9 Soft Skills Engineers Need to Maximise Career Success
There has never been a better time to be an engineer. In many sectors, new technologies mean there are a growing number of opportunities for individuals with the right training and experience.
Therefore, it can be frustrating when you think you’ve got the perfect CV but don’t get that call back after your interview. The same applies when you don’t get a promotion you think you’re ready for. After all, you’ve got the right qualifications and technical abilities, so why didn’t you get the job?
Technical skills alone are no longer sufficient for many employers. Furthermore, technical skills alone will only take your career and levels of job satisfaction so far. So, what can you do?
One Common Career Mistake Engineers Make
Too often, engineers focus only on their technical skills and abilities, largely ignoring soft skills. Soft skills, however, are very important in almost all roles and industries.
By paying attention to the following nine important soft skills for engineers, you’ll make yourself more attractive to employers. You’ll also become a more rounded engineer, enhancing your emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills, and improving your overall engineering abilities as soft skills work.
Essential Soft Skills for Engineers
Communicating complex technical solutions in a way that clients understand is becoming increasingly important.
For example, as an engineer, you might have a tendency to focus on the technical detail when clients are often more interested in finding solutions to their specific problem and understanding the benefits to their business, i.e., they are not necessarily interested in abstract theories or high-level science, particularly at management level.
So, practice delivering highly technical information in as simple a way as possible while keeping your client’s perspective in mind.
Another thing to highlight when discussing communication skills is the fact that this is a category rather than a specific or isolated skill. In other words, improving your communication skills will involve improving a range of other soft skills. You may not need all the soft communication skills in the list below, but they include:
- Active listening skills
- Writing skills
- Presentation skills
- Non-verbal communication skills
Problem-solving usually involves successfully considering the pros and cons of each solution and finding the path with the least risk involved.
Interviewers often consider problem-solving skills during the recruitment process because they show how candidates deal with challenges. After all, project managers and other leaders like having team members who don’t bring every small difficulty to their doorstep.
Problem-solving skills can also help projects run more smoothly, as well as helping to improve the business overall.
You should also explore possibilities for improving other soft skills that are closely related to problem-solving skills. Examples include:
- Innovation skills
- Brainstorming skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Research skills
Having intellectual curiosity can also help improve your problem-solving skills. Being intellectually curious will help you think out-of-the-box, find solutions, and question why things are done the way they are.
In some situations, you can classify organisational skills as technical rather than soft. For example, good code needs to be well structured and organised. That said, there are also organisational skills you should improve that are non-technical.
These include punctuality, task management, and not taking on more tasks than you can handle.
Specific skills that come under the organisation soft skills umbrella include:
- Time management skills
- Goal-setting skills
- Planning skills
- Prioritisation skills
Finally with this one, there are apps available that help you stay organised, complementing your soft skills development.
A good definition of leadership as a soft skill is taking responsibility for yourself and also for the people you work alongside. Remember, you don’t have to be in a managerial position to be a leader. Leadership is also about things like keeping the right distance from a task (so you can see the bigger picture), setting the right example, and motivating others when things get tough.
Hone this skill, and don’t forget to celebrate your leadership successes. Remember them as best practice examples, too, so you can use them as a stepping stone for promotion.
Areas you can work on in relation to leadership skills include some already highlighted, such as communication skills and organisational skills. Strategic thinking, personal development, and team development skills are also important.
There are many engineering tasks that you will do alone. Writing code is a good example. Individuals can’t complete large engineering projects alone, however. Instead, they require teams and, by extension, teamwork.
As a result, teamwork is usually a non-negotiable soft skill in engineering. In other words, employers want you to be just as committed to successfully achieving team and company goals as you are to personal goals.
With rapidly advancing technologies, the reality of clients changing requirements, the increasing use of agile development techniques, and other factors, adaptability is an essential soft skill to improve. In fact, being willing and able to quickly adapt to situations is a skill highly valued by employers.
In engineering, creativity is about finding new ways of looking at things. By developing this valuable soft skill, you’ll be able to, for example, develop innovative products or project solutions. Creativity can also help you solve a problem or successfully deal with an unexpected situation.
Interpersonal Skills and Emotional Intelligence
Interpersonal skills are, in a sense, an umbrella term for several soft skills, including active listening, social perceptiveness, and being able to handle feedback. They all centre on emotional intelligence.
