Engineering is a diverse field, and there are a variety of successful career paths within the engineering profession. However, there are a few pieces of advice that are the key to your long-term success, no matter which engineering discipline or industry you are in. Here are 5 tips to help you build a fruitful career in engineering. We’ll also explain how following this advice will further your career.
Improve Your Soft Skills
Engineers are notorious for being excellent systemic and analytical problem solvers. However, you work with other people to solve these problems. You have to communicate your ideas to non-technical customers and managers. You have to work with other subject matter experts and business people.
This means you’ll get a lot more out of your team if you improve your soft skills. This includes communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution. It should include learning how to read body language and tone of voice better as well. You don’t necessarily have to take classes to learn this; a mentor could provide advice in this area.
A really great high-tech solution will be rejected if you can’t make the business case for it. Furthermore, many technical projects fail because the team leader didn’t know how to manage budgets or schedules effectively. Take the time to understand business fundamentals. Understand cost estimates, budgeting and return on investment. Learn how to estimate the total lifetime cost of a product instead of just the cost to manufacture it.
Go for the EIT
One of the best things you can do to further your career is get your EIT or engineer in training certification. This qualification is separate from your bachelor’s degree in engineering. Getting it requires passing the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering exam, meeting education requirements (such as finishing a BS in engineering) and applying to the state board. This page aimed at clearing up the confusion about EIT certification explains the process of doing this regardless of which state you’re in.
The EIT certification is the first step in becoming a Professional Engineer. The professional engineering license is legally required to work as a consulting engineer in many states. The PE license typically results in a pay bump because you can sign off on drawings and calculations.
Do Your Research
There are several variations of this advice that apply to engineers. Do your research before you apply to a company so that you put the key bullets on your resume that show you’re a qualified applicant and can ask intelligent questions of the interviewer. Learn what professional associations provide the best networking opportunities for your field. Keep up with technology trends affecting your industry so that you can stay ahead of them, whether it is new software or new business models.
Promise and Deliver
A common mistake people make is over-promising. They’re guaranteed to under-deliver and disappoint the customer. Don’t make promises without data to back up your schedule and budget. Don’t promise a product without a clear set of customer requirements, and set a reasonable scope for the project.
Keep customers or managers updated regarding the status of the project so that a slipping schedule or cost overruns don’t seem like they came out of the blue. Discuss proposed changes to the project or product design and their impact so customers don’t think it is your fault that the extra five features you added also added three months to the release date.
Don’t forget the practical applications of this advice in daily living. Don’t promise to attend a meeting and then forget about it. Don’t promise to read a report or give feedback on papers if you don’t intend on doing so. Do what you said you’ll do, and don’t take on commitments that you can’t or won’t deliver on.
So, if you want to have a successful career as an engineer, this advice should help you get one step closer to your goal. This is true whether you’re just starting out or your career has come to a crawl.