Make a career plan to reduce stress

Engineers know how to solve other people's challenges, but planning their own careers often falls through the cracks. Engineers need to make a career mission statement, consider career paths and goals, then create an action plan. Doing so ensures progress toward goals, a better life balance, and less stress, according to career consultant—and engineer—John A.

08/01/1998


Engineers know how to solve other people's challenges, but planning their own careers often falls through the cracks. Engineers need to make a career mission statement, consider career paths and goals, then create an action plan. Doing so ensures progress toward goals, a better life balance, and less stress, according to career consultant—and engineer—John A. Hoschette.

Mr. Hoschette—who has guided engineers with career advice at various forums, including the recent Sensors Expo in San Jose, Calif.—says, "Identifying personal values in an engineer's career helps reduce stress."

Mr. Hoschette recommends updating a career strategic plan at least once a year. Doing so increases fulfillment and sense of purpose, serves as a shock absorber during setbacks, such as a layoff, and provides a way to reach dreams and goals.

Engineers have an ever-increasing need to pay attention, he says. The half-life to knowledge obsolescence in engineering has moved from 20 years in the 1950s and 60s to five to seven years now.

Warning signs showing an especially clear need for a plan include:

  • Reaching a career plateau;

  • Measuring self-worth via company-measured validation;

  • Declining or poor performance;

  • Increasing stress; and

  • Feeling anger, sarcasm, or cynicism very quickly in most situations.

Life stresses extend beyond the workplace; factors include job level, age, children or elder care, and other factors. "There are a lot of ways to reduce stress, such as exercise, etc., but having a career plan helps." Find the time by surrendering lunch time, television, or other "free" time.

Developing a career mission statement starts with some self evaluation and reflection about life priorities, writing and revising the mission statement, creating an action plan, and acting on it. It takes about two weeks to develop a good plan, including revisions.

The first step is examining personal and work-related principles and values to understand what's important at the core, citing Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People . Personal principles and values to prioritize include religion, spouse, family, friends, possessions, and money. Work principles and values include technical excellence, growing and learning, power and status, helping others, and self and company interests.

"Everyone's different, but experts on this say people with priorities of spirituality, family/ spouse, self (including health, exercise, and education), all before work results in the healthiest, happiest, and longest living people." Knowing these priorities help people balance the success equation. They also help in creating balance among personal likes and interests, company needs, family, and economic considerations. At certain times, some priorities may supplant others. Getting a masters degree may require "trading in the family for awhile," Mr. Hoschette explains, drawing from personal experience.

Development goals might include publishing a paper, getting a patent, becoming active in an industry association or society. Documenting project achievement through a memo can help. Goals might include upgrading skills; actions would include actually signing up for a course, or volunteering in a project away from work to test and hone those new-found skills.

"Make the plan, fill it out, put it up behind your computer. If you don't plan to change, you'll be in the same situation next year."

John A. Hoschette is the author of "Career Advancement and Survival for Engineers," published by John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York, New York. For more information about CTS Group (San Jose, Calif.) seminars, visit www.controleng.com/info


Author Information

Mark T. Hoske, managing editor mhoske@cahners.com




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