Do you operate with a zero-sum mindset in your engineering career? Do you believe that there is only so much pie to go around and if someone else gets it, you won’t get yours? Or, do you operate with a both/and mindset? That is, do you believe that there is adequate opportunity to support both you and everyone else? As it turns out, the type of mindset you operate in, will determine the level of performance you will bring to your work and the opportunities you’ll create for yourself. [Read more…]
If you are currently building an engineering career you know that most of your time is spent on projects, and phone calls, and dare I say in meetings. This leaves little time for you to focus on your career path and development. In case you weren’t aware of this, you are not the only engineer with this problem; in fact 9 out of 10 engineers that I coach, specifically identify this as their biggest problem.
So how do you overcome this challenge? I like to refer to this challenge as ‘the hamster wheel.’ You get so locked into your project-by-project, meeting-by-meeting routine that you can’t stop running on the wheel, because if you do, you fail, or at least you’ve been led to think that you do.
You need to stop running on the hamster wheel today. You need to take action that will help you grow and be able to be more proactive about your engineering career path and development. You need to take action. Most engineers don’t, therefore by doing so, you will really set yourself apart; oh and by the way you’ll have a much better career and life for it.
Here are 6 ways you can take action to start to focus more on your engineering career path and development: [Read more…]
It has only been in the last few years that I have become more interested in soccer or, as I guess it is better known around the world, Fùtbol. The sport, which features the very simple objective of putting a ball into a net, is actually much more complex than it seems on the surface, and it offers many powerful analogies to an engineering career.
I’ve gotten to know this game because I have spent the last few years coaching my daughter, and while she is only in second grade, she is in a very intense travel league and her head coach is a professional soccer trainer. He tells me time and time again that the best soccer players do one thing really excellently—they find room on the field. They take the ball and then separate themselves from the other players. He calls it looking for the SPACE. Once they are out in space, away from the others, they can do so many things—shoot, score, make a brilliant pass, visualize their next move, and more.
The whole concept led me to start thinking about how engineers can get SPACE in their careers and separate themselves from the field. Here is a short list and description of some of the items I came up with: [Read more…]
JULY 2014 UPDATE: Since I wrote this post in October of 2013, the feedback from engineers has been amazing. This is a very long post that is meant to help you throughout your engineering career, so please bookmark this page. I have also created the following table of contents to make it easy for you to read about the topics you most need help on at this time. The original post begins immediately after the following table of contents:
The Engineer Career Guide
The One Thing You Must Do Before Developing Your Non-Technical Skills
Video 1: Setting Clearly Defined Goals
Video 2: Obtaining the Right Credentials in Your Engineering Career
Video 3: Finding a Mentor
Video 4: Become an Effective Communicator
Video 5: Networking/Building Relationships
Video 6: Being Organized and Productive
Video 7: Develop Your Leadership Abilities
Developing my non-technical skills while practicing engineering was one of the best things I have ever done in my engineering career and life. Since I started Powerful Purpose Associates in May of 2009:
- My ability to set clear goals has helped me to understand that my mission was and is to inspire engineers.
- Obtaining the right credentials in my engineering career as well as my coaching career has helped me to be able to rapidly advance my career and grow my business.
- Finding a mentor was a key component for me being able to become a partner at the age of 27 in a reputable engineering firm.
- Improving my communication skills has allowed me to write daily and weekly e-mails to engineers that inspire them to grow personally and professionally. They have also helped me write my book Engineer Your Own Success.
- Improving my public speaking skills has afforded me the opportunity to present in front of over 5,000 engineers, many of whom have told me that my talk changed their lives.
- Developing my networking skills has allowed me to build relationships that have brought me so many of the opportunities mentioned above and also so many rewarding friendships.
- Increasing my productivity has allowed me to develop Engineering Management Institute (ECC) brand and The Engineering Mastermind community, now serving thousands of engineers every day — including two podcasts that have been downloaded over 1.5 million times.
- Developing my leadership abilities has given me the confidence to start to coach engineers one on one and subsequently start my podcast, where I coach them on the air.
Most importantly, developing my non-technical skills has enabled me to build stronger relationships with my audience – much stronger than I could ever have done if I failed to focus on my own personal development, like many engineers do. The phrases that engineers use when they describe their experience with my coaching or one of my seminars include: [Read more…]
Identifying actionable goals can be difficult if you don’t know what you want to achieve and if you don’t have a process in place. As engineers, we know that every successful project has a clearly defined project statement, scope, and process to deliver the intended results. The skills of project management, which we’ve developed delivering projects, can also be applied to defining and delivering our most important goals.
