The PTC Academic team is a mix of engineers, creators, designers, and educators. The engineers I work alongside display hard skills, which require technical knowledge and experience, as well as soft skills, which factor into their ability to communicate easily with less technical folk and contribute to the fun, positive work culture on our team and within our company as a whole.
Having both types of skills is valuable in any workplace. Hard skills are a given in most cases—they’re the technical skills you’re expected to have learned in school, internships, and other experiences related directly to your career path. Soft skills, which are attainable in any environment—not exclusively in the workplace—don’t discriminate between backgrounds, degrees, or job titles.
As an engineering major, your technical skills are in-demand and are easy for you to highlight on your resume, but what can really help you stand out are your soft skills. Imagine those strong technical skills combined with soft skills and the solid precedent you would be setting for the beginning of your career. When the time comes to apply to a job, these skills will help you flourish and set a positive foundation for the rest of your career.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at some key practices for professional development and how soft skills play a crucial role in any phase of your career. Identifying these soft skills begins with a self-analysis. The first question to ask yourself is, “What are a few words I use to describe myself?” If you’re a college student approaching graduation, take a look at the experiences you have listed in your resume—do any of those experiences align with a project, internship, or extracurricular activity you’ve participated in? Can you recall specifically exercising these soft skills on a project? If the answer is yes, then you’ll want to highlight that soft skill when describing your experience.
Here are 5 key soft skills I’ve found most valuable in my time here at PTC:
Clear, concise communication is invaluable in any professional setting. This includes anything from your email rhetoric to conversing with coworkers or customers daily. The way you communicate with others in this environment helps build valuable relationships. It can say a lot about you and have a large impact on the growth of your career.
The ability to analyze the pros and cons of a situation is crucial in any role. The purpose of many engineering jobs, if not all, is to address a problem and offer a solution. The same should go into everyday scenarios in the workplace. You might face a problem such as figuring out how to accomplish the same tasks with fewer resources or changes in the deadline. No matter the scenario, recognizing opportunities and tackling challenges with confidence will make you a valuable asset in any position.
Creativity as a soft skill in a professional role means improving a process, openness to learning from others, and taking calculated risks. This can include proposing an innovative idea for a new program, figuring out ways to maximize the value of any task or asset, challenging the status quo, and ultimately taking advantage of an opportunity to offer valuable insight to your team and organization. Creativity can also be a means to express yourself in your work setting that makes you stand out in a group—don’t be afraid to share an idea!
With so many resources to learn new skills, employers are looking for well-rounded individuals who aren’t afraid of change and who stay flexible in the wake of new ideas and strategies. This can include becoming tech savvy in a platform or area you’re not familiar with. Overall, learning new skills throughout your career will be beneficial both personally and professionally—it can make work more exciting, add value to your role, and open doors to more opportunity. Don’t pigeonhole yourself by avoiding change—adapt and enjoy the ability to grow.
You don’t necessarily have to be a people person to do well in a role—it isn’t human nature for everyone to be a social butterfly—but awareness is important in any workplace dynamic. "Interpersonal skills" is an umbrella term for several soft skills. What’s under the umbrella? Soft skills like active listening, social perceptiveness, motivation, and being able to handle feedback well are just a few.
In the era of digital transformation, building valuable skills that prepare the future workforce for careers that leverage innovative ideas and technology is important. Companies are searching for candidates who are knowledgeable and adept in their technical abilities, but who also align with their company culture and business values. This means combining hard and soft skills and putting them to action in the workplace. I want to leave you with some applicable takeaways to build your personal brand and strengthen your professional soft skills:
Choose one soft skill that you think you could improve on. Are you working on your adaptability? Place yourself in a new environment even if it's something as simple as attending a new workout class that is totally out of your comfort zone and see what it’s like, how you respond, how you might approach it differently in future, etc. Keeping an open mind can unlock a lot of doors.
Identify what it is that this person is doing well and try to mimic it. Even asking a friend, colleague, or mentor how they personally have developed this soft skill could be a great starting point.
While you’re at it, make sure they’re realistic, too. Prioritizing these goals will be important and can even help during an interview if asked, “What’s one example of a challenge you overcame in a project or scenario and how did you navigate it?” By acknowledging that you had to work for something in order for it to succeed demonstrates that you successfully combined your hard and soft skills. Combining your technical abilities with your soft skills is a great demonstration of self-awareness and drive for growth.
Whether you’re still in college and have a campus career center at your disposal or you are settled into your career, using a platform like LinkedIn to build new skills, the resources are out there and readily available at your fingertips. The only thing that is holding you back from your success in developing soft skills is yourself.
Applying for jobs and interviewing can be a humbling experience. Your hard and soft skills will need to be at center stage and building a personal brand isn’t easy. As a recent graduate, I can now reflect on my college years and say I’m thankful for the diverse experiences I’ve had in my education, job search, and current career. It’s also apparent to me, now that I am here at PTC, that soft skills, in any role, are a major part of finding success and working well with others. Don’t be afraid to self-advocate, get out of your comfort zone, and pursue your dream job!
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