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How to Be a Team Player without Ruining Your Engineering Career

team player

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

You’ve probably heard the expression there’s no “I” in team. But must your personal goals always take a backseat to the priorities of your engineering team? The short answer is: no.

While being on a team requires give and take, with some forethought and finesse, it’s possible to advance your contracting career and still be a valuable member of your engineering team.

Here are some ways to join the team and still get ahead.

Pursue Complementary Projects

Working on projects that dovetail with your personal goals is the best way to support your colleagues without hindering your aspirations. Of course, landing career-enhancing projects on a consistent basis can be challenging. Certainly you need to communicate your desire to design green buildings or surgical robots to recruiters and project managers. And if your engineering manager mentions a project that piques your interest, volunteer your services.

If your engineering manager ignores your requests, check out Eric Bloom’s suggestions for landing great projects.

Don’t Be Afraid to Toot Your Own Horn

Are your individual efforts going unnoticed? Highlight your contributions during one-on-one sessions with your engineering manager. Or provide regular updates on your team’s progress and briefly mention a few of your activities.

“Once a week, or every other week, send your manager and your manager’s boss, if appropriate, an email that says what your big accomplishments are,” Heather Huhman suggests in an interview with Fox Business. Don’t take credit for every little task though, or take responsibility for your team’s success. Sometimes, it’s better to swallow your short-term pride for your long-term best interest.

Speak Up

It’s easy to lose your train of thought and voice when you’re in a meeting filled with loud opinions. As Sara Sutton Fell, the CEO and founder of FlexJobs points out, “By listening to and participating in the conversation, by adding your own comments and suggestions, you will be both a team player and also be able to have your own voice heard.”

Know When to Draw the Line

Sometimes, the term “team player” can become a euphemism for “chump”- the one who gets all the grunt work and puts in the extra hours notes Gwen Moran in Fast Company. While you can’t always pick and choose your duties, help yourself and your engineering team by ensuring that the vast majority of your efforts are focused on mutually beneficial tasks.

Put the Team First

At PEAK, one of our top sources for qualified engineers is referrals from the engineers’ former colleagues.  You won’t win many friends, or contract assignments for that matter, unless you put the needs of your team ahead of your personal glory. Prove that you’re a team player by using inclusive language like “we” or “us” unless you’ve uniquely done something on your own.  And remember to focus on the value you offer a manager and his engineering team during interviews.

“If you want to promote yourself, you want to be very complimentary of other people. It’s more collaborative. If you always promote yourself, it’s too obvious,” noted Julie Jansen, career coach and author of I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work.

We enjoy your opinion of our articles and the overall PEAK organization.  Please feel free to post comments below.

Other information of potential interest

Defining the Ideal Resume for Contract Engineers

Five Tips for Landing Repeat Assignments

How to Create a Personal Brand to Promote Your Engineering Skills

Want a Raise? Top Paying Cities for Contract Engineers

Help PEAK find the right placement for you:  Submit or Update your resume.

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4 thoughts on “How to Be a Team Player without Ruining Your Engineering Career

  1. When I worked at Northrop Grumman, they had me working on many things that were not related to the Java technology that I was hired to work on. As a Software Engineer, time passed and the software technology evolved without me. When I was laid off, I had been away from the software development so long that simple questions at interviews that I used to be able to answer, I was not able to answer and the Java technology evolved. While I am sure that I can write the software, the interviews have been all technical quizzes and tests on the fly and no two are the same. Being the team player basically ruined my career. I do not recommend straying too far for too long from writing software code and software engineering if that is what you do for a living. Companies are not sympathetic on what happened to you. They need someone to fill the job that they are hiring for.

  2. When I worked at Northrop Grumman, they had me working on many things that were not related to the Java technology that I was hired to work on. As a Software Engineer, time passed and the software technology evolved without me. When I was laid off, I had been away from the software development so long that simple questions at interviews that I used to be able to answer, I was not able to answer and the Java technology evolved. While I am sure that I can write the software, the interviews have been all technical quizzes and tests on the fly and no two are the same. Being the team player basically ruined my career. I do not recommend straying too far for too long from writing software code and software engineering if that is what you do for a living. Companies are not sympathetic on what happened to you. They need someone to fill the job that they are hiring for.

  3. Dear John:

    Have you found another job since you were laid off? If so, what kind of job?

    I was dismissed from my position with a municipal utility back in February. I am an electrical engineer by profession and having a tough time finding my next job.

    Have you some means of keeping current? Will you go back to school? On-Line courses? Independent study?

    Given the speed with which your career field changes, would you advise a college age person to pursue a career in software engineering?

    I’m sure you tried to keep writing software code so as not to stray. But I bet being laid off didn’t help.

    Sincerely,
    David

  4. Dear John:

    Have you found another job since you were laid off? If so, what kind of job?

    I was dismissed from my position with a municipal utility back in February. I am an electrical engineer by profession and having a tough time finding my next job.

    Have you some means of keeping current? Will you go back to school? On-Line courses? Independent study?

    Given the speed with which your career field changes, would you advise a college age person to pursue a career in software engineering?

    I’m sure you tried to keep writing software code so as not to stray. But I bet being laid off didn’t help.

    Sincerely,
    David

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