By: Ryan Malone
By Fiona Beirne
There are lots of career pathways you can take to become a successful engineer and there are multiple fields you can work in. Whatever path you take, however, the following 10 tips will help you build a successful career.
Successful engineering projects don’t happen by chance – successful engineering careers don’t happen by chance either. Therefore, define where you would like to be as an engineer in the medium and long-term. You’re not making an unbreakable commitment when you do this, but it will help to keep you focused and moving forward. In addition, regularly review your progress to achieving your goals.
To keep up in a rapidly changing world and enhance your value to employers, you should engage in continuous professional development. In other words, you should acquire new skills with enthusiasm while being on a constant lookout for new professional development opportunities.
Many engineers focus their professional development efforts on improving their technical skills. Don’t underestimate the importance of soft skills, however, such as communication, teamworking, and presentation skills. You should also take time to acquire and improve essential skills like these.
The people who make the decisions on the projects you work on will, more than likely, do so from a business perspective. As a result, they are more interested in return on investment than they are with the innovative approach you take to solving their problem. You don’t have to become a business person, of course, but it helps if you understand what makes decision makers tick.
Rapid advances in technologies and thinking means nothing in engineering stands still, particularly if you’re involved in software engineering, automation engineering, and similar fields. You should embrace these rapid developments and never get stuck in an attitude of “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Instead, always be flexible so you’re ready to change.
This applies to every industry and job type, including engineering. You should take your inspiration from Thomas Edison, the great inventor. He said: “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
Engineering is often about problem-solving, so it’s important to have a can-do, optimistic attitude. Of course, you need to be realistic too, but remaining optimistic when facing challenges will take you a long way.
You can learn a lot from role models and mentors to help you further develop your career. This could be the best engineer in the company you work for, for example. You can formalise the mentoring relationship, but it doesn’t have to be formal. Instead, you can simply talk to them, ask questions, work on teams or projects they are also involved with, etc. You can also seek inspiration from role models outside your company, including industry leaders. When doing this, don’t just look at the great engineering work they do, but also how they became successful.
Engineering is a very broad field with lots of opportunities. You should remain open-minded, therefore, about where your career will take you. In fact, you could be doing a job role in 10 years that doesn’t even exist today. Also, industries you may never have considered could present you with significant opportunities. An above point says you should define your goals, but you should remain flexible in their implementation.
You can become a good engineer in a relatively short period of time, but real success (i.e. achieving the goals you identified in the earlier point above) takes time. You should view it as a marathon, not a sprint.
Whatever stage you are at in your career, the above 10 tips will help you get closer to the success you want to achieve.