This is a guest post by Nader Mowlaee.
Engineers are expected to perform at their best, if not all the time, most of it at least. Room for error in this type of career is small of course, as it can have huge negative impact on an individual project or the lives of millions of people.
It is essential to learn from our mistakes as it can help us become better engineers in our chosen paths, and the first step towards that is understanding how to become self-aware.
Everyone makes mistakes in things they do, such as daily actions and activities, their opinions towards someone or something, or judgements towards techniques and processes that result in poor outcomes, poor reasoning, and overall carelessness.
No matter how good of an engineer you are in your field, there is always going to be a time where you will make a mistake, as the famous saying goes, “Nobody is perfect.” Even machines make mistakes over time.
Why is it important to discuss these common mistakes? Well, prevention is the best solution to avoid mistakes, and we must talk about and accept the fact that we all can be in one of these following five situations at some time during our career.
There are mistakes that you have probably committed but didn’t realize because they happened on a subconscious level and required you to push outside of your comfort-zone, but you failed to do so and hoped and prayed that nothing bad would happen, but it did. Here’s how to avoid disasters from happening again.
#1 Failure to Admit
Failing to admit that you are just a human being and that no one is perfect. It is normal for you to make mistakes from time to time. By being able to accept and admit that we are less than perfect is a starting point for many engineers to begin to grow as a professional. Accepting the fact that we are imperfect makes us more human. Self-Acceptance is the major topic in this podcast interview I recently gave.
Self-acceptance is the first step in moving ourselves to become a better and happier engineer. There’s no end to personal development, and this includes learning from our mistakes. It is a simple process yet takes so much courage to do so. You just have to learn to accept the fact that you made a mistake, admit it, learn from it, and move on to the next thing. You know your career will continue to grow as the people around you will see how strong you are in admitting the truth and making a personal change.
#2 Failure to Ask
Failure to use the knowledge, experience, and skills available to you in a given situation that requires it. We are not all as smart as each other, and it is vital to ask for help when we need it. This is why successful teamwork is founded on the fact that knowledge is frequently and entirely shared. Every individual has their ways, skills, and knowledge that we can learn and benefit from.
If only you are willing to seek the information that you need, then asking someone who is an expert in that field is the fastest way to get an answer, which also helps you expand your knowledge to avoid potential mistakes in the future.
You must also know that the common reason that causes this failure to happen is your ego. The challenge is that your ego focuses on two things:
1) Your willingness to admit that you do not know everything and that you do not have the answers to everything.
2) Your lack of desire to feed another person’s ego, especially if you find that person a possible competitor in the office.
#3 Failure to Understand
Failing to understand the situation from someone else’s perspective. This happens commonly because of poor listening skills or lack of communication from either party. The more you listen to someone, the more you will understand the situation. Instead of just hearing the things that you want to hear, ask for what’s important to you and never leave a conversation before knowing exactly what your responsibilities are.
A common reason or obstacle that causes this failure to occur is when you are just interested in what you have to say and not what others are saying. It is important to be respectful of others opinions, and if you are sure they are wrong, then you are ought to clarify things, rather than assuming you know they are wrong when possibly, the fact could be that you did not understand what they are talking about.
#4 Failure to Assess
Failing to recognize and understand your habits, beliefs, and common practices or ways you go about solving a problem. This involves acknowledging your mistakes and reality. If you fail to see the gaps, flaws, weaknesses, and behaviors, you will be often trapped in situations and will impose limitations on your personal growth.
Being open to receiving advice from other people, assessing, acknowledging and acceptance of mistakes, and willingness to become better is needed to stop these kinds of mistakes engineers make from happening again. A simple change in your outlook and behavior in life can make a huge difference.
#5 Failure to Consider
Failing to consider the obvious things that can go wrong and failure to consider alternative solutions. It is like you being inside a submarine; the mistake is ignoring the fact that even though it is submerged in water, things can go wrong anytime like water going inside the vessel.
In life, you can never be so sure of things. Nothing is certain, and the only constant thing in the world is change. So you have to be ready for the things that might happen. Always consider other people’s opinions, if not as the first solution, have them as secondary or alternative paths.
About Nader Mowlaee:
Nader is a career coach who believes you can get everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want. He is inspired by motivating confidence in engineers and helping them take calculated actions to move forward towards their career and life goals. His mission is to enable engineers to break away from their fears and create the ideal lives and careers they desire. You can learn more about Nader through his LinkedIn account.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share related to mistakes engineers make on the job.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success