While it may not be possible to have great relationships with colleagues and others in all situations, developing your interpersonal skills will help you, those around you, and the company you work for.
Finally, giving customers more than they expect helps to nurture long-term and loyal relationships. After all, customers are crucial to the success of most businesses. As a result, companies are more focused on customers than ever before. Developing your own customer service skills will help you contribute to the company’s efforts.
How to Improve Your Soft Skills
You can complete training courses to improve your soft skills. Experience is important, too, so be open to taking on leadership responsibilities while also being adaptable and flexible. For example, be willing to take on new roles or projects, even if they are outside your comfort zone.
You should always be ready to learn, embracing constructive feedback from wherever it comes from. Building strong relationships and regularly communicating with those who can help you grow and develop will help too.
Developing a Continuous Improvement Mindset
Becoming a master of the soft skills above is a lifelong objective, so don’t expect to have all of them figured out quickly. Instead, focus on those you consider are your weakest, set goals, develop a plan, and constantly review your progress. The reward will be increased engineering success.
The Importance of Mechatronics Engineering and How to Become a Mechatronics Engineer
Mechatronics engineering is currently one of the most important fields of engineering in terms of Industry 4.0 and the ongoing technological advances this latest industrial revolution is bringing. Mechatronics engineers are pushing boundaries, enhancing productivity, and driving efficiency savings in a range of industries and sectors.
This includes the life sciences and technology manufacturing sectors. What exactly is mechatronics engineering, however, why is it so important, and how do you become a mechatronics engineer?
What is Mechatronics Engineering?
Mechatronics engineering involves the integration of electrical, mechanical, and software components to develop products, systems, and solutions. In other words, it is an interdisciplinary field of engineering.
Previously, you would have had mechanical engineers who would work on mechanical components and products, electrical engineers who would do all the electrical elements, and computer engineers who would look after the computer hardware and software aspects.
Modern solutions require much deeper integration of these engineering fields, creating the need for engineers with mechatronics skills.
It isn’t just electrical, mechanical, and software engineering, however, as mechatronics engineers also need expertise in a wide range of other technologies and specialisms. This will vary from company to company and project to project, but examples of the other technologies and specialisms that are commonly part of mechatronics engineering include systems engineering, robotics, controls engineering, data science, and software engineering.
Why Mechatronics Engineering is Important in Industry 4.0
There are many reasons why mechatronics engineering is important in Industry 4.0. Six of the most relevant are highlighted below.
Moving Towards the Smart Factory
Mechatronics engineering is essential for advancing automation in manufacturing and making factories smarter and more efficient. It also helps to optimise workflows and processes on production lines, improve OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), and deliver a range of other production and business benefits to manufacturing organisations.
Mechatronics is a field of engineering that advances and innovates on a daily basis. In the past, for example, automation might have involved automating and improving single production lines or parts of a production line. Today, however, automation technologies can involve a much wider range of business areas and processes. This includes automating decision-making and enhancing integration through all parts of the business, in addition to integrating operational technologies.
Mechatronics engineering is also important in Industry 4.0 because it is multidisciplinary. In the factories and industrial facilities of today, modern challenges require engineers with a broad range of skills. The field of mechatronics engineering provides companies with the engineering skills they need.
Reducing Labour Challenges
Mechatronics engineering is also helping to solve labour shortages in various industries. It is doing this by helping companies automate, reducing the need for staff to carry out repetitive tasks. This results in efficiency savings, but it also solves recruitment problems where companies struggle to hire and retain the staff they need.
Focus on Adding Value
This point follows on from the above point. Traditionally, manufacturers would employ staff to carry out manual and repetitive tasks. These tasks were essential, but they were not about adding value to the business or driving the business forward.
Solutions developed by mechatronics engineers allow staff to move away from these repetitive and manual tasks to instead work on tasks that are value-adding.
The field of mechatronics engineering helps companies remain competitive in a world where technologies are making it possible to do more with less, faster than before, and in a more personalised way.
For example, smart technologies exist that allow the integration of factories across multiple sites, as well as technologies that maximise output, flexibility, and reliability. This is the competitive environment faced by manufacturers across most industries, highlighting the need for continuous modernisation and improvement. The field of mechatronics engineering makes this continuous push to modernise and improve possible.
