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The Soft Skills All Engineers Need to Boost Their Career

While there has never been a better time to be an engineer, with new technologies evolving, and an increasing range of career opportunities to choose from, there is no guarantee of a job offer, and this can be disappointing. You may have all the right qualifications and be skilled in the technical aspects of the role, yet you may not secure the desired job and often, this comes down to soft skills.

In today's rapidly evolving technological landscape, being a skilled engineer goes beyond technical prowess alone. While technical expertise is undoubtedly important, possessing a set of soft skills is equally vital for engineers looking to thrive in their careers. Soft skills encompass a range of interpersonal abilities that enable engineers to communicate effectively, collaborate with diverse teams, and navigate complex professional environments. 

Research from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Centre found that 85% of career success comes from having well-developed soft skills and people skills. Hard skills, including technical skills and knowledge, can make up as little as 15% of career success in certain engineering and design environments.

But what soft skills should engineers develop to enable career success?

Soft Skills All Engineers Need

  • Organisation - Organisational skills are important for any engineer, as a lot of what they do is technical and needs to be completed accurately. For example, the way that software programs are structured is key to producing code that is easy to maintain. Programs can be very complex with thousands, even millions of lines of code. If these programs are not broken down into smaller components, they would be very hard to work with. Plenty of software development tools are available to assist such as - Dreamweaver, DbSchema, Apache NetBeans, Studio 3T, ZEND Studio, SQL Sentry, etc. Being organised also means being on time, keeping on top of deadlines, managing tasks and not taking on more than one can handle at any one time. There are a range of applications and project platforms that help with organisation, many of which can be used by engineers.
  • Adaptability - The engineering landscape is constantly evolving, with new technologies and design methodologies emerging regularly. Engineers must embrace adaptability and change to identify solutions to unforeseen problems. Adapting to new tools, techniques, and paradigms also enables engineers to stay ahead of the curve and remain relevant in their field. Individuals need curiosity, humility, a capacity to innovate and learn continuously, and the ability to deliver results while monitoring trends in industry and technology.
  • Communication - Effective communication is a cornerstone of success in any profession, and engineering is no exception.  An engineer must be able to communicate complex technical systems and solutions to stakeholders, in a way that’s easy for them to understand. They can’t simply focus on the technical aspects, as an internal or external customer is unlikely to understand all the technical nuances This includes both verbal and written communication, as well as the ability to actively listen and ask relevant questions. Strong communication skills foster collaboration, build trust, and enhance productivity within engineering teams and the wider business community.
  • Customer Service - As is the case with all areas of a business, engineers need to be able to foster long-term and loyal relationships with clients and customers. A lot of businesses are focusing more on customer and client interaction to provide flawless service. Having good customer service skills will help engineers contribute to the business objectives.  This is why individuals need to develop emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence involves understanding and managing one's emotions and empathising with others. It enables engineers to navigate interpersonal relationships effectively, handle conflicts constructively, and provide constructive feedback. Engineers with high emotional intelligence can build strong professional networks, resolve disputes, and create a positive and inclusive work environment.
  • Leadership - Being a good leader means taking responsibility for yourself, as well as others in the workplace. However, leadership isn’t just for managers, it’s a beneficial soft skill for everyone in a team to have. Leadership skills are valuable for engineers at various stages of their careers, whether leading a team or taking ownership of a project. Engineers should develop the ability to inspire, motivate, and guide their colleagues. Setting a good example, motivating others, and stepping back to look at ‘the bigger picture’ all fall under the umbrella of leadership. Plus, leadership skills can be hugely beneficial when it comes to furthering your career and asking for a promotion.
  • Problem-Solving - Engineers are problem solvers by nature but developing robust problem-solving and critical thinking skills is crucial for tackling the challenges encountered during the design and support process. Being able to analyse a problem, break it down into manageable components, and devise innovative solutions is a valuable skill set. An engineer needs to be able to consider the pros and cons of the solutions available to them and find the best way to fix things. Hiring managers and recruiters often look for problem-solving skills, as this determines how a candidate will overcome challenges in the workplace. Being able to solve problems helps projects run smoothly, which benefits the business as a whole. 
  • Teamwork - Though a lot of engineering tasks are completed solo, working as a team is also an important part of the job. Large-scale projects often involve multidisciplinary teams, requiring effective teamwork and collaboration. Engineers must be able to work seamlessly with individuals from various backgrounds, skill sets, and perspectives. Employers want to know that an applicant can commit to working with a team and can do so with a shared goal in mind. Strong interpersonal skills, empathy, and the ability to communicate and cooperate within a team are vital for achieving shared goals, resolving conflicts, improving inefficient processes, and fostering a positive work environment.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s skills survey found that one in five employers surveyed had experienced recruitment difficulties due to applicants lacking the necessary soft skills. Of those, teamworking was the most cited missing skill, closely followed by time management and prioritisation, and leadership.

While technical knowledge and skills are essential for all engineers, the importance of soft skills should not be underestimated. Aspiring engineers should prioritise the development of these soft skills alongside their technical expertise to enhance their career prospects and overcome recruitment challenges.

During an interview, a future employer may seek examples of these competencies with clear evidence of your soft skills. How you present yourself in the actual interview will be telling, but you might also be asked to provide examples of your soft skills in action. e.g. If you managed to get stakeholder buy-in for a project, you can demonstrate both your technical skill as an engineer and your interpersonal skills as a communicator and business partner.

Redline Group change lives every day, building world-class teams for engineering and high-tech companies through a knowledge-led approach. If you would like to find out more about how we can help, send us an email on or give us a call on 01582 450054.


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