Over the past number of years, I have noticed a trend in the market whereby companies are mapping their cultures and identifying their core values and what type of person will fit, and thrive within their organisation. Ireland has become a hub for the Pharma and Biopharma industry, which has seen a significant gap in experience in our workforce while we upskill.
In this competitive market, companies are now looking at essential soft skills and cultural fit as key attributes and measures and may be in a position to overlook some of the technical aspects to train the right candidate on the job.
With this in mind, I think it’s vital to look into the culture of the companies that are of interest to you. Do you fit them and do they fit you and your core values? If you are not culturally aligned to a company, then the likelihood is that you will not thrive there.
Some of the negative feedback I’ve received from managers on interviews has been around the cultural values and soft skills. Lack of decision making skills, poor communication skills and lack of urgency have been amongst the reasons candidates fail in interviews.
So what do I think the most important soft skills in the engineering community are and how do you develop these?
STRONG COMMUNICATION SKILLS:
Employers are looking to hire people who speak well, write well and also are active listeners. It sounds obvious, but where there is a gap in communication, massive issues can potentially arise! If your role entails presenting and it isn’t your strong suit, then consider joining a local Toastmasters club and getting some practice and tips. Also consider doing a technical writing course, should this be an issue. There are many free online courses to polish your communication skills- click here to see what Lynda has to offer.
ADAPTABILITY AND FLEXIBILITY:
Particularly in a start-up environment, there is no certainty on what the day, or indeed sometimes the role might bring. This requires an open mind-set that is ready to accept and therefore overcome change and uncertainty. There are many theories, books and articles on redefining your mind-set and embracing change, one I found really comprehensive and manageable can be found here.
DECISION MAKING SKILLS:
On many occasions hiring managers have mentioned the candidate’s decision making skills, and in particular being able to make important decisions quickly. Of course, in a highly regulated environment where the stakes are high, decisions are not always easy to make, but it is an extremely important skill in this quickly evolving world of work. If The 5 Steps to Decision Making are consulted and eventually become innate, then the art of quick decision making can be mastered.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND NEGOTIATION:
Not many look forward to conflict, or like to sit through an abrasive meeting, but this doesn’t have to be a negative experience. It’s important to develop your communication skills to help you engage in a dialogue rather than a debate, facilitating a positive outcome for all involved. Courses to consider could be Communication Skills Bridging Divides or Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work both on EDXand both geared to help you develop your communication skills to facilitate better outcomes in conflict and negotiation situations.
A very obvious one, but collaboration is key in large organisations and if you consider yourself to be a sole operator, then it might be no harm to work on your teamwork skills. Consider the attributes which make a good team player. Also consider getting involved in the social aspects of work- if there are company sports teams, it’s a good way to get involved and build rapport within the organisation. Organising the team could also demonstrate and develop your organisational skills- another soft skill that is often considered in interview.
To summarize, it is a good idea to consider what soft skill gaps that you may have and work on them. A lot of them can be taught- the best public speakers openly admit that it isn’t an innate love of the stage, but indeed years and years of practice. Also consider, when going for an interview, what the culture of the organisation is. If you don’t identify with their culture then perhaps it isn’t the right move for you. There is a lot more to a new role than just the job spec and doing this research will both help you in your preparation for interview, but also in identifying suitable organisations in which you would like to further your career.