The Abbreviated Guide to New Years for Enginerds

January 24, 2015

Happy New Year!

Sketch hourglass

All images ©MWH

One end-of-year poll found that 72% of Americans who made a new year’s resolution claimed they kept it.  Not bad considering most resolutions focus on improving oneself or one’s life. With odds like this, I argue that it’s a great time to consider putting a professional resolution (or two) into place and maximize the time you’ve got in 2015!

As young engineers, the new year’s beginning is a great time to consider some of our career goals:

  • Will you develop an abstract to submit to a conference?
  • Is your job helping you live out your true principles and values?  If not, what are you going to do about it?
  • Will you make it a priority to find a new, meaningful way to get involved in your community?
  • How could you encourage young minds to consider engineering as a career path?
  • Do you want to go for a promotion this year?

No matter what goals you’re considering, time is an important aspect.  As you chart out your path forward, chances are some goals have a short time frame, but others will take a while, perhaps even requiring a long term plan broken into tasks and sub-tasks to achieve the larger goal. Research shows that writing down your goal and setting a reasonable deadline for completion improves your chances of success.  So start by putting pencil to paper.  It will contribute to your long-term success if you take some time alone to meditate on your aspirations and scribe them

We’ve got obstacles, though. Modern technology can make us feel as though we’re always on the clock. You drive and answer texts using Siri. Instead of just checking email on your computer at work, you’re checking it during your off hours on your smart phone. Expectations of professional employees’ availability have increased by orders of magnitude in recent years.  It can be very tempting to never disconnect. However, while you are thinking about your ambitious goals, keep in mind that you might also need to schedule in breaks.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re an engineer that’s on the ball, so I feel confident that I can tell you – you deserve a break!  Psychology research confirms that you will perform better if you get enough sleep and take mental breaks from grueling work. It is your own responsibility to set boundaries to achieve personal/work life balance.

Next, don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help on the small and large scale. What I mean by that is: you should not be afraid to ask those nearby about small questions (think finding a company resource you are unfamiliar with as a new hire, for example).  And don’t be afraid to seek out someone “higher up” whom you admire to solicit advice on achieving loftier goals. We are all interdependent (whether all can admit it or not). Those in the professional world whom you admire the most certainly had help along the way.  My experience has been that when I approach professionals I admire with a genuine interest in their life and an inquiry about how they would handle a situation or pursue a goal, I am always able to find someone willing to “pay it forward”.  One day, when you are an experienced engineer, you will likely want to do the same thing to help the next generation of thinkers and technologists. So, don’t be afraid to ask!

Finding a schedule and rhythm to life that works for you is crucial to achieving your goals.  What will you accomplish in 2015?

Stay tuned!  Next month, ASCE Roundup will be tackling the topic of “when to ask for help” and in March we’ll be exploring ASCE’s e-mentor program.

Profile Photo Melissa

Melissa Butcher

Melissa (Mel) Butcher, EI, Mel is an Environmental Engineer at MWH Global and USF alumna. She loves to do technical writing and to write about the engineering profession.

Want to share your 2015 engineering resolution with the world? 

Tweet it to @MelTheEngineer & @ASCEtweets


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