If you are reading this post, you’re most likely an engineer working for an engineering company. You get up each morning and go to work in what appears to be a ‘stable’ job. In reality, though, no matter how safe or stable your job appears to be, your employer can decide at any time to stop paying you and take away that perceived stability. However, your skill set, your professional network, and your reputation can allow you to react to a situation like this and quickly replace that paycheck. Developing your engineering skills as well as your non-technical skills will give you the tools to truly maintain a stable engineering career. The following are some things you can do in your engineering career to ensure that it is genuinely stable.
Realize the Importance of Your Own Development
Don’t get tricked by the illusion that your 9-to-5 job and paycheck create a stable career. Don’t build your entire financial future around that paycheck. Go through your career with a plan B that addresses the question, “What will I do if I lose my job tomorrow?” Having a good answer to this question and a good plan to go along with it is where true stability will come from.
Build a Very Strong Professional Network
A company can always take your paycheck away from you and end your employment with them, but they can’t take away your relationships. If you build strong relationships in the industry, it is very likely that should you lose your ‘stable job,’ you will be able to quickly find another one. I can’t stress this point enough, as many engineers rank networking low on their list of things to do because they feel that they can lean on the relationships of their company. WRONG. If you take this approach and lose your job or decide to relocate, you will not be able to lean on the company’s contacts. Also, having a strong network gives you a direct avenue to potential new business for your employer, which is like gold, especially in today’s economy.
Become Known in Your Industry
You want stability in your engineering career? Become known in your industry. Speak at conferences on technical topics that you have expertise in. Join AND PARTICIPATE IN your local professional associations and community groups. This is how you build a strong reputation in your industry/community. Should you do this, if you lose your job or decide to look for another opportunity, employers will be lining up to talk to you. That is what I call stability.
Practice Top-Notch Customer Service
If you are at the point in your career where you get to interact with your clients, practice top-notch customer service at all times. Be friendly and kind to your clients and be super-responsive. Ensure that you are always honest and up front with them when telling them how long projects are going to take to accomplish and how much they are going to cost. Make helping your clients your highest priority. For example, if you see a project that may be of interest to them, forward them the information. If you are sitting on your couch and think of something that might add value to their project or company, call or e-mail them in the evening and let them know you were thinking about them. Nothing builds your reputation (and stability) better than exemplary customer service skills, especially when your clients are raving to your employer about you. You can’t get much more stable than that.
The bottom line is that stability in your engineering career doesn’t necessarily come from a paycheck; it comes from you. Rather than defining stability as a regular paycheck and/or benefits, I would define it as your ability to generate regular income and benefits at any time through any situation in your career. The development of your skillsets, your professional network, and your reputation will provide true stability in your engineering career and life.
At the Institute for Engineering Career Development, we are helping engineers to create more stable careers every day. This month’s training calls will focus on networking and business development as well goal setting. Come join us and start creating a stable and extraordinary engineering career.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success