Becoming a Mechatronics Engineer
The starting point for becoming a mechatronics engineer is to get the right qualifications. An example is a mechatronics engineering bachelor’s degree. Another common route into the field is to get a mechanical engineering or electrical engineering degree first before moving into mechatronics. This could be through on-the-job training and experience or through further studies, including studying for a master’s in mechatronics.
You then need to gain as much experience as possible. Employers value experience as it demonstrates you have the multidisciplinary skills that are essential in the field of mechatronics engineering.
Finally, you need to commit to continuous professional development. Most engineering fields develop and change over time, but none more so than mechatronics engineering. So, constantly broadening and improving your skills is essential.
Taking a Positive Approach to Workplace Mental Health
There are many ways to shape a workplace mental health programme. In some situations, it can be a simple box-ticking exercise on a CSR to-do list. A more serious and considered approach looks to mitigate the potential negative impacts that the workplace can have on mental health, including mental illness and stress.
These latter points are essential and should be part of any workplace mental health initiative, including ours at SL Controls – Think Well at SL.
However, we believe it is important to go further. We believe in taking a positive approach to workplace mental health, where wellbeing is actively promoted.
In other words, focusing as much on improving mental wellbeing in the workplace as we do on avoiding the potential negative impacts that work can have on mental health.
Taking this approach has benefits for employees, with improved workplace wellbeing. It also has benefits for the wider company, from HR benefits to improved motivation to enhanced collaboration and innovation.
Overall, a positive approach to workplace mental health makes us a better company for everyone.
The Practicalities of a Positive Approach to Workplace Mental Health
So, what does this proactive approach to workplace mental health look like? It includes the regular features of company wellbeing programmes, such as encouraging open dialogue and eliminating the stigma that too often surrounds mental health. However, there are other elements that may not have the same direct and obvious impact, but that are still crucially important.
This includes helping employees achieve their career goals by encouraging, promoting, and facilitating professional development. This can be through new opportunities with different projects and teams, training opportunities, and routes for career advancement. By doing this, we want to ensure our team has the skills and experience required to deliver for our clients. However, it also ensures our employees feel valued and that their contribution matters, in addition to being satisfied with how their career is progressing.
We also work to build relationships and connections within teams and business units, as well as in the wider company. While this has been more of a challenge than normal recently with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns, we have run several remote staff social events.
This isn’t the only way to build relationships and connections in the workplace, though, as we also have a mentorship programme, resource-sharing initiatives, and regular company communications.
Furthermore, we provide information, tips, and advice to improve workplace wellbeing, and we run events that encourage active participation. A good example is a recent remote cycling challenge that members of the team took part in.
We also recognise at SL Controls that we don’t have all the solutions. We continuously seek to improve all aspects of our business, from the delivery of services to our customers to our approach to workplace wellbeing and mental health. This ambition for continuous improvement benefits everyone on our team.
How to Get Your First Job as an Engineering Graduate
Getting that first full-time job as a graduate engineer can be tough. It can also be frustrating, particularly when you hear that Ireland needs more engineers. This is because many of the jobs that are available require experience, even though they are graduate jobs.
You do have options, though. Here are our tips for getting your first job as an engineering graduate.
Start as Soon as Possible
It is never too early to start work on getting your first job as an engineer. This doesn’t necessarily mean applying for jobs. You should, however, start the planning and preparation work as soon as you can. This includes getting experience, researching potential employers, being aware of what is happening in the industry, and preparing your CV.
Get as Much Experience as Possible
Getting experience is one of the trickiest parts of the process, but it is also essential.
The ideal option is to get a placement in a company that operates in the field of engineering you want to go into. A placement will give you the experience you need, plus you will get a clearer indication of what you want to do next.
If a formal work placement through your college course is not possible, you should still seek out work experience wherever you can. You should even apply for temporary jobs in your chosen field over the summer months – every bit of experience you can get, even if it is only a day, will help.
Remember, all the experience you have outside your studies will be of benefit too. This includes jobs that are not related to engineering or if you help run a sports club or local organisation.
After all, employers want more than just technical skills from the people they recruit. They also want communication skills, problem-solving skills, teamworking abilities, flexibility, and more. You can show experience of these skills in almost any job.
Tidy Up Your Social Media Profiles
Your social media profiles need to look professional. That doesn’t mean corporate, soulless, and stuffy profiles that are all about work. Instead, your profiles on social media should reflect your personality while also portraying someone trustworthy and employable.
