This is a guest blog post by Skye J. Coleman, PE
Today we have for you Three methods to stop stagnation and accomplish your engineering career goals…
A few years back I had a decent life, I was working at a good company with great pay and a lot of responsibility. But I’d been doing the same job, more or less, for several years and it was starting to get a bit boring.
Alright, so maybe not that bad, but I wasn’t getting a lot done.
The truth was I kind of felt slighted, I was doing 90% of the electrical engineering for the firm and didn’t have a title to match my job duties. Instead of figuring out how to make the job better and position myself for the raise I thought I deserved, I tried hijacking a negotiation. It failed miserably, but it got me focused.
When I came to my next firm, I was determined to ensure that I wouldn’t ever be in that position again, but I had no idea how to get the help I needed.
Had I not been reactionary I probably could be a partner at an engineering firm right now, but that ship sailed… and it was probably for the best. Without those mistakes, I never would have realized how much higher I could have gone.
Failure can be great, as long as you learn from it.
Enter method 1, paid programming.
I found this course by Ramit Sethi focused on getting your Dream Job. Sounded catchy, but I had already accepted a job, I didn’t need this right?
If I went straight into my new company without a game plan, there’s a huge likelihood that I’d have picked right up where I was at my previous firm. Wasting company time and resources and not performing as well as I should or could of.
I needed a framework with which to impress my bosses and get ahead out of the gates, a roadmap for success if you will.
So I dumped over a thousand dollars into an online course by a brash Indian man who promised to deliver a dream job. It wasn’t going to be easy, but over the course of those eight weeks I learned what I wanted, and how to create it.
Shortcuts are often hard to come by, and they often don’t come cheap.
This method moved me quickly from another new guy in the office, to the person that every project manager wanted on his team. Since then, I regularly get kudos from the higher ups. From high-fives with the bosses to being called a top performer by a Senior VP.
Enter method 2, one-on-one coaching or mentorship.
I’ve been a part of Engineering Management Institute’s mastermind group since it first started as a career development group a few years back. I’m not sure exactly how I stumbled across it, or what I was working on at the time that made me interested in it.
All I can say is that it’s given me access to a number of top engineers across various fields that I can routinely bounce ideas off.
Couple this with the one-on-one sessions with Anthony and Chris, and the group has proven invaluable to making me the engineer that I am today. There’s a number of ideas that came from the group or coaching calls have presented that I have incorporated into my career.
I read more books, listen to podcasts, and routinely check back in with my goals to ensure I’m making the progress towards the life I want to lead.
Sure, you can do all of this on your own. But you won’t.
If there’s one thing that I’ve found from mentoring engineers myself these last few years, it’s that without direct coaching and accountability, few people will make truly remarkable leaps in their engineering careers.
I’m not saying you have to turn to Engineering Management Institute, or myself to become accomplished. This can happen through people you know at your office. Through mentorship with others who have accomplished what you want to. It’s a lot easier to follow a path when someone else has already blazed it for you.
When I first went to a large company my dad gave me some sage advice, “find someone who’s moving quickly up the ranks and hook yourself to their career.”
I might be a little too independent for that, but I have turned many associates into advocates for me. A good first step, and it helps prevent me from having to fight all of my battles myself. I can count 5 to 6 fellow employees ranging from senior PMs, associate engineers, and Vice Presidents among my mentors.
So who’s got your back?
Enter Method 3, an accountability partner.
Last year I took another retreat in addition to the one Anthony and Chris throw dedicated specifically to engineers. This one was put on by my friends Kim Nicol and Christina Salerno at a small island in the Caribbean, which they playfully call Mastermind Island.
Kim and Christina had us all work through some awesome life-changing steps, and I still review the notes I took often.
But the thing I relish most about my time on the island was the people I met. It was actually the first time I met any of these people in person, but I immediately connected with them all. One so much that we’ve gotten on gchat every Saturday morning for 6 months and counting.
Jarrett became my accountability partner, and my friend.
These last few months I’ve written more for my blog and helped more engineers than ever with everything from finding new jobs to passing the PE exam than I ever had before. I owe a lot of that to Jarrett and the calls we make every Saturday.
These calls are pointed, and this morning when I admitted my failures he tore into me about what I need to accomplish this week and how I could guarantee I get it done. I needed that.
Some of the most successful startups came due to a collaboration of two or more people. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created Apple. Larry Page and Sergey Brin built Google. Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, Luke Nosek, and Ken Howery (and later Elon Musk) invented Paypal.
I don’t consider myself one of these greats, and Jarrett and I aren’t working together on the same thing, but our constant back and forth and deep analysis when we believe the other one is slipping makes us better.
Without him, I probably wouldn’t even be writing this post right now.
So which method do you plan to explore?
The idea of accountability is not a new one, and something that you can find all over life and businesses.
A while back I was introduced to Jim Rohn and the theory of the law of averages. I believe that it perfectly encapsulates the idea and reason that accountability partners or masterminds work so well to improve people’s lives. This quote perfectly sums it up.
I don’t care how you reach your goals, I only want to see you start making the concrete steps necessary to do so.
That could take the shape of any number of manors – buying a course or going back to school, finding a coach or joining a mastermind, or merely finding a like-minded person you can work with or talk to.
You’ll get better through focused activities and action steps, or at least I know I have.
About the writer, Skye J. Coleman, PE
Skye helps engineers get more out of their career through tips and tricks ranging from how to pass the PE exam, get a new job, and even travel faster and smarter. If you want to pass the PE exam, join Skye’s PE Exam list for specific tips and a community to hold you accountable.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success