5 Laws for Engineer Career Success is a blog post by Tom Jager
“Engineering is the closest thing to magic that exists in the world.”
This quote comes from Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk and beautifully describes what each engineer wants to do and should do to achieve career success: create, innovate, and improve everything around them.
Becoming a successful “wizard,” or engineer, has never been easy because the profession requires complex skills and even more complex responsibilities. To enter such a career, one has to develop the courage and personality traits needed to endure all the challenges one will face in this profession.
Despite a popular opinion, knowledge alone is insufficient to succeed as an engineering professional. You have to have that desire to design the things that millions are only dreaming about. That’s what drives people working on such amazing projects such as an autonomous car and an upcoming flight to Mars.
What else distinguishes these brilliant engineers?
The ability to follow the unwritten laws of the profession that keep them focused and moving forward.
In this article I’d like to focus on these laws in hopes that they can help you to become a successful or more successful engineer.
Law #1: Do Good Work
This seems like such an obvious strategy, but many engineers get distracted by their hunt for better opportunities. As a result, they are unable to perform as well as they could, and don’t reach as high as they could.
Adam Steltzner, a well-known American engineer who has been involved the design of several NASA rovers that have landed on Mars, had this to say in a recent Life Hacker interview about doing work:
“I’m not saying hunt for the opportunities or let that hunt distract you from the work that is right in front of you. That’s the most important thing: you’ve got to do the work. Just do good work, do good work, do good work.”
Law #2: Work on Something You Care About
This law actually applies to many other professions, but it has a special meaning to engineers whose solutions can change the lives of many people for the better. Strive to work and solve problems that you are passionate about because doing so provides that added motivation and entrepreneurial spark.
Besides, working on something you find interesting improves your job satisfaction. This worked well for Elon Musk, who said the following: “People should pursue what they’re passionate about. That will make them happier than pretty much anything else.”
Law #3: Never Stop Learning
Every engineer encounters a lot of challenges and problems while working on their projects. Sometimes, failures can be devastating because they can undermine confidence and motivation to move forward and learn new things.
Successful engineers treat failures as an opportunity to learn something new. Any result is a result for them and being wrong can actually help them to create more sophisticated designs. Consider adopting this opportunistic mindset to acheive career success.
Adam Savage, an American engineer, industrial designer, and artist who is best known for his work on Discovery Channel TV series Mythbusters, has popularized the simplest yet the best quote that became his mindset about learning: “Failure is Always an Option.”
Law #4: Focus on Your Strengths
There’s a stereotype about an engineer who founded a startup, had poor advertising and time management skills but refused to relinquish control over the company. As the result, the company failed quickly because he simply didn’t know how to sell.
Although this stereotype may sound a bit ridiculous, it’s actually very well-rounded. Not a lot of people can freely move between two or several fields of knowledge and succeed in them equally. That’s why engineers who are good at something prefer to focus on what they can do best or ask for assistance from outside sources to learn something new.
Engineers have actually been known to fail at simple tasks. For example, according to Interesting Engineering, there’s a common opinion that they cannot spell correctly despite their impressive expertise in complex fields. To make a long story short, if you need to write a professional essay or other writing work, it’s better to use proofreading tools.
The great Albert Einstein once said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
This means that we should concentrate on what we can do well with our mindset and respect other fields of knowledge. So, if you’re facing an issue that requires knowledge outside of your field of expertise, it’s better to enlist someone’s help.
Law #5: Don’t Forget to Have Fun
If you’re following your dream and working as an engineer, you have the opportunity to improve people’s lives by creating something new. Isn’t that exciting? This is something you’ve likely dreamed about since childhood.
If you’re consistently finding yourself dissatisfied and not enjoying the profession, then it may be time for you to make a change.
Remember this great quote by Fabiola Gianotti, an Italian physicist and engineer (who is known to have lots of other interests besides engineering, including music and cooking):
“This job is a great scientific adventure. But it’s also a great human adventure.”
Over to You
There’s never been a better time to be an engineer. Be creative, respect the laws of the profession, and change the world. This will surely help you to achieve great career success.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions below that you may have on achieving career success.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success