Chris Guyott, Engineering Director at Frazer-Nash Consultancy, explores how identifying your transferable skills can help you on your career journey.
Do you love your job? Does it offer you the variety and challenge you need? If not, taking a more flexible view of your skills could let you design something that will make every Monday morning a pleasure.
In a world where change is the only constant, the days of people remaining in the same engineering job for more than 40 years are in decline. Your career path is no longer a fixed journey from A to B, but often a more fluid route that takes in the whole alphanumeric spectrum. But with skills shortages in a variety of sectors offering additional opportunities, you may even decide to apply your skills to a whole new area.
Working within the consultancy environment we see this every day: our people take their expertise and best practice from one area and apply it to solve problems in other industries. Key to this flexible approach, however, is identifying the necessary transferable skills to make cross-sector working a success. Outlined below is a ‘top ten’ of the transferable skills you should include on your CV
1 Commercial sense
Your organisation needs to be successful for you to succeed. If you develop an understanding of the broader business world, you can recognise potential opportunities, and can ‘sell’ how what you do can help potential and existing customers
2 Project management
You develop and enhance your skills with every project you undertake: from time and stakeholder management, to planning, budgeting and negotiation skills. Make sure any new employer recognises this.
Creative skills are very useful in any job – not necessarily artistic abilities, but the application of a creative approach to solving problems. Lateral thinking about issues can also lead to innovation. Many engineers have the ability to visualise, and to think in 3D – it’s notable that film director, Alfred Hitchcock, was a qualified mechanical engineer.
4 Problem solving
Engineers are great at problem solving, especially where the information is incomplete – it’s trained into us! This can be very useful across a range of sectors, when combined with an engineer’s numeracy skills. Within industry, a growing desire to understand complex systems necessitates the development of algorithms, and these require the ability to devise a solution to a problem mathematically. Even beyond engineering, professional services and business analysis roles value those with excellent numeracy and problem solving capabilities.
You might think that this can be taken as read within engineering: we examine how things work, and how to make them work better. But curiosity goes beyond this. Within Frazer-Nash, we take an approach that looks at the whole system. This means defining core requirements, considering interdependencies and looking at what the best solution to a problem is, not necessarily just the most obvious one.
6 Safety critical skills
Working in a safety-critical role, or within an industry with an embedded safety culture, helps to develop a focus on risk that is valued in any area where the consequences of failure can be life-threatening. The questioning and critical thinking skills used in producing hazard logs, safety cases and risk assessments can also benefit a wide range of organisations.
7 Technical experience within regulated environments
Experience in highly-regulated sectors can be usefully applied to roles in other areas, where ensuring compliance with rigid standards and regulations is essential. Expertise in oil and gas, commercial aviation, or nuclear, where you have to work in a controlled environment and manage complex systems, can potentially read across to the conventional and renewable power generation markets, the defence domain, and the rail industry.
8 Technology skills
Expertise in specialist software can open up a wide range of other opportunities. Modelling and simulation, for example, are used in a variety of engineering disciplines: for everything from examining fluid flow, to predicting blast radius, to optimising rail depot maintenance regimes. If you can demonstrate that you understand how models and simulations work, and how they can be applied to other projects, your knowledge can be valuable to many different sectors. Programming skills also provide evidence that you are computer literate and have the aptitude to learn to code, even if you don’t have experience in a specific type of industry software.
9 Attention to detail
This is a necessity: if you don’t pay attention to detail the engineering project you’re working on could, at best, not work, needing costly reworking; at worst, it could fail catastrophically, threatening lives and livelihoods.
10 ‘Soft’ skills
Last, but certainly not least, think about how to show off your ‘soft’ skills to a potential employer. Describe your verbal and written communication abilities, both of ideas, and of technical issues. Talk about your team-working experiences: supporting and working positively with colleagues, mentoring, resolving conflict; collaborating with others in more diverse groups. These skills aren’t always overtly referred to in job descriptions, but they are essential to good performance.
Chris Guyott is Engineering Director at Frazer-Nash Consultancy. With extensive commercial and project management expertise, Chris has delivered large, high-profile projects across a wide range of industries and the public sector. His cross-sector experience of analysing problems holistically and devising solutions enables him to offer an alternative perspective on challenging issues; and to share best practice drawn from a range of sources.
Chris has worked for Frazer-Nash Consultancy in business management and systems roles since 1987. With a background in mathematical modelling, Chris is responsible for taking Frazer-Nash’s systems approach and knowledge of analytics and complex systems, and applying them to the rapidly changing challenges posed by the integration of digital and physical systems. He is a visiting professor at Imperial College, where he completed his PhD, and is a Fellow of both the IET and the IMechE.