There are hundreds of thousands of engineers across the world. Some of them are working on designing some of the most impressive infrastructural projects of our time, while others are concerned with building eco-friendly homes or making our cities cleaner and greener. It’s such a varied job, in fact, that it’s difficult to boil down what you’ll need to do to get into the field. There are simply so many different entry points and positions. As such, this article is all about how you can start out to become a designer. Below are tips on how you can get into this fulfilling and rewarding career.
First on your agenda should be reading about the life of an engineer. You’ll want to find out what it is that sets engineers apart from people who build homes or design buildings. You’ll also want to learn about the different roles within a single company that engineers can take and the skillsets that they ordinarily bring to the table in order to achieve their objectives. Finally, you’ll want to learn about all the different types of engineers, ranging from designing how a home should be built to those planning large infrastructure projects for your local area.
Why should you do this reading before progressing with the following steps? Well, it’s often the case that people don’t quite categorize engineers right. Without taking the time to get to grips with what stye do, how they work, and what they bring to the table in a group setting, it’s difficult to actually know whether this is a job that will suit your skills and passions. By reading up on the lives of engineers and the projects that they tend to work on, you’ll be able to confidently apply yourself to developing a career in this endlessly fascinating field.
Whether you’re at school, at college, or working in a full-time job, a decision to become an engineer means a decision to school yourself up on some of the key scientific knowledge of our era. This can be incredibly rewarding, seeing as a career in engineering means that you’re likely already to have a passion for numbers and how the natural and designed worlds actually work. As such, the first stage in getting you into a career in engineering is to define some set study areas in which you should begin purchasing books and textbooks in. For instance, revisiting your math background, and using a math puzzle book to do so, will help you with all the statistical elements of being an engineer.
But there’s more to it than pure math. Engineering is a broad tent requiring several different skills that are all trained up to a high standard. You’ll need to learn many scientific concepts that relate to how structures work and degrade. You’ll need to think about manufacturing processes and materials and how they can fit together to make perfect products and buildings. These are skills that are best taught at university or college but can still be picked up from books that introduce you to key principles in the field of engineering. If in doubt, just purchase a beginner’s engineering textbook, as this will have all the information you need to learn about the field.
Decide on a Role
While you’re picking up these first skills, it’s also wise to mull over what kind of engineer you might want to become later in life. You needn’t make a solid decision at this early stage, but it’s useful to have an idea of the general thrust you’d like your career to take. One example of this is that some engineers work on highly technical projects, which rarely see projects completed and built in the real world, while others see their creations built each and every month. Some are the number crunchers, while others are the managers, making sure that everything’s running smoothly and as it should.
If you’re interested in becoming an engineer, but you’re unsure of which role you’d like to assume in the future, that’s absolutely fine. You can always specialize later in life when you’ve gained a little experience, and you’ve learned the ropes in a generic engineering job. But if you have a sense of where you’d like your career to take you, you can study a particular course that’ll get you there quicker. If, for example, you’re looking to manage engineering projects, a master’s Engineering Management degree will help you gain all the necessary skills to take up these existing and varied projects in the future.
Some engineers choose not to get a formal qualification and instead set up in the industry as soon as possible. The problem with this approach, though, is that you may never be qualified to take on more and more responsibility on engineering projects. After all, this is a highly complex field in which due diligence and other levels of expertise are absolutely vital for the development of safe and sound projects. If you’re interested in gaining that seniority and being able to work on the most challenging and rewarding projects out there, you’re going to want to get a qualification under your belt in one form or another.
Engineering schools that can do just that for you come in many guises. There are specialist engineering centers that only train engineers in the vocational skills they’ll need to succeed, as well as universities that’ll take a broader approach to your schooling. You can study online as well as in person, and you can choose a rigid set of courses or a flexible set that fits around your lifestyle and your passions. Whatever you decide, your qualification will eventually help you achieve more exciting job roles in more exciting engineering firms.
