WHEN you have a wealth of specialised knowledge, it can be easy to dismiss soft skills. After all, your technical talent does the talking, right? Wrong!

Don’t be deceived by the name. Socalled “soft” skills, such as communication and team working, are arguably just as important in your day-to-day engineering role.

What’s more, when it comes to landing a new job or being promoted, an ability to get on with different people right across the company always stands out.

So, let’s see how we can toughen up on those feather-soft skills! Communication – Being able to explain ideas clearly and concisely is crucial for engineers. Whether it’s a written report or a big presentation, miscommunication can cause a whole lot of bother.

Engineers are often required to communicate projects to non-engineers and being able to do so in a clear, jargon-free way is a skill in itself.

Don’t forget, half of communication is about listening – accepting feedback and acting on it without being thin-skinned is invaluable. Actively listening to your colleague means taking in complex technical information, but it’s also about picking up on when they have reservations or would welcome alternative suggestions.

Adaptability – “Adapt or die!” said English naturalist Charles Darwin. Actually, he didn’t, but lots of people say he did. No matter. The sentiment is true.

Being able to adapt is the key to survival in both the animal kingdom and the world of work.

In hi-tech engineering industries, change is constant and having an adaptable mindset can make a huge difference to your approach. Teamwork – In engineering, teamwork is the linchpin of the whole operation. There are very few successful engineering firms with a head count of one. While in “ye olden days” inventors often worked alone, today more research papers and patents are submitted by teams than individuals. Being a good team player means giving it your best, but also knowing when to step aside into a more supportive role and let your teammate take charge in their area of expertise.

Creativity – Engineering is about problem solving. Being able to think creatively about a scenario and come up with a sometimes offthe-wall solution is the sign of a great engineering mind. A flash of creativity can often trump hours of logical trial and error. Some folk have creativity in abundance but like all soft skills it can be nurtured. It’s arguably the most important soft skill of all – innovation is the essence of engineering.