If a classroom education were all it took to succeed as an engineer, every graduate would move smoothly from academic to professional settings. In reality, engineering professions put as much emphasis on the professionalism as the engineering. To thrive, engineers must develop a broader skill set than the one they learn in school. While this may come as news to recent graduates, it’s often a revelation for engineers who have been in the field for a while but have seen their careers stall. All engineers, not just newly minted ones, benefit from attention to these key skills.
When you pay attention to the wider scope of your work and how it intersects with the company’s needs, you’re thinking like an executive. Consider total production costs and labor, not only your own role in producing the organization’s product line. Taking a macroeconomic view of investments and returns on everything from your own salary and benefits to overhead costs for the physical plant helps you become a more well-rounded and capable employee – one who is ready to move up as positions open.
Think Across Disciplines
Some of the toughest problems C-level executives face are multi-disciplinary ones that span departments and teams. If you’re aiming for a supervisory position, getting comfortable with complex solutions involving other disciplines is a must. Make yourself aware of these complicated problems, become adept at solving them, and you have a fast track to career advancement.
Hone Your Teamwork Skills
In an academic context, much of what you do is solitary, and teamwork is a relative rarity. In the business sphere, it’s the norm. Few people work wholly alone, and even they collaborate on projects from time to time. If you’re good at building consensus and communicating with others in the framework of a team, you’re in a good position to rise within your organization or advance with future firms. Your networking and team-building skills are every bit as important as your technical expertise on the job, yet they’re stills few engineers develop until they get into the workplace. Get a head start on them, and you’ve positioned yourself well for future advancement.
Be Your Best Self
Every engineer has strengths and weaknesses, but not all of them have a clear idea which is which. Evaluate what you do best and where you have the most room for growth, then figure out how to make that growth happen. Maybe you’re outstanding at organization or designing automation flows but feel less prepared to make presentations or communicate your ideas to a team. Knowing this, you’re able to work on communication skills and become more comfortable expressing your concepts to another engineer or to a whole department.
Make Others Successful
Managers and team leaders love employees who make them look good. When you’re successful and share some of that success with the people who help you achieve it, you earn their admiration and loyalty. Their support can follow you throughout your career and through multiple job changes. While your sole goal shouldn’t be to curry favor, making others’ success happen furthers your own. Be a team player and work to support your supervisor’s goals, and you’ll find reciprocal support as you rise.