When you’ve been an engineer in someone else’s company for a while, worked hard, been a great team player and learned as much technical knowledge as you can, it’s natural to start to think about the next steps. If you’ve been in the same position for a while and you feel like you’re ready for more, you’ll need to prove your worth to your peers.
Expanding and deepening your engineering skills and knowledge is obviously going to be key, but there are other less obvious ways to increase your chances of career advancement and broaden your professional horizons.
If your engineering career has stalled, here are some ideas to help kick it back into gear.
Get an Advanced Degree
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, you may want to consider going back to university to study for your master’s or even a Ph.D. The higher your education level, the more likely you are to be successful when you apply for more senior roles. An online engineering management degree is an ideal qualification for people hoping to lead engineering teams. Engineers with advanced degrees and management responsibilities will usually earn more money than engineers with bachelor’s degrees.
Learn About Other Engineering Fields
When looking to move up in your career, it’s a good idea to start learning about related fields of study as well as your specific discipline. If you have a good grasp of other concepts such as software and electronics so that you’re able to work on complex products which combine more than one technology.
Develop Your Soft Skills
In addition to technical expertise, you also need to work on “soft” skills including verbal and written communication, people management, negotiation, and customer service. If you’re trying to achieve a role in management or to build your own business from scratch, these skills will be invaluable when it comes to presenting to suppliers and customers will hinder your chances of progressing a role in senior management.
Stand Out as an Innovator
Engineering is all about creativity and innovation. Companies which come up with new concepts and ground-breaking products are destined for success, so you should always be on the alert for new ideas and technologies. When you have an idea or a way to improve a process, you need to put it forward so your company can see your value. If you’re working in a team, make sure you encourage others to do the same.
Networking and Socializing
Get to know people at your workplace including both colleagues and management. Networking and socializing is not only good for morale and teamwork, but it also gives you an insight into the strengths and weaknesses of those around you. You’ll get to know their attitude to work and their likes and dislikes which will help you grow stronger as a team so you can all put in your best performances. The more connections you can make, the more chance there is that you’ll know the right people when a promotion opportunity arises.
Networking outside your company provides you with the opportunity to get to know others in your field so you can share ideas and keep up to date with trends and key projects. You could also volunteer your time and engineering expertise to good causes and local charities.
Join a Trade Association
By becoming a member of a trade association such as the American Association of Engineering Societies you’ll have access to more networking opportunities, professional conferences and social events where you can mix with like-minded people. You can benefit from being a member of a state, regional or even local trade association. If you can find the right contacts and build strong relationships, you may be able to get involved in new projects in your field of work
Attending events, conferences and trade shows put on by professional organizations is also a great way to stay up to date with latest industry news, projects and trends to ensure you’re always current in your expertise. To that end, it’s a great idea to submit the odd short article or opinion piece to a professional publication in order to solidify your position as an industry influencer and to boost your profile.
When you attend the events and conferences, make sure you invest in business cards. When you’re networking your business cards will be crucial as you won’t have a lot of time to make a good impression with other attendees. You need to leave something with them to remind them of your interaction which includes your contact details. Business cards are the easiest and most professional way to do this, and they don’t cost much. You’ll also find that you come away with a collection of other people’s business cards; keep hold of them as you never know when a contact might come in handy.
You could also promote yourself by creating a website and blog where you can publish useful, relevant and engaging articles on industry topics. This helps you to build your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person. People turn to the internet to for answers and advice, so if you’re planning on starting your own business, then a website is essential to establish yourself as credible and trustworthy.
Move to a New Company
In some cases, to move up in your career, you may have to move sideways first, i.e., move to a new company. However, it’s probably unreasonable to expect a promotion within 18 months to 2 years of being at a company, and you don’t want to get a reputation for hopping from one job to another.
If you do decide to move on, make a list of your skills. It may be worth speaking to your boss and outlining the value you’ve added to the company. Sometimes, boldness and confidence are rewarded with promotion. If this isn’t the case, get your resume up to date and start getting in touch with some of your networking contacts to see what other opportunities are out there.