Today's job market is flooded with highly qualified systems engineers who have the tactical abilities to fill roles, execute on projects, and deliver on technology objectives.
So, how do you stand out among your strong, knowledgeable, and eager competition?
The answer may very well lie in your soft skills. These are your skills in communication, leadership, organization, adaptability, problem-solving - essentially all those skills you can't necessarily learn from a textbook or computer program, and are usually difficult to measure. For most of them, you simply must experience them. You actually are doing so right now without even realizing it. Just by reading this article, you are helping to enrich your proactive personal development abilities, writing skills, and communication style - all of which can be cast as soft skills!
But, why do employers want their engineers to have great soft skills?
There are several reasons. First, they want an engineer that can grow into a strong team, department, and company leader. Simply hiding behind your computer and churning out work will not get you noticed for your management potential.
Another reason is that the market is filled with people that know the programs, processes, developmental phases, and lifecycle integration practices. These professionals are abundant. Employers want people who go beyond the nuts and bolts of the job to adapt to changing priorities, collaborate with offshore teams, think outside the box to resolve issues, etc. These tasks all require just as much in the way of soft skills as hard, technical skills.
Here are some simple ways to mine for your soft skills and use them in your resume:
Look at Your Accomplishments or Contributions to Each of Your Positions to Find Hidden Skills
Beyond simply applying your technical knowledge, what skills did you harness to execute on each task? Did you contribute to or lead a development team? Did you resolve a major issue found in testing? Did you find a better way to complete a task that streamlined the project? Ask yourself what common sense or practical skills you applied that your fellow engineers may have missed, and expand on them to show how you go above expectations.
Work in Reverse!
Examine your duties and results from the point of completion and work backwards. What skills did you use to execute?
Look at Systems Engineering Job Descriptions That Interest You and Pick Out Required Soft Skills
Odds are they are looking for someone who is analytical, collaborative, adaptable, and astute in troubleshooting - as well as any other combination of softer qualities. Use the skills you know they are looking for directly in your resume. You may also choose to select synonyms for these words to avoid redundancy.
Just Ask Your Co-Workers and Friends!
It can be difficult to describe your own soft skills, so asking trusted friends can help you realize skills you may easily overlook.
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Rather than providing a laundry list of tech skills - languages, operating systems, software, hardware, and on and on - add valuable balance by working in your soft skills and watch your resume go from status quo to "way to go!"