on January 14th, 2015

The New Year has been well and truly launched. Do you stick to your New Year's resolutions? Apparently only 14% of people do - especially in relation to their occupations.
Peter Drucker, the famous management guru, remarked that first of all we need to set our sights higher when it comes to the vision we have for our careers. And then we need to commit to achieving this.

What follows are some suggestions from those who have achieved success in their careers.

  • Make sure you have a business and life plan which is strategic in nature and fairly long term. Nothing particularly detailed - just short and to the point. Where do you want to be personally and professionally in a year's time? A plan certainly doesn't have to be solely about money. If it is, it is unlikely to be very successful. But it has to be aligned with your interests and what you are capable of. And take into account what you are currently doing. If you are in a hut somewhere in the middle of the Great Sandy Desert, working as a consultant on a mine for a pittance, you may need to rethink your situation. Similarly, if you are working remotely, earning good money, but doing very basic work which is actually degrading your engineering skills, you need to wonder where you will be in a few years time. Make changes if necessary. Write your plan down and refer to it on a daily basis.
  • Keep your skills sharp and current. This doesn't mean that you have to go on a deluge of training courses or upgrade your qualification level. Informal learning can be even more powerful than a training class - where you learn from a highly experienced mentor or trusted colleague. Keep an eye on what is required in terms of skills. This is a constantly shifting and changing environment. Currently certain engineering professionals are in ferocious demand; others are not..
  • Deliver real results to your organisation and ensure (modestly) that they are aware of this. Working long hours is not in itself proof of success -  demonstrating real results involves completing projects successfully, to a budget and against all sorts of obstacles. Persistence and innovative thinking are keys here. And a touch of lateral thinking for those enormously thorny problems.
  • Communicate well in terms of writing and talking to your peers, clients and suppliers. Email is not a particularly effective way of communicating (although highly convenient).
  • Review your progress and consider feedback from others to help you sharpen your act. It is not always pleasant to hear negative comments, but the honest opinion of others can be extremely helpful. Watch out for your subordinates giving you glowing comments on every occasion. They may be “yes (wo)men”.
  • Give credit where it is due. Acknowledge the success of others and enthusiastically celebrate them. They will, in turn, respect and support you with your successes.
  • Be passionate, enthusiastic and have a positive attitude. Especially when the chips are down. Avoid the blame game - apart from identifying ways of improving things. Avoid anger and negativity wherever possible. Conflict is generally a dead end and is best avoided, find  a win-win solution instead.

I like this quotation from Louis Nizer:
A man who works with his hands is a labourer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.

Yours in engineering learning


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