If you are currently building an engineering career you know that most of your time is spent on projects, and phone calls, and dare I say in meetings. This leaves little time for you to focus on your career path and development. In case you weren’t aware of this, you are not the only engineer with this problem; in fact 9 out of 10 engineers that I coach, specifically identify this as their biggest problem.
So how do you overcome this challenge? I like to refer to this challenge as ‘the hamster wheel.’ You get so locked into your project-by-project, meeting-by-meeting routine that you can’t stop running on the wheel, because if you do, you fail, or at least you’ve been led to think that you do.
You need to stop running on the hamster wheel today. You need to take action that will help you grow and be able to be more proactive about your engineering career path and development. You need to take action. Most engineers don’t, therefore by doing so, you will really set yourself apart; oh and by the way you’ll have a much better career and life for it.
Here are 6 ways you can take action to start to focus more on your engineering career path and development:
- Commute Time – Most engineers spend 45 minutes minimum on their commute to work, each way. This is prime time for focusing on your engineering career development and also your personal development. You can spend this time listening to audiobooks or podcasts. This is one of the reasons we started The Engineering Career Coach podcast – engineers requested it for their commute! Click here if you are not sure what a podcast is and how to listen to one.
- Mentor – In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of successful engineers out there. Wouldn’t it be awesome if one or more of them advised you in your career? Well, it’s possible. Put in the time and effort in to find a mentor that can help you achieve your goals faster. Click here for an entire podcast we did previously on this topic.
- Engineering Career Coach – Consider hiring an engineering career coach to help you get focused on your goals and actually make sure that you are pursuing the goals that are truly important to you! I know we provide engineering career coaching services here, but I am not trying to sell you on us. I just want to sell you on the idea of coaching period. A coach is someone who can give you an unbiased perspective on where you are, help you figure out where you truly want to go, and then help you put together a plan to achieve it. Michael Jordan made it pretty clear that even though he was the best player on the court, without a great coach in Phil Jackson, he would not have won all of those championships. No one builds an extraordinary engineering career alone, so don’t try to.
- Community – Let’s face it, it is really hard to do anything alone. I work a lot on my own throughout the course of the day, but I always look for other people to bounce ideas off of and gain support, especially when I am working on challenging and stressful projects. Who supports you in your engineering career? Consider finding some type of support group, whether it is a professional association, an engineering career community, or another group that offers support. Again, no one builds an extraordinary engineering career alone.
- Journal – Another powerful development activity is journaling. No I don’t mean filling out your time sheet each day. I mean writing down some of the good and bad things that happened throughout the course of your day so that you can learn from them. I recently started using a journal called, The 5-Minute Journal, and it has been really helpful for me in trying to notice the positive things in life and learn from the negative/challenging ones.
- Gym – Many engineers tell me that they are too busy with work to go to the gym on a regular basis, or workout at all for that matter. What these engineers don’t realize is that, by taking some time to work out during the day, they would actually be more productive in the hours that they are working and feel much better. If you are struggling to fit physical activity into your day, try some of these tactics:
- Listen to a podcast while working out
- Take a walk during your lunch break to give your eyes and shoulders a rest
- If there is something you have wanted to learn for a while (i.e another language) listen to an audio-course while lifting weights
- Take a walk at a designated time of the day and make phone calls during the walk
These are all tactics that I employ regularly, and the bottom line is your physical health will directly affect your productive output.
A lot of engineers are stuck in a hamster wheel, taking action only on their jobs and not on themselves. By following some of these recommendations, you can stop the hamster wheel and focus more on your own engineering career and life.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
The Engineering Career Coach
Author of Engineer Your Own Success