By Kevin Howell
If you’re a college student getting ready to launch your career in engineering, it’s an exciting time. You’ve spent four years working hard inside and outside the classroom on course work, projects, and internships, but now it’s time to get out there in the real world and put your knowledge to work…and make some money.
What you learned in the classroom is valuable, but there’s much more to know before joining the workforce—things that weren’t covered in your textbooks. Here are some tips to kick-start your career and keep you ahead of the pack.
- Ask Questions
You don’t know it all, and no one expects you to know it all. Engineering is a competitive field, but that doesn’t mean your co-workers aren’t willing to help you. If you just try to figure everything out on your own, you waste valuable time. If you’re not sure, or even if you’re just curious about something, ask!
There is no such thing as a stupid question. All great technological innovation began with questions. Questions—even basic ones—can help improve products, design, and function. And they help you accelerate your growth. So ask away!
- Be Versatile
Engineering is a vast field, make it your playground. Don’t limit yourself to your particular discipline or expertise. The tech world is always changing, which means your position and industry will evolve. Learn new technologies and dabble in other areas to expand your skillset.
- Be Personable
Though engineers tend to be very technical and focused, it doesn’t mean they aren’t personable. Having good people skills goes a long way in advancing in your field. You constantly have to work in teams to resolve issues, find solutions, and deal with conflicting needs. It’s important to be able to manage different personalities and communicate effectively.
- Get a Mentor
You should have a mentor by now, but if not, make sure you find one. Mentors are critical to call on for advice and guidance throughout your career, particularly in the early stages as you navigate unchartered territory.
Make sure you find someone who inspires you, challenges you, and is available.
- Experiment at Home
Don’t be limited to your work at the office. Engineers’ minds never shut down. Let your creativity and problem solving continue outside work. Most employers will be happy to know you don’t stop learning and experimenting at 5 p.m.
Starting your career is an exciting time. Whether you land a job at the company of your dreams, or you join a promising startup, make sure you apply these tips so you can climb the ladder and accelerate your career.
Are looking to use your creativity to solve problems and help others. Check EPICS in IEEE for ways to apply your skills to community service projects.