Pay particular attention to your LinkedIn profile, setting one up if you don’t already have one, and optimising the page if you do.
Check Your Email Address
Do you still have an email address that you registered years ago but now doesn’t present a professional image of you as a potential employee? You’re not alone, but now is the time to get an email address that gives the right impression.
Don’t Just Target Your Ideal Job
When you start looking for graduate jobs to apply for, don’t just focus on your ideal job at your ideal company in your ideal industry. Being more flexible and open will increase the opportunities that are available.
Do Target Small and Mid-Sized Companies
Large companies offer benefits, but some of the most exciting technologies and projects can be found in Ireland’s small and mid-size companies. Often these companies are located outside Dublin.
In addition, you will be exposed to a range of different experiences when you work for a smaller company, giving you better opportunities to enhance your skills, work in different sectors, and more.
Speak to Your Lecturers in College
Your college lecturers will have contacts in the industry, so they will know the companies that are open to recruiting graduate engineers, particularly in the local area.
Speak to Your Contacts
Speak to people you know in the industries you hope to work in. This could be family, friends, acquaintances, or other connections. It is surprising how often these conversations can lead to the submission of an application form for a job you weren’t aware of. Even if they don’t, you might come away with helpful advice.
Go to Careers Fairs
Careers fairs allow you to find out about companies that recruit graduates, and they give you the opportunity to speak to these companies in person. You can also increase your network of contacts.
Tailor Your Application
When applying for a vacancy, make sure you tailor your application as much as possible. This will take you longer to complete, but it will also increase your chances of being called for an interview.
Finding out about the company can help. Also, make sure you include relevant keywords and phrases when completing your application, paying attention to the job description when doing so. Recruiters look for these keywords and phrases when filtering through applications, while some companies use automated systems. By tailoring your application, you are likely to have more success.
Prepare Well for Interviews
You should also spend time preparing for job interviews in advance. This includes researching the company to give you a better understanding of its products, services, customers, and the industries it is involved in. It can also be helpful to learn about the background of the company and to understand its ambitions.
Keep Going and Stay Positive
Finally, don’t give up. As with graduate positions in other industries, you may face rejection multiple times before you secure a job. It will be worth it in the end, though, so stay focused, stay positive, and keep going.
Bonus tip – keep an eye on our website for potential engineering graduate vacancies.
Expansion Plans Create Job Opportunities at SL Controls
At SL Controls, we are entering an exciting period in our development. We have continued to grow over recent years, including through the challenging lockdown periods of 2020/21, and we expect that growth trajectory to continue. To deliver on our future objectives, we are working on increasing our workforce. We are also looking at expansion both in Ireland and the US.
If you are interested in a challenging and rewarding career delivering systems integration and related Industry 4.0 solutions to some of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, visit our careers page to find out about the vacancies we are currently recruiting for.
We will also be posting further vacancies over the coming months as our expansion plans continue. The roles will include:
- Validation Engineers
- CSV Engineers
- Software Quality Engineers
- Control Systems Engineers
- Control Systems Designers
- Project Managers
More details on our expansion and growth strategy are below.
SL Controls’ Expansion Plans Explained
Keith Moran, SL Controls CEO, said turnover at SL Controls in 2020 increased by 33 percent.
“This growth was largely fuelled by our expansion into the US, as well as growth in key market sectors,” Keith said. “Those sectors include life sciences and technologies as our customer base is dominated by international and Irish pharmaceutical, medical device, and technology product manufacturers.
“There is growth in our industry too. We provide systems integration solutions to manufacturing companies, so we operate at the cutting-edge of Industry 4.0 with technologies like robotic process automation, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), predictive analytics, and other solutions that form part of the Smart Factory of the future.
“There is a huge and growing appetite for these solutions as manufacturers digitally transform their operations to meet new and existing challenges and take advantage of a growing list of opportunities.”
New Jobs at SL Controls
Three years ago, about 50 people worked for SL Controls. Today that number is over90, representing an 80 percent increase in staff. This week, we announced the creation of 50 new jobs, a plan that will increase our workforce by a further 55 percent over the coming 18 months, bringing the total headcount to 140.
