If you’re looking for a career in the world of engineering, there are several important skills to possess. The following engineering skills are key not only to obtaining entry-level jobs and performing up to industry expectations, but just as importantly, to working your way up to better engineering jobs down the road.
1. Analytical Thinking
Engineering is an industry that requires frequent problem solving. If something doesn’t work the way it’s meant to, it needs a fix. Since it’s also an industry that often uses expensive resources, an engineer must be able to think on his or her feet and brainstorm solutions that can cut costs and time, while addressing as many issues as possible. Sometimes these solutions will require testing and additional research; an engineer must know when this is necessary and how such tests can be performed efficiently and frugally.
2. Teamwork and Clear Communication
Engineering is a particularly team-driven field. Some may think of world-famous engineers like Elon Musk who seem to be responsible for their inventions on their own. This couldn’t be further from the truth; even in situations where one or two people are the “inventors,” which in and of itself is pretty rare (more often, a whole team comes together to pin down an idea), the actual process of engineering such inventions requires dozens or more to chip in.
Group projects in postsecondary school, apprenticeships, and internships may be a good place to shape this skill if you feel you haven’t yet strengthened it. One particular key trait of a good team worker and clear communicator is an ability to translate technical jargon into easy terms when dealing with people who may be unfamiliar with more techy language (such as in meetings with clients or investors).
3. Strong Leadership Skills
So we’ve established that engineering is a team effort where everyone’s role is incredibly important—but that doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes need to lead the team. Leadership is one of the key engineering skills that you need to have. Being a strong team leader means knowing when to manage (and even micromanage) and knowing when to do the complete opposite. You should be familiar with your team members’ individual strengths and how to use different workers for different tasks, as well as know when they can initiate said tasks by themselves.
It also involves possessing the ability to be firm with people, but also open and negotiable. Sometimes you’ll need to direct people. Sometimes you’ll even need to get a little mad. But a good leader also believes in his teams and wants feedback, questions, and opposing views that may help the final project.
The ability to lead a team is an absolutely essential skill for anyone who wants to work their way up in industry. Without it, there’s very little room to grow personally or professionally.
4. Organization Skills and Detailed Thinking
Since engineering projects can be so costly and complicated, an engineer should be able to prioritize what needs to be done, making time and budget estimates when necessary. By planning what you must work with ahead of time, you can hopefully avert unnecessary crises down the line, and you may even surprise yourself with clever workarounds to forthcoming problems.
Organizational skills go hand-in-hand with detailorientation: It’s not an exaggeration to say that some engineering projects, especially in civil and mechanical engineering, have literally hundreds of thousands of individual details to consider. Obviously, all of this is taken on by a team, not one person, but an attention to detail is nevertheless a must. In high-pressure situations, you need to know your responsibilities and ensure every part under your authority is working optimally.
5. Willingness to Learn
The engineering industry is among the most rapidly changing in a technologically evolving world. Learning new technology, learning to better use existing technology, generally widening your skill set, and seeking to innovate with totally new ideas are all major plusses for an engineer. Sound advice for any aspiring engineer: Know the engineering skills necessary for the current state of the industry, and consider what may come soon.