Soft skills

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What skills are aerospace and aviation employers looking for?

Employers not only use technical qualifications and work experience when assessing applications. They also look at key sets of ‘soft’ skills to help them find future employees who can blend in with their existing team, deal with customers and other clients/suppliers, resolve problems, improve how things are done, work under pressure and progress successfully through their training programmes.

With so much competition for jobs as more and more people complete university degrees and other levels of training, employers have a large pool of talent to recruit from. They will test soft skills in addition to specific qualifications to find the right people.

What are soft skills?

These skills and abilities refer to ‘transferable’ skills which can apply to all kinds of jobs. While a Doctor, Pilot, Aeronautical Engineer, Astronaut and Flight Operations Manager need to have very different specific knowledge to carry out their duties and may have completed specific training in a particular discipline, the skills they need to use this knowledge effectively in the workplace will be the same. For example, the ability to communicate, negotiate, work as a team or lead a team of people.

These skills are also sometimes called ’generic’, as they relate to all disciplines/jobs and ‘employability skills’ because having them makes you more employable in the eyes of the recruiter!

Soft skills are not only used in the recruitment process to distinguish between candidates with the same type of qualifications and experience. They also form part of the professional development process that employees undertake to plan and manage their career development and gain professional recognition in their field, such as EngTech, Incorporated Engineer or Chartered Engineering status. Therefore, these often form the frameworks of internal and external review processes, such as performance management and professional recognition.

Key soft skills

  • Communication – written and oral
  • Problem Solving/Analytical Skills
  • Empathy and emotional intelligence
  • Teamworking
  • Leadership
  • Innovation and Creativity
  • Interpersonal
  • Organisational and Planning
  • Time Management
  • Attention to detail
  • Flexibility
  • Self-motivation
  • Ability to motivate others
  • Commitment
  • Reliability/Dependability
  • Self-management
  • Willingness to learn
  • Cultural awareness
  • Manual dexterity (or hand skills; particularly for hands-on engineering roles such as aircraft maintenance)

Note that it is difficult to be ‘taught’ these skills, you are more likely to develop them over time in different situations, i.e. through experience rather than through a formal qualification. Some skills could be seen slightly differently, as there are often training courses with certified levels of achievements. We have listed these as ‘proficiencies’ below:

Proficiencies

  • IT and software package knowledge
  • Relevant technical knowledge
  • Commercial Awareness
  • Language Skills
  • Project Management

The above skills can often be taught and ‘certified’ e.g. via a course but also develop and improve over time in the workplace through experience.

What skills should I put on my CV?

You will need to include skills on your CV which are most relevant to the role you are applying for and best reflect your talents and experience. You may also have to answer detailed questions on an online application form or at interview.

However, until you are very experienced simply ‘listing’ some skills on your CV will not be enough to convince the employer! You need to provide evidence of your skill with a short, precise but concise example which is unique and makes you stand out of the crowd! The examples should be as recent as possible, e.g. last 2-3 years and be around 2-3 lines in length.

In most cases, unless stated otherwise, recruiters will be interested in examples from all aspects of your life:

  • Study
  • Work experience (part-time jobs, industrial placements)
  • Voluntary/community work
  • Hobbies and interests (including sports, Air Cadets etc.)
  • Extra-curricular activities (including university societies)

For example, team sports, clubs and societies you are an active member of at university or college, and events you have helped organise in the community will be of particular interest. One experience may develop several skills e.g. getting involved in a voluntary event could develop your organisational and teamworking skills, and demonstrate your commitment end empathy.

Part-time work is also acceptable – all jobs, even those which may just be a stepping stone while you study or look for work, help you develop skills and also shows you are willing to take financial responsibility for yourself.

You probably need to put between 4-8 skills on your CV, including languages and IT. When applying online, you may be asked to complete detailed questions about specific skills, usually selected by the employer.

Experienced candidates and soft skills

If you are very experienced, while you may be able to demonstrate specific successes in previous roles linked to aerospace/aviation within the work experience section of your CV, it can still be very beneficial to put your skills and key achievements separately. This way, you can focus on those which demonstrate your capability for the role you are now seeking, especially if you are looking for a promotion or more senior role. You may still also find that outside activities can provide useful examples, such as community work, voluntary work with schools, professional bodies etc. especially if you are looking for a ‘sideways’ move into a slightly different field to your current role.

Getting started

A good way to start thinking about your soft skills and how to articulate these to employers, particularly if you are in the middle of writing your CV, is to start a separate document and start listing each one and thinking about different examples that you might be able to use.

It is worth doing some research, ask the people who know you well such as colleagues, friends, lecturers. Think about different experiences you have had such as group work, projects, successful work outcomes and which soft skills you used which helped create a successful outcome. Then write these down in different formats, such as a paragraph, short bullet points, long paragraph and then judge which work best for your CV, which may work better on an online application form etc. Keep the document up to date and when you are applying for jobs you will have a ‘bank’ of soft skills to draw from.

You may also find it useful to talk through your examples with a Careers Advisor, such as at university or through the Royal Aeronautical Society which offers a free CV advice service to people seeking employment in aerospace or aviation.

More help with job applications

For more help with making applications, why not visit our pages on CVs, Writing Compelling Covering Letters, Online Application Forms and Interviews. You can also start preparing for the selection process and aptitude tests with our Self Assessment Portal.