JULY 2014 UPDATE: Since I wrote this post in October of 2013, the feedback from engineers has been amazing. This is a very long post that is meant to help you throughout your engineering career, so please bookmark this page. I have also created the following table of contents to make it easy for you to read about the topics you most need help on at this time. The original post begins immediately after the following table of contents:
The Engineer Career Guide
The One Thing You Must Do Before Developing Your Non-Technical Skills
Video 1: Setting Clearly Defined Goals
Video 2: Obtaining the Right Credentials in Your Engineering Career
Video 3: Finding a Mentor
Video 4: Become an Effective Communicator
Video 5: Networking/Building Relationships
Video 6: Being Organized and Productive
Video 7: Develop Your Leadership Abilities
Developing my non-technical skills while practicing engineering was one of the best things I have ever done in my engineering career and life. Since I started Powerful Purpose Associates in May of 2009:
- My ability to set clear goals has helped me to understand that my mission was and is to inspire engineers.
- Obtaining the right credentials in my engineering career as well as my coaching career has helped me to be able to rapidly advance my career and grow my business.
- Finding a mentor was a key component for me being able to become a partner at the age of 27 in a reputable engineering firm.
- Improving my communication skills has allowed me to write daily and weekly e-mails to engineers that inspire them to grow personally and professionally. They have also helped me write my book Engineer Your Own Success.
- Improving my public speaking skills has afforded me the opportunity to present in front of over 5,000 engineers, many of whom have told me that my talk changed their lives.
- Developing my networking skills has allowed me to build relationships that have brought me so many of the opportunities mentioned above and also so many rewarding friendships.
- Increasing my productivity has allowed me to develop the PPA, Institute for Engineering Career Development (IECD), and Engineering Career Coach (ECC) websites, all of which inspire over 1,000 engineers per day.
- Developing my leadership abilities has given me the confidence to start to coach engineers one on one and subsequently start my podcast, where I coach them on the air.
Most importantly, developing my non-technical skills has enabled me to build stronger relationships with my audience – much stronger than I could ever have done if I failed to focus on my own personal development, like many engineers do. The phrases that engineers use when they describe their experience with my coaching or one of my seminars include:
- “You have literally jump-started my engineering career in the last 60 minutes.”
- “I can’t believe that in the last 30 minutes of this phone call, my whole career plan has shifted.”
- “It was when you said [this] that I decided to take the next step in my engineering career.”
It’s incredible, and I get e-mails every single day from listeners who have taken action and are seeing results in their careers because of my free daily e-mails, my book, and now this podcast. That’s why I love what I do – engineers will listen, they will learn, and they will take action. As a coach and inspirational speaker, that’s exactly what I want people to do, and when I have direct contact with people through seminars or a podcast, the information gets right into their heads.
Do you really need me to convince you any further? Now is the time to start to develop your non-technical skills (AKA soft skills), and this post is here to help you get started. Now, about this guide…
I graduated engineering school way back in May of 2000. I entered into the world of engineering as a dazed and confused young adult. I graduated as a civil engineer, and there were so many different paths to go down, I didn’t know where to start. I had no one to turn to for advice, and I got tired and bored.
I left engineering for about six months but then decided to come back. When I did, I decided to interview successful engineers to find out how they got to where they were. I learned something very interesting. All of these successful engineers had excellent non-technical skills in addition to their technical backgrounds. This made me realize that in order to achieve great things as an engineer, I would have to do the same. Therefore, I spent the next three to four years working very hard to develop all of my non-technical skills, like communication, public speaking, networking, organizational skills, and more, as well as developing my leadership abilities.
Developing these skills changed EVERYTHING for me. I received my professional engineering license at 24 years old, largely because of my organizational skills and focus. I became the youngest engineer to make associate partner at my company, a reputable engineering firm, at the age of 27. Shortly thereafter, my company asked me to start training the other engineers in the firm on soft skill development. I loved it so much that in 2010 I left my engineering career and started helping engineers create extraordinary careers through my book, seminars, daily e-mails, blog posts, and as you can hear on my podcast, executive coaching.
I created this engineering career guide to provide engineers with steps and strategies that they can take to develop all of their non-technical skills so that they don’t have to go down the same road I went down. I figured out how to do this the hard way, and now you don’t have to. The links listed throughout this guide and the video tutorials below will give you the information you need to become a well-rounded engineer. I hope you enjoy it.
Developing your non-technical skills will not only be fun but it will also yield many opportunities for you, both personally and professionally. However, there is one thing you must do before you start this developmental process.
You must internally commit to improving, as you must do with anything that is potentially beneficial but takes some time and effort to accomplish.
You have to say to yourself:
“This is something I’m going to do regardless of how hard it may seem at times.”
It’s easy to get excited about the opportunities that will be available to you as a well-rounded engineer. The possibilities are endless, but only if you stay focused and on track.
My best advice is to enjoy every single part of your career and personal development efforts. When you start thinking “Oh no, another book or video I have to watch,” that’s when you should remember why you started developing your skills in the first place.
Results take time, so please enjoy the process.
Okay, now that you are clear on what it will take to become an extraordinary professional, here are seven video tutorials that will walk you through how to become a well-rounded engineer!
Above each video is a description, and below them is a list of links (some affiliates) to resources that can help you further develop each skill.
In this video, I discuss the importance of setting clear goals in your engineering career and also give you strategies for doing so.
Institute for Engineering Career Development Articles
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Working Less, Earning More, by Jeff Cohen
Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams, by Mike Dooley
Awaken the Giant Within, by Anthony Robbins
The Magic of Thinking Big, by David J. Schwartz
Create Your Own Future: How to Master the 12 Critical Factors of Unlimited Success, by Brian Tracy
In this video, I discuss why it is so important to obtain the right credentials, especially your professional engineering license, as early as possible in your career. I also give you tips based on strategies that I have used for passing any licensing or certification exam.
Too many engineers fail to find good mentors. In this video, I will discuss how and where to find a mentor and also how to get the most out of the mentoring relationship.
If you can’t communicate clearly, you will struggle as an engineer. In this video, I will give you strategies for developing all of your communication skills, including your public speaking skills.
Good, strong relationships will lead to opportunities in your engineering career. In this video, I will provide information on how to network effectively, with whom, and where.
Many engineers get stressed out and have absolutely no work-life balance. The reason for this is usually a lack of organization and productivity in their careers. In this video, I give some tips that I have picked up over years of studying productivity habits.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity, by David Allen
The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential in Business and Life, by Leo Babauta
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, by Timothy Ferriss
Whether you realize it or not, you are a leader. In this video, I will give you strategies for developing your leadership abilities and maintaining a positive, opportunistic outlook in your engineering career.
I truly hope you enjoyed this tutorial. I spent many hours putting it together for you, and I know it’ll help you fast-track your engineering career.
If it has helped you in any way, please do me a favor and let me know in the comments section below, and also share this tutorial using the social media buttons at the top of this post. Thank you!
Cheers, and I hope to get a chance to work with you on my podcast or through the Institute for Engineering Career Development!