Modern engineering graduates not only have to navigate the technical challenges of their new found roles in engineering, but also the difficulties of working in professional environments.
While many graduates are armed with the technical skills from their years of training and study, there isn’t a lot that prepares them for navigating the workplace, building a brand or even communicating effectively.
Chris Davis is Engineers Australia’s Digital Content Manager. As part of his role, he understands the pain points for engineers. To give graduates a head start, Chris has compiled a list of must-have skills for graduates joining the workforce.
1. Time management
Juggling a wide range of priorities isn’t an inherent skill young graduates have under their belts. Knowing your best times to work, what to prioritise and managing expectations is essential to your success from day one.
For those who haven’t worked out their time management practices, relying on a range of apps can help you build better habits. Apps like Trello to organise and plan your days, Wunderlist to create clear to-dos can revolutionise your work habits.
2. Project management
Getting a handle on all the moving parts of a project is crucial and can save you a lot of time. A tiny mistake could damage your reputation, cost the business money or even risk lives. While you may have all the skills to focus your work on the project at hand, if you don’t have the right tools to manage a plan, it can prove costly.
Always keep in mind the need to listen to advice, from both the client and internal team members. Pay attention to how your team operates and take stock of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Even at a junior level, knowing everyone’s capabilities is important to how you fit within a team or partnership.
Another important aspect to project management is to avoid Scope Creep. Keep an eye on your project’s parameters and try to not let it have a life of its own. Be sure to understand your project’s objectives and break the project down into smaller milestones to make it more manageable.
3. How to write an email
It may sound simple, but there is a real art in crafting an email. Knowing your audience and its purpose can help you avoid sounding passive aggressive or overwhelming your audiences with content. Use email to inform – not to educate.
Don’t make your emails too long. Long-winded emails full of details can quickly be overlooked by your audience. Make sure to lead your emails with the important information first.
Any serious or complex matters should be discussed in person or via phone. Emails often lead to issues getting lost in translation.
Grammar can frequently be overlooked as an important skill in an engineer’s office tool-belt. There are a few simple tools to help with improving writing skills.
Grammarly is a really cool free online tool that tracks your writing in your daily life. The app can be added as a plugin to your browser and document programs to help you keep on top of little mistakes in your writing. (We even use the app to write our own content!)
Note: Always check with your workplace's IT policies on using apps such as Grammarly.
5. Communication skills
How you speak to clients, colleagues and your boss is important. Everything from your body language to how you approach participating in meetings can portray your true intentions in the workplace. Start small by being aware of how you use your body to communicate: averting eyes, crossing arms and sighing can all signal negative body language.
Always try and be constructive in both your feedback and how you approach talking to someone about a subject.
One good way to give good feedback is to use the Feedback Sandwich method. You start off by focusing on the strengths and what they have done right. Next you explain the things you don’t like or the areas of improvement and end with reiterating your positive comments and focus on the positive results that can be expected if the criticism is acted upon.
Engineering Education Australia provides a range of project management, communication techniques and writing skills courses.