“Our people are crucial to our success here at SL Controls,” Keith said. “We have ambitious plans for the company in the future, so we need to grow our people, both in terms of the capabilities and responsibilities of our existing team, and by bringing new employees onboard.”
SL Controls currently has five office locations, four in Ireland and one in the US:
Keith said: “Our clients are mostly multinational corporations with manufacturing operations in Ireland, elsewhere in Europe, and the US. One area we have identified for possible expansion is Cork, as there is a strong cluster of pharma, MedTech, and technology manufacturers in that region.
“The US is also a significant market for SL Controls. Many of the multinationals we work for here in Ireland are headquartered in the US. We opened our first US office in 2020 and are now looking at other locations that we believe will improve the service we deliver, helping us achieve our company objectives.”
Working for SL Controls
Keith said all employees should be proud of the company’s growth to date as he looked forward to the next chapter in SL Control’s development.
He said: “This really is an exciting and ambitious time for us as a company, and I am delighted at the enthusiasm and commitment expressed by each member of the SL Controls team. We look forward to continuing working with our clients and partners over the coming years.
“What I would say to engineers considering a change of role is to look at what we offer here at SL Controls. The next chapter in your career could be with us as you help us write the next chapter in our development.”
What Is Live Well at SL – SL Controls’ Workplace Wellbeing Programme?
At SL Controls, we want all our employees to live well as we care about their health. That’s why we have put in place a structured workplace wellbeing programme called Live Well at SL.
Live Well at SL is a central part of the culture at SL Controls as it aligns with our values, such as promoting camaraderie and getting the right work/life balance. We are passionate about promoting workplace wellbeing, with active participation at all levels of the company. This has never been more relevant than it is now, with so much change and uncertainty in our daily lives.
Why Are Workplace Wellbeing Programmes Important?
Most of us try to live as healthily as possible. However, it can be challenging to live a healthy lifestyle if your employer’s only focus is on your performance and the performance of the business. After all, you shouldn’t have to pause living healthily for eight hours or so every day.
Forward-thinking and innovative employers across Ireland are recognising this fact in increasing numbers. After all, it is much easier to improve productivity and profitability when you have a happy and motivated workforce.
Wellbeing programmes can’t deliver this on their own, but they play an important role.
What Are the Benefits of Workplace Wellbeing Programmes?
There are several reasons why workplace wellbeing programmes are important. For employees, they develop an enhanced connection with the workplace as they can see their employer is genuinely interested in their wellbeing. This improved connection with their employer enhances job satisfaction.
Workplace wellbeing programmes can also help to reduce stress. The activities that are typically part of a workplace wellbeing programme also help employees get to know their colleagues better, and they can be effective virtually, as well as in person.
Plus, employees can also benefit from improved health and fitness levels as they take part in workplace wellbeing activities.
Workplace wellbeing programmes are also beneficial to businesses. These benefits include reduced staff turnover, lower sickness and absence rates, reduced risks, improved productivity, increased morale, and overall improvements in standards. All these benefits help enhance the level of service delivered to clients.
Live Well at SL
At SL Controls, we schedule our Live Well at SL programme annually by working with our Well-Being Champions to develop a calendar of events for the year ahead. We communicate the schedule of events regularly throughout the year. The different activities and initiatives include:
- Educational and awareness bulletins on topics such as Working from Home, Time Management, and Keeping Fit.
- Practical activities and challenges that employees can participate in remotely or, when possible, in the workplace. An example of an internal activity is our Step Challenge. An example of an external activity is our Limerick team taking part in the company relay marathon challenge.
- Practical support such as our employee assistance programme, providing useful equipment such as water bottles and mindfulness cubes, as well as providing information on local events.
- General encouragement from peers as a result of taking part in the various wellbeing activities as well directly from management.
Body and Mind
In addition to Live Well at SL, SL Controls also has a programme that focuses on creating an open culture surrounding mental health in the workplace. It is called Think Well at SL and is a crucial element to our overall employee wellbeing strategy.
As with Live Well at SL, Think Well at SL includes awareness programmes, distribution of information, practical help and support, and fun activities that all employees can get involved in.
Workplace Wellbeing and You
You spend a lot of time working and with your work colleagues, either virtually or in person. It is just as important you live healthily during that time as any other, plus it is important that your employer cares about your wellbeing.
One of the ways we do this at SL Controls is by the Live Well at SL programme.