Whether you’ve only just graduated, or you have been engineering for 30 years, there are always changes you can make to enhance your career prospects in the industry. To be an engineer you will already have proved that you’re talented at math, science and that you have excellent practical skills, but have you got other more diverse skills and qualities to open new opportunities? While expanding and deepening your engineering skills and knowledge is obviously going to be key to your success, but there are other ways to increase your chances of career advancement and broaden your professional horizons. Here are some essential tips and strategies to potentially boost your engineering career aspirations.
- Broaden Your Skill Set
You may be an expert in the specific engineering discipline you’ve studied / been working in so far, but can you combine these skills and knowledge with more diverse training? Your primary skills may be in mechanical engineering, for example, but modern products often include a combination of engineering fields such as software and electronics. Do some research around other relevant disciplines and the latest technologies to ensure you can offer a project a more rounded skill set and don’t have to pass elements to other engineers or companies.
- Develop Management Skills
An increasing number of engineering companies are looking for engineers who are commercially minded and have the ability to manage a project including financial awareness, strategy, and planning. If you can manage and motivate others and know how to handle costs to ensure maximum profits, you’ll be a much more attractive prospect for employers. Consider completing an online engineering management degree to take your engineering career to a more senior level as you can usually fit this around an existing work schedule and apply what you learn to your career as you progress.
Modern product development nearly always involved design and manufacturing expertise from a number of individuals, teams, and firms from a variety of disciplines outside of engineering. To be able to contribute to this kind of collaborative design process you need to ensure that you have excellent communication skills, including being able to convey complex engineering concepts in simple ways people from non-engineering backgrounds can understand them easily.
Creativity and innovation in product design can transform a company into a market leader. You should always be open to new ideas and technologies and, if you’re working in a team environment, encourage others to do the same. This can be applied to both product design and in the streamlining of production processes; if you can see a way to make a system more cost-effective or efficient, speak up.
- Never Stop Learning
Technology, tools, and engineering techniques are evolving all the time. To make sure your skills stay sharp and relevant you should be actively looking for new projects and training opportunities. If you’re employed by a company, ask if there is any funding for external training courses. At the very least this will show your employer that you’re motivated to improve your skill set and add value to the business.
- Don’t Forget Your “Soft” Skills
Improving your “soft” skills such as verbal and written communication, people management, negotiation, and customer service is crucial when trying to advance in engineering. Focusing on technical skills without the ability to present to colleagues, management, suppliers, and customers will hinder your chances of progressing a role in senior management.
- Get Networking
Like any other industry, networking is essential to progressing in the engineering industry. You need to ensure that you’re meeting other engineering professionals and building connections with other companies. Get involved in the engineering community by subscribing to magazines or other publications, ask relevant questions and endorse other engineers in order to boost your professional profile.
- Attend Industry Conferences and Events
Attend events put on by professional organizations such as the American Society of Civil Engineers or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. This is a great way to stay up to date with latest industry news and technologies, but it also gives you the opportunity to network with industry influencers on both a local and national level when you’re outside the conference room.
- Join Professional Associations
Become a member of professional engineering organizations and associations. You should join both local and national associations in your specific field of engineering, but you may find other related associations are also useful. Once you’re a member, you can become active, take on administrative roles and volunteer to help with events or tasks within the organization. This is a great way to boost your profile in the industry and build professional relationships.
- Contribute to Industry Publications
If you’re comfortable with writing, a great way to get yourself more recognition in the industry is to submit an article or opinion piece to a professional publication, e.g., the National Society of Professional Engineers’ flagship publication, PE Magazine. Many publications will also include contact information to boost your profile and encourage conversation between readers and contributing authors. Online publications often don’t require lengthy pieces, so it doesn’t need to be a time-consuming task.
- Build a Website or Blog
Another way to raise your profile is to start your own website or blog where you can promote yourself. Blogs are simple to build and provide you with a platform to present relevant and engaging content which will capture people’s attention. People use the internet to search for answers and advice and if you can present yourself as an authority on the subject enhances your credibility. If you’re planning on starting your own business, then a website is essential to promote services.
Take time out of your schedule to volunteer your time and expertise to good causes and charities. For example, you could help a charity like Habitat for Humanity with electrical engineering services, or you could mentor young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who have an interest in engineering. By using your skills to help your community you can make a positive impact in the world, create PR opportunities with the media and potentially open more opportunities for professional networking.