8 Self-Improvement Strategies for Staying Competitive in the Workplace
Keeping current is just one way for mechanical engineers to be competitive in a demanding market.
Here are eight self-improvement strategies to keep competitive and be at the top of the game.
Although you don’t need to share them with management or human resources, think about your career path and list the goals you would like to accomplish. Develop a personal development plan to stay on course and document your progress. Define both short-term and long-term goals, map out how you will achieve them, and determine benchmarks for progress. Determine what resources or training you will need and when.
1. Define your career goals
Not only must MEs keep up with innovative technologies and best practices, they must also improve and refine their personal skills. For many engineers, these include communication, leadership, management, and other “people” skills. For technical expertise, take advantage of training resources and materials your company provides, including travel to workshops and seminars. It is especially important to stay current on new software developments.
2. Keep learning
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Learning how the business works provides a much broader perspective on the importance of cross-discipline interaction and communication. Engineers often prefer to work by themselves and do not necessarily care about the “business end” of operations. However, they will be more valued and more productive when they venture out of their siloes and collaborate with others. Seek opportunities to work with other departments, including marketing and customer service, and learn how the supply chain works.
3. Break down siloes
Mastering soft skills such as communication, collaboration, presentation, organization, and conflict management is essential for moving into leadership roles. Be an active and empathetic listener, especially in team settings, and provide effective feedback in a thoughtful and non-critical way. Refining soft skills, including problem-solving and time management, will also be helpful in how to approach projects and improve effectiveness as an ME.
4. Develop soft skills
An essential factor for self-improvement is investing in relationships, both within the company (including the C-suite) and outside (consultants, third parties, and the supply chain). Take an active approach in learning how the business works. Be sure to invest the time necessary to go beyond your own objectives and proactively interact with staff to help them with their needs. All employees should feel acknowledged, validated, and respected.
5. Invest in your relationships
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6. NetworkingNetworking is a valuable skill that keeps engineers up to date on current issues and best practices. The best place to network is at conferences, where you can meet new people, discuss new technologies, learn about job opportunities, and take back “actionable items” that can be implemented right away. Be specific about your networking goals, including the number of new connections you want to make and how many events you plan to attend.
7. Maintain positive work-life balanceA burned-out engineer can make mistakes that slow down a project, miss deadlines, and harm customer relationships and interactions with staff. This can happen in highly competitive fields like engineering, especially in challenging economic times when every eye is on the bottom line. To maintain a positive work-life balance, do not sacrifice personal time to meet unrealistic deadlines, which will give the positive outlook and energy necessary to achieve your larger goals.
8. Find your styleTo get the most out of training, select seminars and presentations that fit your style of learning. The four main types of learners are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and those who use reading and writing. Engineers are often kinesthetic learners who learn best when they can interact with training curricula or solve problems in a hands-on manner. Selecting self-improvement courses that are presented in your most effective learning style will allow you to get the most out of your training and motivate you to apply the materials in your projects.
Mark Crawford is a technology writer in Corrales, N.M.