An engineer can try walking to a different area in the workplace, prepare a cup of coffee, or talk to people about an unrelated topic. Sometimes ideas will strike in the most unexpected places.
Take risks. Taking risks can be hard, especially when a lot is at stake. But a bit of risky thinking gets one's mind outside of the box and helps them look for unconventional ways to solve the question at hand.
4. Emotional intelligence skills
Engineers don't work alone. They collaborate with different kinds of people at all levels. They can't be successful engineers if they don't know how to manage people and work with them seamlessly.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage not only individual emotions but others’ as well. Engineers who have higher emotional intelligence tend to perform better than those who don't. Having high emotional intelligence skills supports an engineer's professional relationships, interpersonal communications, and their ability to self-motivate.
When the engineer's emotional intelligence is not up to par, the work is affected in terms of their ability to make decisions, provide empathy, work with a team, be accountable, and build trust. Below are some of the ways to improve emotional intelligence skills:
Work on self-awareness. An individual can start by taking time to think about their reactions to events. One way of doing this is by spending a few quiet minutes in the evening to reflect on what happened throughout the day and how it felt.
Learn to manage emotions. The engineer can work on managing emotions, especially during stressful moments. They can learn what helps shift the emotional state. Some people do this by taking a walk, listening to music, or talking to a trusted friend.
Develop empathy. When interacting with others, one must try to listen and understand where the person is coming from. One great way to do that is by putting themselves in the shoes of the other person and examine how that would affect their own emotional state.
The engineer can make themselves indispensable and valuable by showing employers these engineering skills that are far more desirable than what automated machines can offer. If an engineer already has them, then they should work on taking them to the next level. Self-improvement can go a long way.
- Developments in the Engineering Discipline
The Growing Field of Food Engineering
Food engineering is a multi-disciplinary field that is responsible for the production and preservation of food. The focus of a food engineer is to constantly improve the food production process, whether that is introducing energy efficient machinery, or developing a new type of packaging to increase the shelf-life of a product. Working closely with food technologists and food scientists, their combined goal is to provide a healthy, tasty, long-lasting product while also ensuring global food supplies remain plentiful and safe.
- Career Advice
Working in the U.S Military as an Engineer
Engineering is a career that involves the application of scientific principles to everyday problems. In the United States, an engineering degree usually takes four years and students can specialize in disciplines such as civil, chemical, computer, electrical, mechanical, and other areas of engineering. Upon graduation, students can expect to work as design engineers, consulting engineers, construction engineers, or other types depending on their discipline of study. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is one such place where graduates can grow their engineering career.
- Study Advice
How to Write an Engineering Motivation Letter for a PhD
Ok, so the time has come to write your engineering PhD motivation letter. The cursor is blinking on the blank page. Your mind races. What do I write? How do I start? How do I phrase it? It can be a challenge, especially for us engineers who may not enjoy the written word as much as other academics do. But competition for some PhD places can be fierce, especially at good universities. Getting the motivation letter right is one of the most important parts of your application, so don't leave it until the last minute.