You are on page 1of 6

The New Student Programme PLUS MENTOR Groups

Student Experience Seminars

SOFT SKILLS FOR ENGINEERS

what are soft skills?

 Soft skills are essentially people skills -- the non-technical, intangible,


personality-specific skills that determine your strengths as a leader,
listener, negotiator, and conflict mediator. They are the techniques you
need to work with others.
 Soft skills are usually identified in the advertising process by phrases such
as "must be able to work well under pressure" or "must work well in a
team environment." While many applicants consider such statements to
be nothing more than an indication of the work environment, it is in fact a
statement of soft skills being sought

what are hard skills?

 "Hard" or technical skills are more along the lines of what might
appear on your resume -- your education, experience and level of
expertise. Hard skills are the minimum skills necessary to do a job. Most
people with the same level of education and experience should have
roughly the same level of hard skills.

the fine divide!!

 In this competitive market, highly successful professional engineers are


those who are not only technically astute, but often possess that
something “extra”....
 Employers value soft skills, because research suggests that they are just
as good an indicator of job performance as traditional job qualifications or
hard skills.
 Technical skills may teach one how to meet the expectations of the job,
but soft skills teach one to succeed, and to exceed expectations. Research
proves that excellence in soft skills is equally as important as technical
expertise for a successful engineer.

According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal, the importance


of soft skills is highlighted as follows: “Recruiters say the “soft” skills –
such as leadership, communication and the ability to work in teams – are
just as important as the hard stuff. And a lot harder to teach.”
-- From “Playing Well with Others”, 9th Sep, 2002

Prepared by T. Dhot, Student Success Mentor, 2006-2007 1


The New Student Programme PLUS MENTOR Groups
Student Experience Seminars
Hard/Technical Skills -- Technical Intelligence:

 Solid Technical Education


 Logical Thought Process
 Computer Literacy

Interpersonal
Most important soft skills for IT/Engineering staffers Skills
8%
11% Written or Verbal
37% Communication
7%
Ability to work under
pressure
17% Professional
demeanor/Work
20% ettiquete
Business Acumen

Soft Skills -- Emotional Intelligence: Multitasking


abilities/Others
 Teamwork/Interpersonal Skills -- Be a team player: Employers
love an employee who displays the ability to work well in groups and
teams. Being a team player means not only being cooperative, but
also displaying strong leadership ability when it's appropriate. It is
essential to get the people whom you work with to understand your
ideas as well as understand theirs.
Mentor’s Tip: The next time a conflict arises while doing that group
project, take the initiative to mediate. When you find your group
getting stuck in a project, take the lead to move things forward. And
what if you don't normally do group work? Try to be more
collaborative in the work you do and build professional relationships
with your coworkers.

 Communication -- Communicate effectively: Good


communication skills are essential to someone's job performance.
Communication is what allows you to build bridges with coworkers,
persuade others to adopt your ideas and express your needs.
Many small things you already do -- things you probably don't even
think about -- have a big impact on your communication skills. Here
are some things you should be wary of when communicating with
others:

 Make good eye contact


 Don't fidget
 Avoid body movements that cut you off from others, like
folding your arms
 Don't talk for the sake of talking; always have a point
Prepared by T. Dhot, Student Success Mentor, 2006-2007 2
The New Student Programme PLUS MENTOR Groups
Student Experience Seminars
 Enunciate your words properly
 Hone your grammar skills with a good reference or style
manual

Mentor’s Tip: In general, you should become more aware of both the
verbal and nonverbal cues you give off to others. Also remember that
one of the keys to being a good communicator is being a good
listener.

 Leadership -- Motivate yourself & lead others: Leadership deals


with the process of successfully influencing the activities of a group
towards the achievement of a common goal. It is also the ability to
motivate a group of people toward a common goal. Effective
leadership requires in depth understanding about the job in hand,
understanding resources well, good rapport with your team and crisis
management ability.
Mentor’s Tip: It's important to be a self-starter who takes initiative.
This means constantly seeking out new ways to keep your work
interesting and motivational, even if it at the surface it seems
repetitive and mundane.

 Organizational Skills -- Multitask & prioritize your to-do list:


The term deals with manifesting skills in personal management, time
management, prioritizing, flexibility, stress management and the
ability to deal with change. In today's workplace, a good employee is
expected to be able to shuffle several different assignments and
projects at once. Are you good at tracking the progress of different
projects you've been handed to work on? Do you know how to
prioritize what's most important? These are the keys to being a good
multitasker.
Mentor’s Tip: Use a daily planner, space out assignments, prioritize
assignments and maintain a “To Do” List. And remember, the best
habits, routines, and systems are flexible, creative, and based on
need.

 Good Work Ethic/Work etiquette: Work ethic is a cultural norm


that advocates being personally accountable and responsible for the
work that one does and is based on a belief that work has intrinsic
value. Now as much as ever before it is important for workers to have
a good work ethic. Without it, businesses and industries struggle as
productivity falls short of what is needed. Employers especially dislike
hiring people who would choose to prop up their feet rather than find
something to do. Work ethic can be broken down to basic moral
principles that are expected of you. These include:
 Attendance: arrive on time and giving advance notice of
absence
 Character: Display loyalty, honesty, trustworthiness,
dependability, reliability, initiative, self-discipline, and self-
responsibility.

