To get to the top, you can’t fake it. Here’s how to take your job as an engineer to a fulfilling career:
Engineers are among the most valued professionals in the world today, but what does it take to become an indispensable engineer? What does it take to get to the top of your field? EngineerJobs.com’s Monthly Magazine of the same namesake covers 3 main ways to be irreplaceable in the article, Becoming the Indispensable Engineer by JF Stackhouse. Stackhouse suggests that, “Being the heart of your team – the truly indispensable engineer is an ongoing commitment to professional development, integrity, and excellence.”
1. Don’t let grass grow under your feet
You may have a great education and technical experience, but if you aren’t continually looking to further your education you will always be behind. Steve Nimmons, a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and Certified European Engineer comments, “Continuing professional education should be a vocation, not a mere obligation. Ensure you keep your knowledge of relevant legislation, standards and best practices up to date.”
So often the very technically minded engineer has trouble discussing their work with others in the company, or even customers. Continual improvement in your technical skills is important, but don’t overlook the vital business knowledge and communication skills that can set you apart. Nimmons continues to comment about the most successful engineers, “Invest time in understanding the commercials of any project including the business case, budgets and commercial imperatives or pressures.”
2. Desire to do your best work, always
The best engineers complete every single project with passion, precision AND….here’s the curveball, flexibility. Sure, you may be among the most sought after professionals today, but if you lack the integrity and drive to continually perfect your skills and grow as a professional, you will fall flat. “Your professionalism and impeccable values should be uncompromising… Coupled with deep domain and technical skills, you will be equipped for the role of ‘trusted adviser,” said Gina Smith, President and CEO of Systems Engineering Global.
On top of uncompromising values and professionalism, flexibility is incredibly important to job success as an engineer. Outside factors are fluid and ever changing, so you should react accordingly.
3. Don’t take yourself so seriously
Not necessarily exclusive to engineering jobs, is the act of making yourself “important” out of fear. A tactic that some use to seemingly protect themselves from losing their job is to integrate and specialize their position so much that if they were gone for one day, the whole system would fall apart. While this can seem like a great way to save your engineering career, it has the potential to set you up for failure.
The largest flaw with this thinking is that there are plenty of resources on demand that can further the education of any skill set, and as Sid Savara, technical manager for financial systems at the University of Hawaii, puts it, “Any competent engineer has resources where they can self-teach and catch up. The person who ‘hoarded’ the knowledge is no longer the only person able to learn it.”
Smith comments that the harmful traits that she has seen engineers take on are:
- Refusal to discuss the details of their work
- Hoarding documents and company resources
- Not documenting changes or development
- Constant self-aggrandizement
Playing games to make yourself important can actually end up killing your engineering career. Focusing on continuing education, considering the end user and an unwavering drive to do the best that you can, will really make your engineering job, a great engineering career.