Seven Key Principles to Advance Your Career Beyond Boredom
According to recent reports, people on average change jobs at least 12 times in their lives.
According to the latest numbers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the mechanical engineering industry will fare well through 2030 by experiencing a 7 percent growth of jobs. Which means a little over 20,000 people will gain employment in this time. Not all of these numbers are about entry-level positions; instead, some employment changes are about people advancing in their careers.
When it comes to making a change in the work life, having the desire is the first step. Motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar once said, “Unless you have definite, precise, clearly set goals, you are not going to realize the maximum potential that lies within you.” Simply put, it’s not enough to want change; instead, you must make that happen.
For most people, being in the middle of your career can seem like one long siege. You have hit your expertise stride as the “senior” member of the team, yet you continually ask: “Is this all there is?” When you get to this place, it’s important to re-examine your definition of success.
At different stages of life, success changes. You used to define it as being part of the C-Suite, now maybe it means being really present with family. Perhaps you truly enjoy mentorship, or you see a new trajectory that doesn’t include going into an office at all.
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Decide where you want to be in your career in a year, five years, and in 10 years. Speak to people who are doing what you want to do and ask how they got there. Then, devise a plan and carry it out.
Advocate for Yourself
Back in the day, this was about asking for a raise. Today, it’s about visualizing a new position: Your company is expanding and you see a place where your talents can easily add to the change. Ask to be part of the change. Seek the department supervisor, and talk yourself into a role that either exists or will exist with you in it.
Ask for feedback about job performance. Sometimes, here is where you find answers as to why you aren’t advancing. Hear the truth and adjust accordingly. Ultimately, position yourself in a way in which advancement looks good on you.
Seek a Mentor
No one ever outgrows needing a guide. Select someone whom you respect both as a more senior-level colleague and as a person. Then, catch coffee with them. Listen to their story. Allow them to ask hard questions that you may not have all the answers for at the time, but those questions make you push your career vision. Allowing them to challenge you in this way will help you solidify what you want and what you are willing to do to get it.
Take a Meeting
Informational meetings are often a little used tool. Here, you research what excites you and find the people who are doing this. Next, take a meeting. Let them know upfront you are really seeking information. Then, treat this like a job interview. Be relaxed. Ask questions about their job path. What they like about their position and possibly what you need to do to make the switch.
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Rotate to a Different Department
Perhaps you’ve found a supervisor and department that excites you more than what you are currently doing. Speak with that supervisor. Are there any projects you can join? Ask how your skills could be an asset to that department. Be ready to hear that perhaps your experience may lack precision in a few areas that is vital to that department. Then, be ready to dial up your skills.
Dial Up Your Skills
Take advantage of what your company offers. If you are considering a new degree or certification, decide how you will use it. Many companies encourage their employees to take self-directed learning (SDL) courses as found on several engineering platforms, including ASME. In addition to the core engineering courses, sharpen your communication, presentation, and negotiation skills. These skills — no matter the position — will set you apart from others who are looking for leadership opportunities.
Perhaps you’ve looked around your place of business and realize, you just don’t want to be there anymore. Now what? Turn to your network and flip your social media likes into real relationships. Reach out. See who is doing what. Ask meaningful questions about how to seek a new path. Offer expertise on their pages. Don’t forget to join professional organizations and engage in networking sessions through your former colleges. Bottom line: massage connections until they become truly meaningful.
Advancing your career doesn’t happen overnight. It takes careful thought, a devised plan, and the courage to fulfill that plan until the desired goals are met. Use these tips as a way to push yourself to the next level. You’ll be glad you did.
Nichole M. Palmer is an independent writer in Charlotte, N.C.