The need for soft skills
One area that is very important but is sometimes overlooked is soft skills. Engineering is a highly technical field and to be successful as an engineer you’ll need to be highly competent with your technical skills. That said, in the Canadian labour market, soft skills are often equally important or even more important to success in the job search and in the job itself.
What are examples of soft skills? Soft skills represent a range of interpersonal skills including communication skills, conflict resolution and negotiation, personal effectiveness, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, and team building.
Are soft skills really that important? Yes. Your technical skills are important, but an employer will likely have a range of applicants for a given job with similar technical skills. The employer wants to ensure that they are hiring an individual who is the best fit for their organization, would be best to make presentations and meet with clients, gracefully work within or lead a team, and represent their company. Over the last few decades soft skills have become increasingly important, particularly within technical fields. For success in your job search it is essential that you honestly and critically assess your “EQ”, your Emotional Intelligence Quotient (soft skills) and make a plan to improve.
This is a great conversation to have with your Employment Counsellor. They can help you to assess your soft skills and make a plan to further develop your soft skills for success in the job search and on the job.
Networking & Mentorship
Related to soft skills is your ability to network. In the contemporary job search you can never undervalue networking. Furthermore, we have found networking to be of particular importance in engineering. It is essential that you work with your Employment Counsellor to work out a plan to network for success.
One key of particular importance in networking for engineers is carving out your niche. For example, you may be a Civil Engineer, but there are Civil Engineers who work in a variety of environments on a variety of projects. What is your specialty, your passion? Finding your niche can make networking easier and more effective. Say for example you are a Civil Engineer with a passion for green engineering projects; you’ll be able to use this passion to network not only with other engineers interested in environmental engineering, but other professionals in other sectors with similar interests.
It’s also essential, particularly for (but not limited to) Internationally Trained Engineers, to find a mentor. The mentor should be well established locally, can provide you with advice on the labour market and information about local opportunities and projects. The mentor can also provide you with helpful advice about where to focus your networking efforts and how to improve your soft skills. There is much to be gained by having a professional mentor and many people who are established in their profession don’t mind giving back.
Getting your foot in the door
We have worked with many engineers who feel that for them it’s an engineering job or nothing. It’s perfectly understandable – you’ve worked hard to get to where you are, completed years of education, degrees, and you’re ready to work as an engineer. Still, we have found that many engineers have moved forward in their careers by accepting positions that are below their qualification level to get their foot in the door. Some engineers might work as technicians or technologists. This way they can pay the bills, get experience on their resume and obtain a work reference, and look to move up within that organization. It’s up to you whether this is the track you want to take – talk with your Employment Counsellor about the pros and cons of ‘getting your foot in the door’.