The year 2020 so far has certainly been a less than ideal year. With a pandemic sweeping the globe, economic uncertainty looming on the horizon, and businesses oscillating between open and closed, there has never been a more important time to carefully manage an engineering career. Whether you are a seasoned professional or a recent college graduate looking at a very difficult job market, there are several things every engineer can do during this time to manage their career and make it a success.
Tip #1 – Be Proactive
When I was a young engineer working on my degree(s), I was not very proactive about my career. Coming out of school, I thought that just putting my resume out there and a few recruiters calling here and there would eventually lead to an engineering position. Nearly twenty years later, I can tell you that at least for me, getting a job through a recruiter never did pan out. The one thing that did work out though was being proactive. Once I realized that I couldn’t rely on someone else to find me the position I wanted, I identified what types of job I wanted, the skillsets and experience I needed to get that job, and then went about making sure that I had them. There are certainly people out there who have stumbled upon their dream jobs but for the rest of us, proactively managing where you want to go and how to get there is critical.
Tip #2 – Network Constantly
If there was one tip that I could share on how to manage an engineering career, it would be that you have to manage and expand your network. Now, this could come from the fact that I’m a consultant, and as a consultant networking and referrals are what generate opportunities and business. However, before I became a consultant, more than 50% of the jobs I had came from networking with colleagues. My first internship, which eventually led to my first position as an engineer for three years out of college, was acquired through my Dad networking with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. During the financial crisis in 2009, the company that I was working for went under, and while jobs were in short supply, networking with colleagues at graduate school landed me a short-term position that bridged not just the gap but started me down the road to consulting. I have an almost endless number of examples, but the point is that you never know what opportunities are out there unless you are networking with others.
Tip #3 – Stand out in a crowd
I’ve often found that in order to get a job, progress a career, or even find business opportunities you have to stand out in a crowd. There are certainly different ways to do this depending on what the end goal is, but for the general engineering looking to find a job, there are several suggestions I have. First, in order to get attention on a resume, you have to make sure that the resume looks cutting edge and that it has experiences on it that catch attention. For example, I always liked to include example projects and concisely demonstrate the value I brought that I brought to the project. Next, avoid submitting resumes to robotic systems that are designed to make you look like every other candidate. Finally, when you finally do land an interview, bring an example project to the interview and walk through the design, your processes, and your thinking. Having something on hand to discuss can stimulate the conversation and help you to stand out in a crowd.
We can’t control the macro circumstances that we often find ourselves in; However, we can take control of our careers. Being proactive, networking, and doing things that set us apart from the crowd are great ways to ensure that no matter what’s going on in the world or industry, you’ll have an engineering position that matches with what you want to be doing and leads where you want to go.
Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who currently works with clients in more than a dozen countries to dramatically transform their businesses by improving product quality, cost, and time to market. He has published more than 200 articles on embedded software development techniques, is a sought-after speaker and technical trainer, and holds three degrees which include a Master of Engineering from the University of Michigan. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, at his website www.beningo.com, and sign-up for his monthly Embedded Bytes Newsletter