10 Things every engineering graduate should know

Upon graduation, most engineering students are well equipped with technical capabilities after spending years of instruction in school. Though essential, this is hardly sufficient in acquiring success in the real world. To be successful as an engineer there are certain skills and characteristics that employers look for when hiring graduates and clear the path for professional achievement.

1. Aspire to become an effective communicator

Effective engineers are able to communicate well in the work setting. They understand that they must be able to interact well with their employers, team members, clients as well as other stakeholders within the organization. Communication skills such as business writing, technical writing, public speaking, presentation are crucial for the success of an engineer. Developing a competency in a second language also gives you a distinct advantage as engineers are increasingly working in diverse cultural environments as they travel across the globe on various projects. Engineers can build up their communication skills by reading widely on various topics to gain exposure to different language and communication styles as well as learning how people from other cultures express their ideas. Good communicators tend to garner influence and get noticed.

2. Develop a portfolio of projects

Hands-on experience is an invaluable asset to potential employers. Not only does it demonstrate an individual’s capabilities and exposure, it also boosts your communication and interpersonal skills. The more experiential learning opportunities an engineering graduate takes up, the more likely they are to retain and apply the knowledge they gained from classes. It gives you a differentiation advantage over other graduates in the same field. Engineers are also able to speak more confidently and authoritatively during job interviews as they have an understanding of the industry and some of the areas a potential employer may be interested in.

3. Network

When people who share a common interest and shared goals come together, genuine partnerships and friendships can arise and a powerful synergy of minds can lead to brilliant ideas. Connecting with other engineers often helps one interact with other professionals and gather information on the latest trends and events within your field. It also allows other engineers know more about our capabilities and what you can potentially offer in the present or the future, creating room for business opportunities. A professional engineering society can allow you to meet engineers on a local, national and international level which will provide an excellent opportunity to learn about different cultures in the engineering profession. Additionally, the internet allows us to connect with other engineers through email and social media tools such as LinkedIn.

4. Build up your creativity

There is great demand on engineers of the future to be innovative as they tackle various problems in a dynamic global environment. At the heart of innovation, is creativity – the ability of an engineer to use available resources and skills to develop a solution in an effective and practical manner. The more creative an engineer is, the greater their ability to come up with different solutions to a problem. Organizations often depend on big ideas and creative employees to develop innovative products and services. As such, creative thinking is a skill that engineers should cultivate in order to become invaluable members of their organizations. A creative engineer is able to merge the logical and analytical side of their brain to work with their visual and creative side to solve old problems in new ways.

5. Research Experience

Research is essential in every engineer’s professional career. Gaining experience in research assures that an engineering graduate is more adept at solving real world problems. They get exposure to the imperfections of the real world such as measurement errors, and are able to ease into the real world more comfortably once they start working and come up with realistic engineering solutions. Furthermore, work that engineers carry out is hardly ever novel and is often based on previous work or research carried out by someone else. Proper research experience equips engineers with the capabilities to source for information from authentic, authoritative and reliable sources.

6. Identify a professional role model

Identifying a professional role model often improves the performance of engineering graduates in the workplace. Young engineers are often eager to learn and ready to absorb information easily. The right role model can easily shape an engineer’s outlook on how to tackle challenges at work and grow professionally. It is important for engineering graduates to identify people who emulate all the positive traits that they desire and consider fundamental in their line of work. Role models also provide great support and advice throughout your career and enable one to learn from their mistakes.

7. Seek leadership opportunities

Leadership is a highly desirable attribute, often identified in individuals who want to make a difference within their organization. Leaders are identified as people who can integrate a variety of skills, successfully influence others and convince them to follow their direction. At all levels of an organization, engineers should play a significant role in driving innovations that will benefit customers and increase profits. Therefore, they need to know how to articulate their thoughts so that others will be inspired to build on them. Leaders in the engineering field also share their vision and influence public policy. Engineers can hone certain leadership skills or attributes to foster personal and professional success. These skills can be developed by volunteering in different arenas such as civic or professional groups.

8. Continuous career improvement

As organizations integrate new processes and technologies to remain relevant in their industries, engineers must keep up by constantly upgrading their educational background. Depending on their aspirations, an engineer can take on graduate studies in an engineering field, seek professional certifications or even venture into an entirely new field such as business (a common track with those who take on managerial positions or run their own businesses). It is also imperative to maintain your membership in your professional engineering society, and make it a point to attend its annual meetings.

9. Keep up with the trends in your industry

Engineering graduates should be conversant with global trends and pioneering research done worldwide. It is important to keep abreast with recent trends and technologies as they arise to enable them to re-examine and realign their goals with the current scenario as it prevails. By keeping in touch with other professionals and subscribing to journal and newsletters, engineering graduates can keep track of trends and the latest developments in their fields. This is important if one intends to transform their career into a satisfactory path and pull away from the competition.

10. Collaborate with others

The ability to work with other people from different backgrounds within the organization demonstrates one’s capability to effectively communicate their ideas, as well as interpersonal and cultural understanding. An essential skill, teamwork ensures that work is completed within a specified time and can provide a platform for new ideas to thrive. To be a successful engineer, one must be able to work well with others.

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