First of all, let me say that you must take your career into your own hands. Too many professionals wait for their employers to give them a raise or promotion. Don’t wait for anyone. Follow these seven steps and you will be able to engineer your own success:
“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The information in this article pertains to engineers and other STEM professionals, but can be useful to anyone classifying themselves as “a professional.” I believe that if these seven steps are followed by a professional, they will be successful. By successful, I mean, they will achieve all their professional goals. This article was originally posted on LinkedIn here.
1: Set Clear Goals
Most engineers don’t set goals, and even if they do, they are not clear and aligned with their values. You must take the time as early as possible in your career to consider your values and set clear goals. Strive to understand WHY these goals are important. For example, if you say your long-term goal is to be a principal in an engineering firm, you better know WHY — and the answer shouldn’t be “to make a lot of money.” You need to have a deep reason for wanting something, or else you won’t sustain the motivation to pursue it.
2: Obtain the Right Credentials
Credentials are important, especially for engineers and other technical professionals. How do you know what credentials to get? Easy: go back to your goals. What credentials will help you to achieve your goals? If you want to become a project manager, then the PE license is probably critical to your success and you should seek to obtain it as soon as possible. I often speak to engineers who make excuses for why they don’t have enough time to study. If a credential is critical to you achieving one of your goals: GET IT ASAP. You’ll make the time.
3: Find a Mentor
This is another action many engineers fail to take. Finding the right mentor in your engineering career can accelerate your advancement tenfold. Think about it: if you can find a professional who has already achieved the goals you are pursuing, how helpful would it be to have them offer advice and guidance? INVALUABLE. To find a mentor, reach out to colleagues, alumni, professional association members, and your LinkedIn network. Even ask someone to help you find your mentor.
4: Become an Effective Communicator
Engineers work on teams, which means they need to communicate with many other professionals and clients. If you can do this effectively, you will be way ahead of most other engineers and technical professionals. The best way to improve your communication skills is to use them and observe others who use them effectively. Volunteer to attend client meetings, or watch other professionals give presentations. Volunteer to give technical presentations at your local professional association luncheons. Join a local Toastmasters group and get in front of the room. Developing your communication skills is directly related to your success as an engineering professional and as a person!
5: Network and Build Relationships
Networking is building relationships, nothing more, nothing less. Networking is not going to an event and collecting business cards. That is only step #1. Next, you must reach out to those contacts and develop those relationships. You can do this over the phone, or better yet, by getting together for coffee or lunch. Remember, networking is not about what you can get from the other person, but what you can give. Give value to people and it will come back in more ways than you can imagine. As a fringe benefit, you will have an extremely enjoyable career.
6: Stay Organized and Productive
It is very easy to lose focus in today’s world. You can get sucked into Facebook for an hour and waste time, or on a bigger scale, you can chase items for months that are not related to your goals. This is why having goals and reviewing them every day is so important, because without them, you may just pursue anything that gets presented to you. What I like to do when a new opportunity comes about is ask myself: “Will this help me to achieve my goals faster than the path I am already on?” If the answer is NO, pass on it and keep moving forward.
7: Develop Your Leadership Abilities
Whether you believe it or not, you are a leader in some way, shape, or form, whether you lead an engineering team, are a parent, volunteer for an association, read at church, etc. The question is: “How much do you want to develop your leadership abilities?” The approach I recommend taking is: try to turn every problem into an opportunity. That is what great leaders do, especially engineering leaders. A quick recipe for doing this is to ask yourself two questions when you get into a tough situation: 1) Where is the opportunity in this situation, and 2) How can we learn and grow from this opportunity? These questions have changed my life.
Please consider incorporating some or all of these steps in developing your career. If you feel overwhelmed, start with #1. Once you have clear goals, then everything else will start to fall into place.
Remember, it’s up to you to Engineer Your Own Success!
These seven steps are from Anthony Fasano’s bestselling book: “Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career.”
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below on how you create an extraordinary career.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success