teaching, mentoring, teamwork, and leadership, your total effectiveness might be difficult to see.

Basic among survival skills are social skills, which are increasingly important in all kinds of jobs, including research positions. They are used when you participate in a seminar, lead a team effort to solve a research problem, or give a public presentation. They should not be considered optional or extra. Scientists and engineers doing research are working more and more directly with nonscientists, members of the public, and clients to solve problems. All technical abilities being equal, the candidate who has strong social skills will be hired.

In many jobs, you will spend a large part of your time in practicing nontechnical skills. In 1994, the American Institute of Physics asked several thousand PhD physicists working in industry, government, and academe which skills they used most frequently in their jobs. The skills that they ranked highest were problem-solving, interpersonal skills, and technical writing. All those apply to fields throughout science and engineering and can be sharpened, as suggested in this chapter.

Skills are developed as we mature, and your years in school are a good time to make sure that you have the ones you need. Students who emerge as young scientists with a deficit of social and communication skills might be severely handicapped in pursuing a satisfying career. As the range of employment for scientists and engineers expands, especially in the nonacademic world, it is vital to gain as many skills as possible before leaving the university setting.

Attributes are aspects of your nature (although they can be developed). Unlike skills, which enable you to do something, attributes enable you to be someone. Sometimes they

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement