Career advice for engineers: 12 tips for engineering success

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Starting a career as an engineer can be challenging but rewarding and reading career advice can help maximise your potential in the field. Many engineers use and share tips to develop strong skill sets and build their personal brand as industry experts. If you're transitioning to engineering or want to improve as an engineer, it might be beneficial to find inspiration this way. In this article, we share career advice for engineers that you can use to build your professional expertise.

What is an engineer?

An engineer is a professional who designs, creates and maintains technology. These professionals use maths and science to solve day-to-day problems on behalf of their employers and engineering teams. For instance, engineers working for home appliance companies create new technology, including physical appliances and digital systems, that improve how people perform their daily activities, like keeping their homes clean. After designing and developing a solution, engineers create prototypes and work to fix any issues that surface during testing. Engineers also:

  • design blueprints

  • determine project specifications

  • estimate timelines and budgets

  • collaborate with other engineers

  • research new technology

  • oversee production processes

Related: 9 engineer career change jobs (with duties and salary info)

Career advice for engineers

As an engineer, your primary concern at work is to find the most effective and efficient solutions to design and technological challenges. To make sure you keep expanding your knowledge and build strong expertise, it's essential that you also spend some time advancing your career. Here are some useful tips that can help you with that:

1. Pursue your passion to find a purpose

Being truly passionate about your field is highly valuable, as it helps you be more motivated and persistent in achieving your goals. To determine what interests you most about engineering, it's helpful to gain experience working on different projects or even in different roles within the department. This is especially important in engineering, which is a highly broad industry with almost limitless opportunities for ambitious professionals. Learning through experience allows you to test different activities and find the one that brings you the most joy.

Related: How to find jobs with a purpose (with careers and skills)

2. Accept failure and move on

The most successful engineers aren't people who get everything right on the first try but those who never stop trying to achieve their goals and improve their inventions. The sooner you accept that failure is a natural element of the profession, the more different approaches you can try. When you're learning to cope with failure, remember to embrace your emotions and see each failure as a growth opportunity. It's important that you analyse what went wrong and remember not to make the same mistake again.

Related: Interview question 'tell me about a time when you failed'

3. Work with a mentor

If you have ambitious goals for the future, working with a mentor can help you achieve them in less time. Becoming a mentee can be a valuable experience for you whether you're new to the profession or you have some experience as an engineer. After joining a mentorship programme, you'd have a chance to get to know an experienced engineer who'd offer you support, representation and guidance. It's easier to network with others in the field and secure attractive work opportunities when you have a mentor who can share insight into the most valuable industry events and practices with you.

Related: How to find a mentor: a useful step-by-step guide

4. Never stop learning

Engineering is a continuously evolving field, as there are new inventions and industry standards appearing every month. To keep up with these standards, it's essential that you keep practising and learning. This can be in a form of self-learning, personal research projects or on-the-job training that your employer offers. To improve your knowledge, you might participate in engineering workshops that handle projects outside your current field.

5. Build strong professional relationships

Although working as an engineer requires you to complete many tasks independently, building strong relationships with colleagues is essential for success in the field. When you intentionally get to know the people you work with, you discover how their goals, desires and challenges differ from what you've been experiencing. This can help you look at life and professional challenges from a different perspective, helping you improve your social skills and awareness.

Related: A detailed guide to relationship building in the workplace

6. Build a portfolio

If you already have some years of experience as an engineer, you're likely to have some notable accomplishments. In addition to mentioning them in your CV, consider presenting them in a portfolio, which allows you to share more insight into each design or product with prospective employers. Thanks to developing a portfolio, updating it regularly and making it accessible to others in the field, you can also build a successful personal brand. Making your successes public and positioning yourself as an engineering expert allows you to inspire others who've just entered the industry.

Related: What is a portfolio? Tips and guidelines to create one

7. Create a career plan and remain flexible

Having a detailed career plan allows you to maintain your focus. It also serves as a guide that helps you determine which skills and professional abilities to develop to increase your chances of success in engineering. When implementing the plan, make sure to remain flexible, which is especially important if you have ambitious goals that require long-term efforts. Thanks to the flexibility, you can easily react to any unexpected challenges by adjusting your path accordingly so that you can still reach your goals.

Related: What is a career plan? (Plus how to create one in 8 steps)

8. Make time for networking

Networking is one of the most effective ways to understand the field, discover new opportunities and advance your career. To network, you can attend industry conferences and other events, join professional organisations or stay in contact with your former classmates and colleagues. It's also helpful to join professional networking platforms, which allow you to virtually interact with engineers from other countries.

Related: What are networking events? (With definition and types)

9. Work on your business skills

To improve your employability and make yourself a valuable addition to any organisation, it's helpful to develop business skills. By doing this, you can go beyond the field of engineering and contribute to projects with strong strategic thinking and expertise in company operations. Familiarising yourself with business regulations and standards can also help you in the future if starting your own engineering company is one of your long-term goals.

Read more: 11 essential business skills every professional requires

10. Choose your leadership style

As you gain experience as an engineer, you may have the option to lead projects or entire engineering teams. Working on your leadership skills in advance makes it possible to become a thoughtful and supportive supervisor. It also allows you to define and strengthen your leadership style, as there are many ways in which you'd lead a team and each has its unique advantages.

Related: 13 leadership styles and their characteristics

11. Teach others

Sharing your expertise with others with less experience as engineers can be a valuable experience. It may also serve to help you further explore your purpose as a professional. There are different ways in which you can teach others. For example, you may decide to stay at the university as a lecturer or conduct training for interns and junior engineers in your workplace. It's also possible to teach people online, for instance, through recording and releasing online courses or e-books.

12. Take on new responsibilities

If you want to advance within the field, take on new responsibilities. As an engineer, your employer typically assigns you tasks. To reflect your professional growth, you can ask for additional or more advanced duties. By demonstrating to your manager that you invest in strengthening your skills, you present yourself as an ambitious and proactive engineer. It also helps you expand your CV while staying with the same employer.

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