Career Advice from the Pros

December 10, 2009

On November 12, I posed a number of questions that students and young engineers asked during the early career transition session at the ASCE Annual Conference. I promised to address some of those in the coming weeks, though I didn’t really have the answers at hand. So I enlisted the help of the engineers participating in the ASCE Linked-In group. Starting a discussion on Linked-In results in an email flash being sent to thousands of participants. The response to the following question about career advice sparked a number of responses.

In light of increasing competition in the workforce, what questions or suggestions do you have about succeeding during the early career transition from school to work?

Anthony Fasano, civil engineer & career development coach, was the first to respond. His emphasis on communications and networking was echoed by many others.

I do a lot of career development talks for engineers and I believe one thing that is critical for engineers is networking. Building relationships. Engineers get this idea out of school that they don’t have to network, the more experienced people do that. That is a bad attitude. Your rolodex is directly related to your career advancement. Get out there and meet people, join groups and societies. The more people you meet and get to know, the more enjoyable and more successful your career will be!

Anne Wenski, a human resources expert, added some specific steps that you can take:

Join in-transition groups, industry groups etc. Make up some generic business cards and pass them out. Let people know you are looking and available.

Dan Barr, design engineer, emphasized that your technical knowledge is launching pad for your career.

Keep reading and learning. The faster you can market your expertise the better! Start looking to present at conferences and publish in society publications as soon as you can.

Thomas Murphy, project manager, pointed out that communication skills will really set you apart.

…for entry level positions we know the candidate has the engineering knowledge, having received a degree, and we will train him or her in our processes, what sets young engineers apart from the “pack” is writing and communication abilities. …give me a candidate who can write, I’ll train them in the engineering.

Finally, Becky Waldrup (ASCE), explained the value of ASCE Younge Member Groups and how they can help you develop and practice the skills listed above.

If there is an ASCE Younger Members Group associated with a nearby ASCE section or branch, it would be good to get involved to develop networking and leadership skills within that group. The key is to get involved, not just attend meetings. Google your state and ASCE, and you should be able to find a link to the section that should have a link to the YMG. Attend some meetings to find out what’s going on and then volunteer for a committee or to help with one of their events.

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