Part 1 of “Interviewing Basics for Engineers” highlighted the industry changes young engineers have to address when interviewing for a job. In part two, we look at some of the different skills employers are looking for in young job candidates.
Soft Skills Matter: The days of technical professionals being isolated from clients are over. Strong communication skills – including oral, written, and presentation skills – are critical for young engineers. It does an employer no good when clients can't understand what its staff is talking about, particularly when dealing with time sensitive and complex technical problems. Learn to summarize your work for nontechnical people and ideas in a way that will excite and engage those on the outside.
Another important soft skill is the ability to work in both a team environments and individually, and to agilely move between those two areas. Engineers often need to work on a problem by themselves and then bring that work to the larger team for additional ideas and solutions. Hiring managers look for candidates who can easily transition between those extremes with the same amount of facility, the same amount of comfort, and ultimately the same amount of success.
“Unfortunately, these are things that most engineers are not really taught in school,” Fasano says. “So if you can exhibit any kind of ability in those areas, that will help you stand out. Every engineer's going to have a degree. Every engineer's going to have technical knowledge. So you have to think about what you might be able to bring to the table that not every engineer's going to have.”
Get Creative: Patrick likewise recommends that engineers look outside of the technical side of the field to understand where today’s best industry opportunities are. That means knowing what’s going on nationally and internationally in the technical, social, and economic worlds.
“The bottom line is [engineers] cannot isolate themselves just within their expertise,” he says. “They need to develop that expertise, becoming extremely competent in their area of focus. They need to also be broader beyond that and think about how their expertise links to other applications.”
Think Beyond Today’s Jobs: In mechanical and civil engineering, there are dozens of existing specializations graduates entering the workforce can explore. But Fasano suggests that the best approach is to look beyond what everyone else is already doing and focus on emerging areas with plenty of future growth potential. Infrastructure is a growth area right now, along with artificial intelligence and anything involving drones or software, he says. Candidates who can develop the right skills to meet these needs will be in high demand for years to come.
Firms like Patrick’s aren’t just hiring engineers to do today’s engineering. They’re hiring engineers to be part of larger problem solving mechanisms for their clients.
“And you’re only good at that if you understand the larger playing field and not just the little square that you're standing in,” he says.
Tim Sprinkle is an independent writer.
You have to think about what you might be able to bring to the table that not every engineer's going to have.Anthony Fasano, Engineering Management Institute