By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Are you stuck in a rut? Do you feel under-challenged and unfilled? If it seems like your engineering career has hit a plateau, here are six activities to get you moving forward again. In fact, proactively engaging in one or more of these activities can broaden your skill set and give you the tools to conquer looming mid-career challenges before gridlock sets in.
Survey the Landscape
“Feeling stuck is a state of mind,” explains Clementina Esposito, a career advisor and founder of the Clementina Collective. It happens when you lose touch with the market and focus on your prior achievements – instead of where you’re headed.
“It’s easy to put blinders on when you’re working hard every day,” admitted Don Gallagher, who worked as a mechanical engineer for over 20 years before he founded EngineeringCareerLauncher.com. He says, “Going on informational interviews with people inside and outside your company can help you understand what they do and discover new career tracks and opportunities to use your current skills.”
Set up job search agents and read a few ads every day to see what else is out there. Being cognizant of the job market, and networking, can help you develop a forward-looking perspective.
According to Esposito, “Most engineers have the intellect and skills to make a mid-career move, they just need a nudge in the right direction.”
Transitioning into a different role along the R&D chain can breathe new life into your psyche and engineering career. Or, consider moving to a smaller company where you can be involved in everything from design and development to testing. Job rotation can enhance your resume and give you a broader understanding of the R&D process.
Learn to Sell
You don’t have to become a solicitor to open the door of opportunity. Understanding the sales process can give you the confidence to interface with clients or even move into a role in sales engineering. Truthfully, sales skills can help you become a better negotiator and communicator, whether you want to remain in a technical position or move up a different ladder. As Jeff Haden noted in Inc., “Go learn how to sell. It’s the best investment you will ever make.”
Take an Engineering Management Course
While earning an MBA might be a smart move for mid-level engineering managers looking to advance their careers, an advanced degree requires time and money. Simply taking a few management courses can help you master career-enhancing competencies such as budgeting, planning and communications. Plus, adding formal business training to your repertoire can improve your performance and morale, and broaden your perspective of the engineering profession.
Donating a few hours each week to providing remote solutions to engineering problems in developing countries can give you a sense of fulfillment and purpose, especially if your current role doesn’t utilize all of your engineering talents and interests. Strategic volunteering is a great way to expand your network and dust off seldom-used skills.
Become a Visible Expert
If you like the technical aspects and financial rewards of engineering, take your career and enjoyment to the next level by becoming a visible expert. Visible experts practice their craft but they elevate their perceived value in the marketplace by blogging, speaking, recording informative videos and/or volunteering to teach a class.
According to Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., author of a recent study on the benefits of being a visible expert, “By making your knowledge and educational ability accessible online, you can join the industry conversation, make it easier for prospects to find you on search engines and perhaps help them solve problems before you even speak with them.”
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