From an outside perspective, the demand for engineers across a wide range of industries might make career advancement seem simple. Insiders know that as in any field, engineering positions are competitive. A firm grounding in your subject isn’t always enough to propel your career to management or c-level executive positions; you need to be career-savvy too. These tips can refocus your career goals and put you on the upward trajectory you want.
Take Role Models Seriously
Who inspires you? Think about why you wanted to go into engineering and who your earliest inspirations were, then crystallize in your mind what made them your role models. The word “model” is the key here. Your role model isn’t just someone to admire but someone to emulate. Learn about the business mogul, iconoclastic genius, or hard-working scholar who inspires you and follow in his or her footsteps in your professional and even personal life. While that doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian because Steve Jobs did it, think about why he did it and what lessons you can apply to your own experiences.
Build Your Portfolio
What you say you can do isn’t as important as what you demonstrate you can do. A portfolio is more than a resume, which only details your expertise; it’s tangible evidence of it. Document every aspect of projects you work on, whether alone or collaboratively, and turn that experience into proof of your abilities that you can then showcase to prospective employers and investors. Everyone has a resume, but your competition probably doesn’t have the demonstrable skill set you will when you assemble a portfolio.
Hone Your Networking Skills
Work on strengthening social connections with others, and you automatically have inside access to job openings with great potential for advancement. Making yourself known as someone who has a robust contact list also connects you with others who have something to teach. Your alma mater’s alumni association, connections from past jobs, contacts with guest lecturers and writers – all these open opportunities for you while giving your connections new options too. It’s a win for everyone.
Be a Leader
Engineers have a tendency to prioritize their specific job skills and deemphasize general professional knowledge. Leadership is one of the most important traits any professional can have, and you have a greater chance than many to demonstrate it. Work in teams whenever possible and volunteer to lead them. If you aren’t the group’s leader, be an influencer from within the group by helping others work more smoothly together or clarifying murky instructions to someone else.
Inspiration is harder to find when you look at every challenge from the same viewpoint. Go outside the office and get involved with the world beyond work. The well-spring of creativity that gives artists and poets their inspiration can also enrich your work. Signing up for that art class you’ve always wanted to take could help you represent your ideas to team members visually. Your creative writing course could give you the eloquence you need to sell an investor on your project.