Prepared by T. Dhot, Student Success Mentor, 2006-2007 3


The New Student Programme PLUS MENTOR Groups
Student Experience Seminars
 Respect: Deal appropriately with diversity and treat everyone
with respect.
 Cooperation
 Self and Social Awareness

 Have a "winner" attitude -- I CAN DO IT: Technical work within


no time can get awfully monotonous, the projects you work on might
not be the ones you dreamt of but still you have to get the job done.
In these times it’s your attitude that will set you apart from the rest.
Having a positive outlook at work helps everyone, engineers included.
Here are some of the “skills” that are important for a “winner”
attitude:

 Positive thinking: We've all heard that it's better to see the
glass half full instead of half empty. And in the workplace, that
type of positive thinking can go a long way. An overall positive
outlook leads to an overall positive attitude, and that can be a
valuable asset in work environments that typically breed cynicism
and negativity. The key to having a winning attitude is in how you
tackle obstacles and challenges that come your way.
Mentor’s Tip: Always be confident of your abilities and never
under-estimate yourself.

 Accept & learn from criticism: This is one of the most


challenging soft skills, which is why it's typically one of the most
impressive to employers. Your ability to handle criticism says a lot
about your willingness to improve. And being able to criticize the
work of others constructively is just as important. Make sure that
you never reject a piece of constructive criticism completely
without acknowledging that at least part of it is helpful.
Mentor’s Tip: Be aware of how defensive you get in reaction to
negative feedback. Be diplomatic.

 Hone your creative skills: Creativity and imaginative thinking


are valued in any job. Even the most technical positions require
the ability to think outside the box. So never underestimate the
power of innovative problem solving.

capitalize on all of your skills..

While it's important to recognize and build on your soft skills, that doesn't
mean that you should neglect your hard skills. The real key to success in
any job is making your soft skills and hard skills complement each other.

Prepared by T. Dhot, Student Success Mentor, 2006-2007 4


The New Student Programme PLUS MENTOR Groups
Student Experience Seminars

START WORKING NOW -- RESOURCES IN UNIVERITY:

 Take the Student Success Check-up which can help you identify
some of your strengths and weaknesses that may have an impact on
your success at university. Be sure to follow up with an individual or
group session to understand the results and make a personal action
plan.
 Take the Meyers Briggs Type Inventory to learn more about
yourself and how you can make your personality work for you.
 Attend Counselling and Development workshops, or other seminars
within the university, so you can develop and practice yours skills.
(Consider the PLUS Leadership Workshop Series, and some of the
career planning and job search workshops.)
 Get involved in GROUP PROJECTS and take your group assignments
seriously.
 Become an active member in at least one SOCIETY, ASSOCIATION
or CLUB on campus. Visit the ECA (Engineering and Computer Science
Student Association) or the CSU (Concordia Student Union) to find out
what is available. Consider participating in the engineering games or
an engineering competition.
 VOLUNTEER in group events, activities and associations to IMPROVE
YOUR SOCIAL SKILLS! Or visit the Student Success Centre and
CAPS for more information on volunteer opportunities.
 Don’t wait until your final year to prepare a good résumé. (Get help
from CAPS.) And keep your résumé up-to-date and ready to show
potential employers. Go to Engineering Career Fairs to check out who
potential employers are and what they are looking for.
 Choose your electives and non-core courses carefully to round out
your skills and knowledge. It is a good idea to take some
management courses.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: Good soft skills and extra-curricular


experiences can give you that added edge ONLY if you have a SOLID
TECHNICAL BACKGROUND! So work hard and put in your best for
your courses.

Prepared by T. Dhot, Student Success Mentor, 2006-2007 5


The New Student Programme PLUS MENTOR Groups
Student Experience Seminars
START WORKING NOW -- BE YOUR OWN TRAINER!

While organizations are definitely investing in augmenting their staff's people


skills, here are some inputs for professionals and students who would like to
initiate the process themselves:

i. Be a part of team activities


 It could be either as a part of your church choir, or an NGO, or your
local youth circle.
 Observe your own behaviour in the group and how you relate to
others.

ii. Ask close friends/family members to write down your best and
worst traits.
 Ideally, have at least four to five people do this for you.
 Evaluate the common traits all of them have mentioned. Thus, you
can be aware of your strengths and work improving your
weaknesses.

iii. How well do you manage your time?


Think!! Can you do more in life? Or is your day too crammed with
activities? Effective time management is very essential in the
corporate world.

iv. Introspect on how you react to feedback.


In organizations, people skills mostly come into the picture when there is
feedback given -- be it for an idea, an executed project or a presentation.
You are judged by the way you respond to feedback.
 Do you get defensive?
 Do you insist you were right?
 Do you meekly accept criticism?

Remember, people tend to be judged and stereotyped according to their


responses. You will, too.

v. How good are you at critiquing?


While responding to feedback is one side of the coin, giving feedback is
the other side.
Are you aggressive? Pessimistic? Do you believe in constructive criticism?
Or prefer to be the yes-man?

vi. Live consciously


Every organization is manned by people, therefore soft skills are all about
how you deal with people and present yourself.
Though it may be easier said than done, soft skills can be enhanced
simply by being aware of oneself and living consciously.

Drop by or visit our website to find out more about our services
Student Success Center
SGW H-481, LOY AD-101 514-848-2424 ext. 7369
http://studentsuccess.concordia.ca
Prepared by T. Dhot, Student Success Mentor, 2006-2007 6