4 ways to advance your engineering career

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Developing your people skills is essential in advancing your engineering career. (Shutterstock)

Everyone dreams of advancing in their careers, and engineers are no exception. Whether you are a recent graduate, who’s just entered the job market, or you've been working in the engineering sector for a few years and you have your sights set on the corner office, you have a goal and are taking steps to achieve it.

Although time is an important factor when it comes to moving forward in your engineering career, there are some things you can do to speed up the process. By building your skills and making yourself visible in your organisation, you will put yourself in a better position for a promotion sooner.

Consider these tips to help you along the way:

1. Get an advanced degree

Earning a master's degree in any field can provide a career boost, but in engineering, it's rapidly becoming a requirement for any type of career momentum. In fact, some employers view a bachelor's degree as a "starter degree" and expect their employees to earn a master's degree within a few years of starting work.

The push for more educated engineers isn't only coming from employers, though. Several major industry groups have called for engineers to earn a master's degree as the basic credential for gaining licensure in the field. They note that even as technology has advanced considerably, the number of credits required to earn an engineering bachelor's degree has decreased. The result, industry leaders argue, is a workforce that is unprepared for the complexities of today's engineering environment. While opponents argue that such a requirement could drive people away from the field, the consensus is that engineers need to get advanced degrees, either in-person or via an online engineering program.

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2. Develop your soft skills

Technical skills are always important for career mobility, but your "people skills" will also take you far. In fact, many leaders report being reluctant to promote very technically competent engineers who have trouble getting along with others, communicating, listening, or demonstrating emotional intelligence. Engineers often must work with diverse groups from other engineers who have similar backgrounds to those who don't have any background in engineering, as well as professionals from other disciplines (i.e. accounting, finance, public relations, etc.). Being able to get along and work well with others is important to career success.

3. Network

Networking is important in any field, and engineering is no exception. Reach out to your colleagues, and find mentors or coaches who will be willing to help you grow in your role. Join industry groups, where you will not only find other individuals who work in your field, but gain access to events, conferences, and other resources that may be invaluable to your success. By maintaining relationships, you raise your profile, and may even learn about new opportunities that you might not have otherwise.

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4. Be bold and ask for opportunities

Finally, one of the best ways to get ahead is to simply ask for new opportunities. Many successful engineers will tell you that they got where they are by taking a chance and asking to work on a project team, even just as an observer. Stay alert for opportunities that are in line with your goals, and don't be afraid to ask for the chance to try something new. The worst your boss can say is no, but no matter the outcome, by taking initiative and going after what you want, you're showing your commitment to your career and ambition — and that will take you places.

Again, it often just takes time and a track record of good work to move into positions with more responsibility and better pay. But by being proactive about your career, you'll likely move faster, and be irresistible to employers.

Tiffany Rowe is a writer for Seek Visibility, contributing regularly to Careers24’s career advice section, with a focus on the finance sector. She is passionate about developing content and relationship across multiple platforms and audiences.

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