Project management uses an easy five-step process to guide projects from concept through final delivery. This process is successful in delivering projects in the work place and you canuse it in delivering your projects as well. Applying the principals of project management, you can define and deliver your most important goals. The process includes these steps:
Initiating. You initiate by defining your goal statement. Your goal statement includes all major deliverables, assumptions, objectives, constraints, stakeholders, and end date. Just like projects, the goal you’re aiming at may have more than one phase, so identify these and any major milestones as well.
Planning. With the goal statement in mind, turn to planning the resources, the duration, how to overcome constraints, who you’ll need to work with, what alternatives do you need to consider and plan for, what risks are involved, and how each deliverable will be created. The planning may be specific if you know all of the possible parameters involved, or can be elaborated as more information becomes available.
Executing. This step is simple: take action. Begin immediately executing your plan.
Monitoring & Controlling. In projects we use quality control and assurance to ensure the project work is proceeding as planned. Measures of time, cost, and scope are typically used to identify if a project is on plan or not. Depending on the complexity or your goals, you may be concerned about these same quantitative parameters. Or you may be more interested in the qualitative factors associated with achieving your goals, such as the satisfaction that comes from working towards achieving what’s most important to you.
Closing. Success isn’t achieved until the project is complete, whether in the work place or in our own lives. Your goal statement included deliverables, objectives and an end date. Closing out your goal requires that you meet these three elements.
Applied enough times, this process will become second-nature and you’ll find yourself quickly applying it against all of your goals, simple or complex. Face it: you have an unlimited number of things you can focus on, however, you have a limited amount of time to invest. If you’re serious about reaching your highest potential, you must identify your most important goals and generate a specific plan so you can maximize the return on investment of your most valued and constrained resource, your time.
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” Alexander Graham Bell
If you are trying to decide among a number of skills which one you wish to improve, improve your writing. For certain having good skills in speaking, managing a program, or negotiating a budget are important. But being able to write good will win-out every time.
That’s because good writing is about more than just writing good. The words on the paper or screen are a reflection of what’s going on in the authors head. It’s a clear picture of good thinking. A good writer knows how to coordinate their thoughts into coherent messages they can communicate. They have the ability to make complex issues easy to understand, know their audience, and know how to deliver the poignant facts concisely.
Us engineers have a bad rap with writing. When’s the last time you read a technical report? Or a study on watershed management? Dry. Factual. And hence understandable that the world would label us as poor writers. However, it doesn’t need to be this way. I offer the following list of actions you can take for improving your writing, and hence communicating, skills today: [Read more…]
This isn’t an article about time management. If you want that, go to Amazon.com and buy one of the 20,985 books on the subject. This is an article about investing it. Management implies control, focus, and organization. This is a prereq and a practice you develop from experience and….time. Don’t manage time and you’ll rush around like a drunken monkey from one task to another.
Investment implies the process of putting something into holding in order to grow it forafuture increased return. Applied to money it means taking a dollar today and growing it into ten in the future. Applied to a piece of nouveau art it means buying a $1,000 piece today with the intent to sell it at Sotheby’s in 30 years for a million. Applied to time, it means you devoting energy to a particular undertaking now with the expectation of a worthwhile result at some point in the future.
Check-in with where your focusing and investing your time. You have 168 hours per week with which to invest, what are you doing with them? Work or study is a given…we’re all investing time here anticipating money at payday or a career upon graduation. So let’s look at some true investment opportunities:
Sleep. Do you get 8 hours a night on average and if not, why? This is the über investment in YOU. Yep, you’ll need to burn the candle late from time to time, but if you’re doing it constantly you’re not a doing anyone any favors, including yourself. In fact, you’re making yourself less able to make rational decisions and likely shortening your life.
Physical Practice. This is the penultimate investment opportunity and includes healthy eating and PT. Daily investments in both will yield major dividends in both the short and long term with your health, which next to time, is the most important asset you have.
Family. I know of no instance where someone at retirement or on their deathbed lamented about how they wished they’d done more reports, sent one more email, or put in more hours at the office. They all seem to come back to family. If you’re not seriously thinking about those most important to you, what are you doing?
Hobbies. Are you uni-dimensional? Work/study is the only thing you’ve got going? If so, besides being boring you’re not “sharpening your saw” as Stephen Covey relays to us in “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Hobbies allow you to mentally dis-engage from work, study, or your other major time-suck and allows you to mentally decompress and give the synapses a break. Bottomline: get one.
For certain those of us with professional careers or in school are busy people. Don’t confuse “busy” with making smart time investments. Constantly moving from task-to-task, meeting-to-meeting and call-to-call doesn’t equal time investment — that equals time management. I see lot’s of busy people all the time that the best time managers in the world that are yielding nothing from their time. It all comes down to investing your time in those elements that are important to you and then guarding those investments like the gold reserves.
By the way, you’ll find exactly ZERO books about time investment at Amazon….maybe I need to invest some time writing one.