Engineers have enjoyed an employment boom for years, and that includes those in mechanical engineering. Even when the market favors employees, you still need to sharpen your career skills to reach peak performance and achieve your professional goals. Whether you’re a recent graduate or an established engineer looking to take the next step in your career, these tips will give you the edge.
Your subject knowledge can be encyclopedic, but without some business acumen to back it up, you could find yourself in career stasis. Engineering companies want to hire engineers who bring something more to the table. If you’re able to be a strategic thinker, a meticulous planner, and a diligent record-keeper, you’ll not only excel within your department but shine bright in your firm. Understand budgets, costing, and marketing as well as your own contributions to a project. If you’re planning on a C-level executive position in your future, becoming more business-oriented is a must.
Mechanical engineering is your forte, but it isn’t your only skill – or at least, it shouldn’t be. Look for ways that adjacent disciplines can benefit you. Maybe your knowledge of consumer tech will be an asset when integrating equipment into a seamless whole. Your skill as a writer might make you the point person for communicating with other departments. You may get use out of your programming experience. Whatever your ancillary skills are, work on them; they’re often the difference-makers between you and the rest of the pack when going after a promotion.
Being a team player is as important for engineers as it is for any other department heads. Showing an ability to work well with others is huge for your future advancement prospects. To become better at collaborative ventures, work on your communication skills. These are often devalued in an engineering education as being irrelevant to the task at hand, but in business, communication is key. Become comfortable speaking in front of others, explaining complex concepts to non-engineers, and sharing your point of view in persuasive ways.
Know When to Follow Rules . . .
Let’s face it: Steve Jobs might have gotten away with not showering regularly, but most people aren’t eccentric billionaire business owners at the forefront of a nascent technology. Universities don’t tend to regulate students much and even reward a little eccentricity. Businesses can’t afford to be as relaxed, and it’s important to fit in with your company’s culture and codes of conduct. Some businesses are more conservative in their culture than others, so if you feel too constrained, take a look at other options.
. . .And When to Break Them
Just because you follow the office conduct code doesn’t mean you need to give up on being an innovator. Questioning established methodologies makes sense sometimes. Some companies have a bit of bias against anything that didn’t come from their own people, but outside connections can provide exciting new perspectives; don’t be afraid to introduce some of them (here’s where your communication skills and persuasiveness will shine).
Having a firm grounding in engineering knowledge and skills is a given. What can you do that others can’t? That’s where you can soar over your competition for the choicest jobs in mechanical engineering.