Advice from the Control Engineering salary and career survey, 2014

Of 880 taking the 2014 Control Engineering salary and career survey, 525 offered advice, some of which is offered here to help engineers better succeed in their careers.

By Control Engineering May 8, 2014

A full 60% those taking the 2014 Control Engineering salary and career survey offered "engineering career-related advice" to others. Of the 525 offering advice, 261 offered workplace strategy advice, 235 offered advice related to education, 82 attitude-related advice, and 32 communication advice. (Some advice covered more than one category.) Some advice appears in the main article, "Control Engineering salary and career survey, 2014." More follows below.

Workplace strategy advice for engineers

1. People skills, emotional intelligence and multi-cultural awareness are more important than ever. 2. Engineering and is a great and rewarding career choice. 3. Lifelong learning is absolutely essential. 4. You must understand the business you are in to select and apply the right technology and the appropriate level of automation. 5. Think for yourself. Don’t make a decision strictly based on "industry trends" or the latest fads.

Specialize in a rare or emerging service or skill, diversify in common services or skills to make yourself marketable and available for continual work.

The skills and discipline required to learn engineering are transferrable to other functions. Learn to play well with others. Understand their involvement in the overall process/supply chain and effectively communicate your requirements and observations.

The trend now is on robotics and engineering.

Stay current with automation advances. Be flexible.

Network with all professionals, even those not in your field. Gain proficiency at tasks that are weaknesses within your company. Never stop learning; engineering education provides fundamental skills only. Constantly strive to break into new skills and areas of expertise. In the end, they all relate into a cohesive resource, no matter how they differentiate from each other.

Do not become locked in your thoughts; always look to adapt and remain open to ideas and thoughts that may not seem practical at first.

Don’t shy away from challenges and don’t be overly discouraged if some things don’t work as well as planned or desired. Use every experience as a learning opportunity, learn from them (good or bad), and move on to the next challenge.

Work hard, try to manufacture the products we design in the U.S.; we need the jobs. While designing products, look at different types of processes, tooling, and automation so that the products can be competitively manufactured in the USA.

We need to fight FOR manufacturing in the United States.

When choosing a company to work for, be sure to do your homework on the company’s background, management style, mission statement, and direction. Look at where their assets lie and how they plan to grow and keep up with demands.

Work to make yourself "indispensable" in whatever position you are in. Broaden your expertise in "other" areas if offered the opportunity or volunteer for the opportunity.

When your leadership is close-minded to implementing and taking advantage of new technologies, be aware that it won’t be long before some other organization will, or has already. I’ve ridden the waves of five international employers that no longer exist-because they had no insight, or because they acted too late.

Stay vigilant throughout your career with your manager and human resource personnel to determine how you’re performing compared to their expectations. And also inquire about what future they see for you as an employee and what skills, if any, need to be reinforced to get to the next level.

Maximize your 401k savings.

Education advice for engineers

Cross train at every opportunity. The broader your knowledge base, the more valuable you will be to your company and the more career leverage you will wield.

Keep honing engineering skills but also be fluent in business processes and marketing. Keep your eye on the bottom line and consider how your activity can improve profitability.

Get project management skills mastered early in your career.

Always look to educate yourself on the latest technology, make yourself invaluable. I had a client’s manager tell me, just before they had laid him off, that he wished that he had done more to keep up with training. Had he done more to keep his skills current, he might have kept his position.

Love to learn. If you don’t, you will be left behind.

Get real-world experience (hands on)!

Join an engineering society and complete your professional certification; it’s about more than just holding down a job.

Get involved in code and regulatory development. Don’t leave these requirements to a limited few with self-profit motives.

Get out on the floor and learn from your operators. No matter how much you study the process, they will nearly always be more in tune with the nuances of the process. They may not have the words to communicate their thoughts effectively, but they most assuredly have experiences that you can learn from.

Listen to your mentors. Learn 3D design software.

Attitude advice for engineers

Love your job.

Keep focused and resolve issues using all aspects of problem solving.

Pick an area you really love, because it can be a frustrating career path. Being good technically is only half the story. There are so many ways to fail, and so few ways to succeed. It will keep you humble.

Realize that you have more to learn and can always improve, regardless of how much experience you have. Keep a positive attitude and treat others with the same respect you want to receive and you’ll get a lot of positive outcomes.

Be flexible.

Be open-minded.

Work hard.

Work hard and look for a mentor.

Work on training your replacement every day.

Work on your life outside of work.

Communication advice for engineers

The work can be stressful at times but also rewarding. The main two components are to take care of the details and to maintain professional contacts with whom you can discuss current projects and trade advice.

Engineers need to focus on communications! We need to be compassionate, listen to what the other person has to say, and try to do what they want within the confines of our professional ethics.

Ensure you learn to be a functioning team member with strong communication skills.

Establish personal relationships with peers and vendors.

Do not lock yourself into a specific branch of a discipline, be flexible. Enhance your written and verbal communications skills.

Make sure that you always market yourself. It is of no use being good if nobody else knows about it. Waiting to get recognized and hoping to get rewarded waste time.

Know your material and how to market yourself. It is not what you know (how smart you are) as much as how you can communicate with others as needed to be effective.

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