When it comes to success in engineering, there’s much more to it than simply being proficient with math and science. While a good technical knowledge of your subject certainly will not go amiss when attempting to advance your career as an engineer, it’s important for many engineers looking to move up the career ladder to change their perspective and develop or work on a range of soft skills that will help them go further. This is especially true if your goal is to eventually work in engineering management, where business, management, and people skills alongside technical engineering knowledge and abilities put the best managers out on top. Regardless of whether you have recently graduated as an engineer, or have been working in the field for years, there is a range of great tips and strategies that you can implement in your professional life to boost your chance of career advancement. Let’s take a look at some of the things that engineers can do to get their careers on the right path and hit their goals.
See the Bigger Picture:
Engineering is often concerned with the finer details, so it might surprise you to hear that being able to see the bigger picture is a skill that is likely to get you far in your engineering career. Today, the reality is that more and more engineering firms are actively looking for engineers who are able to think with the mindset of a business person, particularly when it comes to engineering management positions. The most highly sought-after engineers are those who have experience of strategy and planning, and along with excellent technical knowledge, have no problem finding their way around income statements and balance sheets. Engineers who have a solid understanding of the big picture, the total cost of production for the products that the company makes, and the effect that it has on business decisions tend to be the ones who get the best results for their employers.
Become a Team Player:
Some engineering disciplines are more based around teamwork, while others tend to have engineers who work on their own for the majority of the time. Either way, working alone can be a strength but in today’s collaborative design world, it might not always go in your favor. Modern design teams have been expanded to include even more people – many of whom come from different backgrounds to the engineers. These different backgrounds within teams must come together and serve the purpose of coming up with strong solutions and solving often complex issues to complete a project or bring a product to market. Being able to collaborate with others and work with people who might not always understand the engineering side of things as much as you do is important. To do this, you should focus on improving your communication skills; get better at listening to and understanding others, and practice getting your point across in a way that’s clear, concise, and easy for somebody from a non-engineering background to understand.
Be More Creative:
Creativity and innovation in new products are what sets the successful companies apart from their competition. And as an engineer looking to expand his or her career, you can also gain the edge over your competition by thinking more creatively and coming up with ideas that are irresistible to your employer. A successful engineer is somebody who is always open to new ideas, even if they are coming from sources outside of your group. Being able to come up with, and voice, creative, innovative ideas – even if they’re not always acted upon – will certainly get you noticed and rewarded by your company. Along with creativity, you can stand out and get the edge in the market as an aspiring engineering manager in a range of further ways. Click here to find out more.
Think Outside the Box:
When it comes to engineering, there are hundreds of different disciplines to choose from and in most cases, the majority of engineers will spend their careers working in just one of them. However, thinking outside of the box – or outside of your chosen discipline – can open up opportunities that you didn’t even know existed. Although you might have majored in mechanical engineering at college, you might find that many of the complex products that you are tasked with working on today will contain elements from other engineering disciplines like software or electronics engineering. Be prepared for design issues that fall outside of the discipline that you are familiar with, and become a better team player all-round by investing your time in learning the basics of other relevant disciplines to your work. That way, once a task arises that’s outside of the discipline you are used to, you will be in a better position to work through it and see the bigger picture of how the disciplines work together to create the end-product.
Challenge Yourself to Learn New Skills:
No engineer will go very far if they do not adopt a continuous learning mindset. As you move up through the career ladder and take on more responsibilities and decisions, continuous learning of new skills is important since the tools that you will use to conduct product design and analysis are subject to constant improvements and changes. Seeking out new assignments, jumping at opportunities to learn about new technologies, setting yourself learning goals to meet on a regular basis, and signing up for any training programs that you are eligible for will help you to stay ahead of the curve and make sure that you’re always on the top of your game and getting the best results in your work. Another good way to boost your engineering skills is to join professional organizations. These are usually aimed at engineers working in various disciplines and provide you with additional opportunities to learn more with regular lectures, conferences, and events.
Improve Your Soft Skills:
Improving soft skills such as teamwork, communication, and decision-making skills is important for any engineer who is working towards advancing their career. If you aspire to move up into an engineering management position, improving your soft skills is even more important since engineering managers more often rely on these skills than their technical skills in order to effectively manage teams and oversee projects. If you eventually want to move into a management role, you will benefit from working on your communication skills and get comfortable with talking to clients and customers, working with outside suppliers and agencies, giving presentations, communicating clear instructions to a team, and public speaking. Aspiring engineering managers will also do well to improve their leadership skills, in order to become a manager who inspires and motivates their team to work to the best of their abilities and get the best results while being headed by a leader who is leading by example, sees the bigger picture, and delegates tasks effectively.
Get an Advanced Degree:
One of the best ways to not only improve your technical knowledge, but also advance your engineering skills, and learn a range of soft skills is to get an advanced engineering degree. In engineering, earning an advanced degree such as a master’s degree in your chosen engineering discipline is becoming a requirement if you want to enjoy any kind of career momentum with many employers now expecting their employees to earn a master’s degree within a few years of starting at their position.
Several major industry groups have also called for a master’s degree to become the basic credential for engineers to gain licensure in the field, particularly due to the fact that while technology has been subject to some considerable advancements, the number of credits needed to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering has actually been reduced. This has led to many fears in the industry regarding the preparedness of newly-qualified engineers to face the complexities of their working environment. The good news is that there are several options to choose from for engineers wanting to advance their careers with a master’s degree whether you continue on to study at a traditional campus-based school or take an online degree as you work as an engineer.
Strong networking skills are not only a requirement for furthering a career in the business world but can also be extremely beneficial for engineers. To advance your career as an engineer, attending conferences and networking events can be essential. Reach out to your colleagues and work with coaches or mentors who are able to help you advance in your role. Look into joining a range of industry groups where you will be able to find other individuals who work in your field and gain access to a wider range of industry events that you can attend to connect with others and find valuable resources to help you succeed. You will raise your profile by building and maintaining strong working relationships with other professionals in your field, allowing you to learn about a range of new opportunities.
Whether you are going for a specific promotion at your workplace or have decided to move into an engineering management career, keep these tips in mind to stand out from the crowd.