Now that you’re applying for a position on an engineer’s course and you’re more knowledgeable about the trials and tribulations of being an engineer, it’s time to look at the importance of contacts for your development. You need to pick up skills and know-how fast in order to rapidly make it as an engineer, and the best way to do that is via tutors, mentors, teachers, and inspirational people who are always happy to take a few minutes out of their day to help you. Some people are lucky enough to have these individuals in their network already, but for most people, this is something that you work on over time, especially in the weeks and months after your decision to become an engineer.
Your first port of call when it comes to making important contacts is LinkedIn. This is the professional networking social media site upon which you’ll find hundreds of thousands of engineers at different stages of their careers. You’ll be able to link with and contact future university lecturers and the people working in the kinds of firms that you’re interested in working in yourself, either for advice or for encouragement. Make sure you’re also using these platforms whenever you meet a new engineer, linking up with them so that you can turn to them at any point with a question about the industry.
Either before you head out to get your qualifications or during the course of your study, it’s wise to try to pick up a little work experience. This might mean volunteering for free in an engineers’ office, making cups of coffee, and attending meetings that’ll show you a little about the day-to-day operations of an engineer. It might mean getting an internship for the summer at a company that’s local to you, with a small pay packet and a huge amount of important experience up for grabs. It might even mean assuming a temporary full-time position at a firm, working hard with the experience you’ve already gained from your studies.
This is a vocation that is as much about applied knowledge as it is about poring over books and equations all day, so work experience is a huge component of what’ll make you a successful and attractive hire once you graduate. Employers are looking for an individual who can hit the ground running in their jobs, even if they’ve recently graduated and might not have had much hands-on experience. That’s why you should always be on the lookout for new work experience opportunities, and you should feel bold enough to approach firms on your own, via an email and a call, asking if they might provide you with the opportunity to work with them for a set period of time.
As with any career, your first projects will define how you work and what kind of issues and problems you’re interested in solving. They’re also the first time that you’ll begin to specialize, so bear this in mind when you’re selecting your first engineering office to apply to work at. If you’re not at all interested in materials engineering, for instance, it will make little sense to join a firm that often works in that space. Still, specializing early is no bad thing if you know what you like and what you want to get out of your engineering career. Just make sure it’s offered by your first job so that you’re instantly learning about the very field that excites you the most.
Your first projects are also your first opportunity to show off your skills and your knowledge to your colleagues. This first impression is vital if you’re to be regarded as a future high-flyer or someone who might not make the grade. Make sure you’re working extra hard to make that impression as positive as possible, even if that includes pulling off the occasional overtime hour. Go the extra mile to help colleagues so that they’re fond of you and so that senior colleagues with the power to promote and reward you are given the signs that they should do just that.
When you’ve just been hired into your first engineering role, it’s easy to let others fill up your plate of work. You take tasks that you’re assigned, and you work hard to get them done to their deadlines. But if you continue to work in this way, you’ll have little say over the skills you pick up or the impact each task will have on your career. As such, it’s recommended that you instead seek opportunities to take on more responsibilities – even if it leaves you with a little too much on your plate. Try to say yes to every opportunity that you’re presented with so that you’re always regarded as a go-getter and someone who’s passionate about career development.
You should also seek out these opportunities on your own. Find a senior colleague who you trust, and approach them to see if they have interesting tasks,they’d like to delegate to you. Perform these tasks with extra care in order to encourage your managers to give you more of them in the future, based on your previous good performance. It’s this attitude that’ll help you learn and learn as you progress in engineering.
Your education in engineering rarely slows down. After the steep learning curve of actually working inside an engineer’s office, you’ll begin to learn that there are training opportunities offered to staff to help them learn new skills, onboard new knowledge, or get to grips with new software. You should always sign yourself up for these courses as a way to get to know your colleagues and to take on new skills. They’re free, after all – and they could be hugely impactful on your career.
You don’t even have to wait for training sessions to be arranged for you. You could instead ask senior managers if they offer training and mention some of the areas you’d be interested in developing for your own skill set. It’ll be even more impressive if you note that the office at large could use some extra training in a particular field, as that’ll show a commitment to the overall productivity in your office.
These tips are written for those who are interested in starting out as an engineer. Use them to get to grips with the field and to get yourself qualified and in your first job in a long and successful career.