One of the main benefits people want out of their careers is the opportunity for progression. Not only can this offer the potential of better salaries, but more importantly, it’s a chance to push yourself and keep your job interesting through these challenges.
Working in engineering can be an exciting career regardless of your level of expertise, but one of the big draws to a career in this field is that there is a lot of variety and chances to move up the career ladder.
Although there are different roles to explore, if you are someone who would like to take on the responsibilities of leadership, you might have already been considering the different approaches to moving into a leadership role as an engineer.
However, before you take these next steps, it’s important to determine whether or not you are ready to take the leap, and below are a few key considerations to think about before you do start putting your career plans in motion.
How Much Previous Experience Do You Have?
With many talented engineers working in the field, you will already have a lot of competition, even for entry-level positions. If you want to move into more senior roles, you can’t expect to do this with minimal experience. Taking on leadership roles will require you to have patience, and this means the willingness to work in entry and mid-level roles for a few years before you can step up to positions like a project manager or even running a business yourself if this is a pursuit you are interested in.
If you want to try and accelerate this process, you can always ask your current managers and team leaders for more responsibility at work to gain more hands-on experience. This will not only help you develop your engineering skills, but it can also show that you are dedicated to your career and have the ambition to move into more challenging roles.
Are You a Good Team Player?
While there will be times when you work alone in engineering, for the most part, there is a lot of interacting with other members of your team to complete a project – and perhaps even liaising with clients, depending on what your current position is.
Thus, if you want to be a leader in engineering someday, one of the key traits you’ll need to have is the ability to work well within a team. This includes the ability to boost morale, communicate effectively with others, and be reliable when it comes to time management, organization, and the quality of the work that you deliver.
You’ll need to be approachable and be able to form friendly relationships with your colleagues as this will help to create a more positive professional environment. It can also help you gain respect from your colleagues, which is essential if you are interested in leading a team.
Do You Have Good Leadership Skills?
These skills will be tested if you move into a leadership role, but you should think about whether or not you already have these in place before you apply. Being a manager or working in another senior role will be different from previous positions in your team, as you will be the one to set the example when it comes to working ethic and resolving issues – not only within the project but any possible conflicts between your team members as well.
You’ll also be working more closely with clients and other senior members of the company, having to answer their queries and even sharing your ideas on how to increase productivity and efficiency. If you are someone who tends to shy away from being in the spotlight, or you struggle to work under pressure, you will need to improve these weaknesses before you start applying for leadership roles, as they will come with bigger responsibilities. Plus, the good news is this: you can learn and develop leadership skills and confidence, even if you’re not a born leader yourself.
Are You Prepared to Keep Learning?
When working as an engineer, a willingness and desire to keep learning are important regardless of your position, as this is an industry that is all about development and innovation. This is more prevalent, however, if you are interested in becoming a leader, as your teams will look to you for inspiration and guidance.
Furthermore, if you want to set your sights higher and become one of the most innovative voices in your field, your dedication to education and developing your skills is a must. There are several ways you can continue to learn more about engineering and your role within the field, for example, by teaching yourself new skills at home in your spare time.
There may also be short training courses you can get involved with or educational conferences you can attend. You could even consider returning to college to study, and the best part about university in the modern day is that you can even get degrees and higher qualifications online, such as an online master’s in engineering management or another area that you are interested in specializing in.
Remote learning routes like these are very convenient for those working in engineering who don’t necessarily want to take time out of their jobs to pursue a degree program; they can simply study in their free time and complete their qualification at their own leisure, which the typical college route doesn’t always allow.
Other ways you can continue to expand your knowledge include reading reputable engineering publications, as they will often share stories about new developments in the field and have interviews with experts and other leaders in the industry. This could help keep you updated with what is going on in the engineering sector, and you can apply this knowledge to your work practices when appropriate.
Would You Be Willing to Relocate for a Job?
This won’t always be an issue that you need to worry about; you may find that a leadership position comes up within the company you already work at or at another engineering firm in your local area. Nonetheless, it is worth considering whether or not you would be willing to relocate if this was the only opportunity that presented itself, or even if this position would ask you to temporarily be posted in another part of the country or the world – it happens.
For some, the idea of moving to new places can be exciting, but others might have family commitments or other reasons not to do this. While this doesn’t always impact your ability to be a good leader, if you are serious about taking on these bigger responsibilities and moving into this kind of job role, you might need to be prepared to make some sacrifices of this nature for the right opportunity.
Are You Able to See the Bigger Picture?
Another quality that great leaders need is to have the ability to see the bigger picture. Problem-solving is a big part of being a good engineer, but it can be hard sometimes to see things from different perspectives to find the right resolution.
This is a skill you will need to develop and refine before you move into leadership roles, as not only will you have to apply this to the various projects you will be working on, but also when it comes to managing your teams and even dealing with your clients.
Seeing issues from other people’s perspectives can help you find better resolutions that will keep everyone happy and even improve the results of your projects. If you are someone who often gets tunnel vision and can be stubborn about this, you might find that you struggle to be an effective leader that is respected by your colleagues.
Can You Relinquish Control?
This question might sound odd since moving into leadership roles often means more control and responsibility; however, this point actually refers to your ability to delegate tasks and avoid becoming a micro-manager. Although the pressure to get projects right, keep to strict deadlines, and meet clients’ and your boss’s expectations can be high, if you are a leader that breathes down the necks of your team members and colleagues, this can be detrimental to the process.
While you do need to make sure you are overseeing projects and ensuring your team members are doing the work, you will also need to be able to take a step back and trust their abilities. You’ll also need to recognize when it is the right time to reward individuals in your team and allow them to take on more responsibility for their career progression as well. Remember, you aren’t able to do everything, and many talented people who work with you also deserve an opportunity to shine and prove their worth – a good leader acknowledges and facilitates this.
Engineering can be a very interesting career, and it certainly can offer a lot of progression opportunities, including revered leadership roles. It is good to have ambitions to move on and become an inspiring leader in your field, but it’s also crucial to recognize that not everyone is cut out for these positions.
Therefore, if you are considering engineering leadership as your future career path, do ask yourself the questions listed above to help you decide whether this could be the right choice for you, and also if you are ready at this time to take all the necessary next steps to make your career move a reality.