Interpersonal skills

Good interpersonal skills are essential to a successful engineering career.

A close up of a handshake The work of an engineer is not just technical; engineers frequently liaise with customers and work in multidisciplinary teams so strong interpersonal skills are essential. They’re important because such a skill set may help set you apart from other candidates with similar technical expertise when you apply for job vacancies.

What are interpersonal skills?

Interpersonal skills are about working with and relating to other people. They include;

  • Being able to lead;
  • Being able to motivate;
  • Encouraging others;
  • Being able to listen;
  • Being able to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing;
  • Being able to value opinions;
  • Being able to negotiate;
  • Being able to take constructive criticism.

Identifying your interpersonal skills

To identify your interpersonal skills, you should think about times when you have effectively used them, for example, dealing with an angry customer or obtaining a colleagues agreement. You could ask people you know to list your strengths and weaknesses to see if there are any consistencies in their answers.

If you would like to know what the key skills and experiences are for the job you aspire to be in, there are many things you can do to find what these skills are. For example, looking at job advertisements and specifications and extracting key information about the person they are looking for. You could consult a recruitment agency that specialises in the field you have chosen or speak to someone who is already doing the job you want to.

Once you have identified what you need, consider how your previous and current experience will support your application for a relevant position, if there are any additional skills you require and how you are going to develop these. You can build a job profile in Career Manager, the IET's online professional development system.  

Develop your interpersonal skills

If you feel that you need to develop your interpersonal skills, the IET offers a range of lifeskills courses that could help you. You could volunteer as an IET mentor or get involved with your local network. Alternatively, you could undertake activities such as promoting the engineering profession in schools by volunteering as an ambassador with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics network (STEMNET [new window]).