I am an undergraduate student who currently pursues a degree in mechanical engineering. I have prepared this skills portfolio to give insight into the core employability skills I possess that are necessary when searching for a job (Thought, 2012). I believe that my individual skills toolkit portfolio will be a good way to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses as well as a useful example for other students in the sphere who might desire a similar job.
During the last 3 years of the study in the field, I had a number of successful projects in collaboration with the innovation management team, including a new engineering project on which we are working now. Apart from the practical experience in the industry, I have also managed to earn some money working on engineering research and innovation. In addition, through social media, I have contacted with likeminded engineers and business personalities with whom I had an opportunity of exchanging the ideas, hence further growing and developing my skills as a qualified professional. With my university’s support, I was able to experience the occupation from within and attend school full time simultaneously. Moreover, me and fellow students at the university have formed an interdisciplinary collaborative group and initiated weekly meetings that allowed us to get together and freely share the ideas about research and innovation in the industry. We also planned to organize the meetings with professionals from other learning and research institutions to be well aware of the best practices in the field rather than only focus on theoretical aspect of the learning.
My Employability Skills
As a mechanical engineering student, I posses a number of valuable employability skills that I have acquired and developed as a diligent student and through collaboration with colleagues from related disciplines. These skills have been critical in my day-to-day activities and studies providing me a better understanding of the requirements in mechanical engineering. The main employability skills I possess are:
Effective Verbal Communication
- Situation. Being a student of mechanical engineering, it is critical to convey ideas to fellow students and colleagues effectively. I have participated in multiple gatherings focused on engineering development. Moreover, my classes required me to orally share my ideas with fellow colleagues and instructors. This aspect has enabled me to showcase my verbal communication skills to students with whom I converse on a regular basis.
- Task . As a leader of my mechanical engineering class, I am responsible for making sure that the information is clearly conveyed to avoid misunderstanding or miscommunication. It is also my duty as a student to learn more by asking questions and engaging actively with lecturers and teammates during the classes. Thus, my effective verbal communication is critical.
- Actions. To have advanced communication skills, I have to be able to enunciate words properly in order to project my voice well for clarity and understanding. I also have to maintain positive body language to encourage colleagues to approach me with ideas and issues openly.
- Result. My fellow class members and colleagues have expressed their satisfaction with my communication style. In addition, I have applied scaffolding to a few students in their willingness to improve their persuasive and communication skills. The university has also expressed its satisfaction with how well I manage the class and how productive it has been under my leadership. Apart from that, I had an opportunity to gain substantial knowledge and clarification in relation to my mechanical engineering skills that have grown and developed more due to my enhanced capability to verbally communicate and engage with instructors and colleagues in an effective manner.
Effective Written Communication
- Situation. As a representative to my mechanical engineering class, I am responsible for conveying matters concerning the class grievances to the lecturers, instructors and the university administration. The communication between my colleagues and the university is mostly through the engineering department (Thought, 2012; Hind & Moss, 2005). For this reason, written communication is required to convey specific information or messages since one-on-one conversation might not be the most appropriate means of communication in this respect.
- Task. I have had a number of requests and grievances from my classmates to various university administrators and instructors that required me to prepare written documents and letters. My task as a leader is to ensure proper communication between my colleagues and the targeted recipients to ensure that the message is communicated clearly and its objectives are reached. I also get class assignments from instructors that require me to respond to the addressees at hand in an accurately written form.
- Actions. To improve my written communication skills, I have to prepare well written documents that clearly convey the intended message to the recipient. In general, I apply the scheme summarized in figure 1 to improve this skill. I try as much as possible to use the least number of words to make concise responses that are apt and to the point. I also apply good penmanship in cases where the information is to be hand-written.
Figure 1. The scheme of improvement of written communication skills
- Result. I have received positive feedback from my lecturers regarding my written communication and instant willingness to improve my capabilities in this context. My colleagues have also recognized my good written communication skills that have enabled us as a class to effectively communicate with the university’s administration and with one another.
Effective Public Speaking
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- Situation. As the leader of my mechanical engineering class, I am responsible for representing the whole team in areas where not every member can have a chance to convey their ideas or share with others. These areas include engineering department meetings and related gatherings.
- Task. My role as a leader requires me to make public presentations and speeches for maintenance of external relations with other institutions. These communication forms should be clear and to the point. I also have to communicate with the whole team to ensure their engagement during the meetings.
- Actions. To have good public speaking skills, I make sure to be as audible as possible so that my message is clear. I listen to others and engage with them to share the ideas openly. I use appropriate hand and body movements to be more expressive as I speak. I also try to establish and maintain strong eye contact with the audience. This factor builds the audience’s confidence in me and the message I am conveying.
