We’ve all heard the common saying, that “hindsight is 20/20”. In the professional world, many people wish that if they could start all over again with the insight they have now then their jobs would be that little bit more fulfilling and easier to acclimatise to in the beginning stages. For up and coming engineers, finding out the ins and outs of the industry, including learning from common mistakes people make, could ease pre-internship nervousness and help set realistic expectations.
The biggest mistake people make when starting internships in engineering is assuming that building up soft skills doesn’t matter to perform the job effectively. The good news is that these are universal skills that can be improved upon with practise. Here are 4 tips on how to increase your soft skills and avoid missing out on developing an essential part of being a professional engineer.
Constructive feedback is the best gift you can be given in any professional setting. Positive, yet constructive feedback has the purpose of building you up and onward to success. Be grateful that someone has taken the time out of their day to assist you – it’s probably advice they wish they could have been given when they were in your position as an intern!
Effective communication is vital for any position, especially engineering, a role where following procedures, protocols, and standards ensures safety at work. A high standard of clear written and oral communication, as well as having skills in reading comprehension. Engineering roles often give you the chance to collaborate on projects and in every day work situations, you’ll need to effectively communicate your ideas or manage a team.
Have you ever been in a lecture where you’re a bit lost, and needed to ask a question to clarify but felt too embarrassed to put up your hand? Chances are, everyone else has the same question but they are also too embarrassed to ask. It’s the same in the professional world. The person who asks the most questions is the one who gets ahead. The field of engineering requires curious minds who aren’t afraid to ask questions, but internship opportunities give you the chance to practise honing your question-asking skills. So what makes a good question stand out from the rest? It’s best to not overcomplicate it! Simple, open questions that give the other person the chance to speak can assist in establishing rapport and can give you a better sense of how your engineering internship is progressing. Being that person who asks thoughtful questions has a positive impact on your sense of employability – the more engaged you are with the work, and the work environment, the more information you will be able to pick up and the faster you’ll learn. You’ll also become a better listener by showing your curiosity – the mark of a true engineer!
If there’s one key to having a great work ethic, it’s how dependable you are. Demonstrating to your mentor or to the whole team that you are a reliable worker is advantageous for future employment. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who might potentially hire you one day for an engineering position– are employers more likely to put their trust in someone who is consistent in their efforts and output over someone who shows up late to work everyday? It’s no surprise that it’s too much of a risk to take on someone who is inconsistent or unreliable. It shows that you are not only honest to others about your capabilities, but you’re also self-aware about your own limitations and strengths. If you’re in a stressful situation and finding the workload a bit too much, then internship supervisors are more than happy to talk about how to make sure your internship experience is as fulfilling for you as it can be.
Prospective engineers are in a position to change the lives of the community for the better, and it’s a career for those who have equal parts optimism and pragmatism. The biggest mistake people make when starting their internships in engineering is not recognising how crucial soft skills are in order to successfully complete the responsibilities of their role. Having a well-developed set of soft skills increases your confidence and sense of self-efficacy. That means that you’re more likely to perform tasks to a higher standard if you believe in your ability to do so, and with the diverse set of soft skills under your belt, resulting in you giving more impactful output during your engineering internship.
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