- Results. I have received good feedback from my group mates and the university at large for representing them well and being able to connect and relate with audiences that I address during my public speeches. My class presentations have also been very successful. I have also been able to build up my confidence which has enabled me to be more expressive in social situations.
Analyzing Data and Using Technology
In this age of technology take over where computers have been integrated into the workplace it has become critical that every employee is equipped with technological and data analysis skills that will enable them use available technologies well and also be able to read available data easily and accurately. This is especially important in my engineering studies since mechanical engineering involves the use of various hardware and software technologies that require skilled individuals to use properly.
- Situation. I possess strong numeracy skills since I have been working with various data analysis and evaluation problems.
- Task. I have used to make various data-based decisions related to my discipline since machinery and technology I work with requires certain measurements and value analysis. I have read different data in graphs or other forms to come up with relevant information related to the requirements of a particular task (see figure 2). I have also sat for numeracy tests in my BES1500 class.
- Actions. To work with accurate and reliable information for making accurate decisions, I have to apply effective numeracy skills that enable me to carefully measure and read different numerical values and data. I use my mathematical and data reading knowledge to deal with such tasks. By applying this knowledge and thinking critically, I am able to deal with various problems and provide appropriate solutions.
Figure 2. Using numeracy skills in Microsoft Excel to make data-driven decisions
- Results. My numeracy skills have enabled me to collect the accurate information that I have applied where necessary and used to make important decisions in my studies and tests. The information I obtain makes my work easier and bears the accurate results in experiments I conduct in my engineering assignments and practical lessons. Moreover, the numeracy skills are crucial for my future successful performance in the field of my specialty.
- Situation. In my studies as a mechanical engineering student, technology use is unavoidable since it is a core component of the discipline and professional activities related to the sphere.
- Task. Technological skills are critical to my functioning as a mechanical engineer because I have to apply various types of technologies and machinery to deal with different technical activities and assignments. I am not only required to use technology in a form of machinery and hardware but also different software, such as Solidworks and AutoCad to build 3D models of machinery and equipment (see figure 3). I am also required to use other programs, including Word Processor, Excel and PowerPoint, to record, tabulate and make presentations of various data in a professional manner.
- Actions. Thus, I apply the technological skills that I have acquired throughout my experience as a mechanical engineering student in projects and activities in which I am involved. While I used AutoCad and Solidworks to design engineering models required by the assignments, I have also used Microsoft Excel to record and tabulate the different numerical data. I also use PowerPoint to make class presentations and Microsoft Word to write reports related to my studies.
Figure 3. 3D modeling by means of AutoCAD
- Results. The technology I use has simplified my engineering activities, such as preparing PowerPoint presentations for ongoing and finished projects that I have presented in class. Excel has helped me easily tabulate various data and values accurately since it is easy to use and data can be presented in different graphical formats for well-structured analysis. Engineering design software has also made learning easier. The designs I have built using the engineering design software offered a clear and detailed digitized visual representation of the actual machinery components that makes it easier to study and understand.
- Situation. In mechanical engineering, I need to handle many data that I convert into the useful information that I further arrange logically for comprehension and presentation. Most of the information is important to my studying and various engineering activities; thus, it needs to be managed well. It mostly comprises research material for my assignments.
- Task. My instructors provide me assignments on a regular basis the majority of which requires me to conduct sufficient research from various sources, ranging from the books in the library to the Internet. This information may come in different formats. Thus, I have to use my information management skills to retrieve it from different sources, interpret, evaluate and also interactively use the data in different formats. I also have to be able to use various information availed to me in BES1500 tests and exams, such as decoding the graphs to solve problems (see figure 4).
Figure 4. Decoding the graphs
- Actions. I apply my information management skills to collect enough relevant data for my assignments that I further interpret, evaluate and convert into useful information which I am able to compile into various formats, including graphs and documents for the visual support of the arguments. I also use my skills to read various data, like graphs in my BES1500 tests, to come up with accurate solutions easily.
- Results. My information management skills have enabled me to complete assignments easily and timely while maintaining the quality of the content. They have enabled me to pass my tests with little effort since I can easily read the data availed to me in a visual format.
I am also very good at organization skills, with attention to details. This skill has enabled me to work with perfection and professionalism, especially in my class assignments and engineering practical work where quality is of great importance. I am a quick learner with a curious mind who possesses the eagerness to learn the new materials and improve the skills I already have as a growing professional in mechanical engineering. I make sure to learn as much as possible and ask questions for clarification on matters I may not understand. Moreover, I have good teamwork skills that I have developed and nurtured through my experience as a student leader. I had multiple opportunities to showcase this skill in class assignments where we are required to group up and work together on projects as a team.
Personality and Self Awareness
I have always been a quiet yet easy-going and approachable person who prefers solitude but also enjoys spending time and relating with others. In addition to other mixed qualities of mine, this trait has led me into believing that I was neither introvert nor extrovert, but rather a perfect blend of the two, a hybrid of these two personality types. However, I became more aware of my actual personality after I decided to study my behavior and relation to other people around me.
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Two instances in particular solidified my thinking of me being an introvert. In my first year of studying, I noticed that I disliked grouping up with fellow classmates on such activities as group assignments at the engineering workshop where we conducted most of our practical classes and also group studies with colleagues. My first group assignment felt like torture. I was in a group of 6 strangers with whom I was supposed to work on the project for about a month with regular meetings for progress discussion and idea sharing. I preferred to work alone since I felt more in control and had freedom over when and how to approach activities that I was involved in. While my group mates seemed to enjoy grouping up and working together, I worked faster and better when alone.
The second major issue that made me draw my conclusion of being introverted was the first year welcome party where I was busy playing video games while my colleagues immersed themselves in liquor and loud music. Whereas most of my peers preferred to meet new people to chat and mingle with, I opted for some time alone, catching up on a movie or working on new engineering model designs on AutoCad software that I enjoy using so much. I never cared for big crowds or group conversations since it made me feel trapped and uncomfortable.
After careful analysis of the activities I got involved in within the time I spent in the university coupled with my experience before I had joined the institution, I was sure about where I belonged. Thus, I decided not to try and fit into a personality type I did not belong to but rather cherish and accept who I really am, namely, an introvert. Through those experiences, I realized my strengths in terms of reference to strong loyal friendships and also being able to deeply relate with others when communicating due to my good listening skills. Being a leader, this skill has enabled me to maintain deep understanding and connection with colleagues. Despite of my introverted nature, I was able to develop good teamwork skills and also enjoy working with my colleagues. My self-awareness has enabled me to lead a more productive life and relate well with others. It has allowed me to better my leadership and work skills since I now understand who I really am. I feel that I can adjust to different social situations without any problems and also effectively hold public speeches and verbally communicate which was initially hard for me to do.
There exist a number of good positions in the mechanical engineering industry to which I have an opportunity to devote my narrowed specialization. For instance, mechanical design engineering can be mentioned that basically involves development of mechanical layouts. Designers need to have good knowledge about mechanical parts and also use of the computer-aided design software. Some mechanical designers also travel to job sites, such as factories, to measure dimensions for machinery to be installed. On the other hand, manufacturing engineering, which comprises of all steps in the manufacturing of a product, is the link between the process of design and the final product. Manufacturing engineers design the product and make decisions on how to come up with the product after designing.
Finally, vehicle engineering includes aeronautical engineering, marine engineering, and automobile engineering. This sphere deals with the matters related to design, manufacturing and operation of the systems that drive and control vehicles.
As a student in mechanical engineering, I have developed skills that have enabled me to spot potential creative ideas and help build upon them for realization of innovations in the field. I aspire to pursue a career in mechanical design engineering where I will design and manage the mechanical engineering projects. This occupation will allow me to closely examine the daily activities and processes involved in development of groundbreaking works in that area.
I have plans to showcase my engineering skills and gain more experience in the industry by involving myself in various activities, such as:
Designing and establishing cost-effective equipment modifications that will improve safety and efficiency at my university engineering workshop. The equipment will be used within the university and also externally. My colleagues and I have proposed this idea to the university and the board encouraged us to dedicate time and create more cost-efficient machinery (see figure 5).
Figure 5. Improved machinery designed in SolidWorks
Developing innovative projects with my colleagues in the field and also including those from other engineering disciplines that may be beneficial and have similar goals. This will be done both within the university and as a collaborative effort with other institutions. Before the end of the year, we are to come up with at least 5 new projects in collaboration with the students from interprofessional team at the university.
Recommending modifications to the processes and techniques applied in the production of organic foods within the university. This goal should be achieved by conducting machinery prototype tests that my colleagues and I have been requested to run in the university’s healthy foods research factory. We will apply our engineering skills to come up with better production solutions that will improve efficiency and reduce production costs.
The university also requested me to manage a number of ongoing engineering projects using engineering principles and skills that I have learnt in the time I have spent as a student in the mechanical engineering course. I will guide and direct a team assigned to these projects making sure these are handled as required and completed in the shortest amount of time possible.