Author Topic: Optimizing Your Career  (Read 710 times)

EfficientEngineer

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 26
Optimizing Your Career
« on: November 13, 2017, 02:15:08 PM »
Hi everyone.

I'm a mechanical engineering student and I was just so fortunate to have been offered an internship that will likely transition into full time employment in 2018.  This will be the first position I have been offered that I didn't already know someone working there, so it's definitely awesome to have truly earned it.  To all other students out there - I sent dozens of applications off over the past 14 months, so it really is a numbers game.  I also highly recommend career fairs.

In order to give myself the greatest chance of moving into a full time position I'll be doing everything I can to contribute positively to the work environment from day 1.


What advice do you have to "hack" your career and get the most value out of it that you can?


Some things that come to my mind:
* Attitude - Be positive, gracious, bring those around you up, don't say anything negative
* Punctuality (showing up to work)
* Develop as many personal relationships as I can, never know who might be able to help in the future
      - Interact with people throughout the day, say hello, small talk, perhaps have lunches with people
* Seek out extra opportunities (classes, further education, more responsibilities/projects)
* Have a meeting early on to see what the expectations are (make them quantitative not qualitative)
      - Then go above and beyond those expectations


Other recommendations:
* Keep the boss in the loop with regards to your work progress, career aspirations
* Have a career plan
* Lady SA's whole first post!
* Have a 'Can Do' attitude - be enthusiastic about learning new things
* Try and find solutions (and streamlining operations) before announcing a problem  (use Google!)
* Set boundaries (check email only at certain times, prioritize projects and time efficiently)
* Find 1-3 mentors that are higher ups in the company (insider tips on how to succeed)
* Always find something to do
* Take opportunities
* Own your mistakes & learn from them
« Last Edit: Today at 01:20:16 PM by EfficientEngineer »

mozar

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2439
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2017, 03:28:41 PM »
Provide updates about your work before your manager asks you what you are working. IE keep them in the loop about your progress.
Embracing the absurd condition of human existence while also defiantly continuing to explore and search for meaning

Suze456

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 33
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2017, 03:41:14 PM »
Obviously technical ability will be a big thing in your career, but otherwise:

Attitude  attitude attitude like you said. Be positive.
Professionalism - no bad mouthing (boss, client, colleague).
Don't blab confidential/sensitive stuff
Deliver - meet your targets, do what is assigned.
Follow through - make sure things happen, don't  make a token attempt and abandon it
Check in with  your managers periodically, make sure you have the same priorities.
Go above and beyond when necessary
Have a career plan
Donít  be a know-it-all

Lady SA

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 207
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2017, 04:59:58 PM »
I have questions that I always get answers to before I can truly start adding value to my team/organization.

WHO
   1. Who are all the people on my team? Major business partners? What are their roles?
   2. Where are these people located?
   3. How is the team structured? (heirarchy, team processes and schedule)
   4. How do we relate to other teams? Where do we live in the organization?
   5. Who are our major business partners?
   6. What is the best way to communicate with my team? Email? What email lists are used on this team?
WHAT
   1. What is my role? What will I be responsible for?
   2. What are the best practices for an individual, a team, and our area of the organization?
   3. What are the things that I need to know about being <role> on this team?
   4. What are the things I need to know about the team?
   5. What are the projects the team is working on?
   6. What is coming down the pipeline? What things is the team working towards?
   7. What are the major initiatives in this space?
   8. How does a <role> help drive these initiatives?
   9. What recurring meetings does this team have? (need to be invited)
   10. What are your expectations of me?
   11. How can I help you?

Then, I have individual things to help keep my career focused and on-track:
A monthly recurring one-on-one meeting with my manager to discuss current issues, how I'm doing, what he wants to see me doing, and career goals (what he's looking for). I also specifically ask "How can I make your life/job easier?" at each of these meetings.
You and your manager should be completely on the same page regarding your career goals, expectations, trajectory, and steps you need to take to get to the next level. Start talking about this on day one to set the habit.

A 30-60-90 day plan. This includes goals, accomplishments, and tasks I want to do in the next 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. I update this the first week of each month.

Keep a running to-do list. If a thing occurs to you, add it to your list. Color code your list by priority and try to knock out a few each day. I find writing things down keeps me accountable and makes it easier for me to follow up on things (I have the memory of a goldfish). Currently my list is over 50 items long and new things are added every day, but I also knock out at least 5-10 per day.

Maintain a "transition" repository of information necessary for your job -- things like documents, contacts, schedules, etc. That way, when new things or opportunities come your way, you are completely prepared to hand off all important things to your team or replacement and its overall a smoother transition. Your team will appreciate it a lot and you won't be stressing trying to find a million important documents all at once. Do future you a favor and just keep all that organized.

Fail to plan = plan to fail. Plan tasks associated with large chunks of work, then do mini daily planning with yourself (or your team!) on what you will get done today in service of the larger goal/chunk of work. That encourages accountability (telling your team what you will get done means you are much more likely to do it because now they are counting on it and expect it)
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 05:11:54 PM by Lady SA »
https://www.earnest.com/invite/lillian2 --> Use this referral to refinance your student loans with Earnest and get a $200 bonus!

EfficientEngineer

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 26
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2017, 07:03:25 PM »
Thank you mozar and suze456.  I added those to my list!

Lady SA wow!  That was a great response.  I am absolutely going to utilize it in my upcoming position.  You sound very on top of it.  Were you like this from the beginning or have these questions evolved over the course of your employment?

Systems101

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 90
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2017, 10:48:03 PM »
Overall, I think folks have a good running list.  I'm going to point out a few places where I've seen folks go wrong following rules like what you have articulated.  Some of this is semantics, and I may be explaining what you already meant, but understand other people have different definitions for the words you use and thus would interpret the sometimes terse sentences differently...

I would add: Try not to just declare problems.  Try to bring in potential solutions as well, especially if you are declaring the problem in public or to your manager.  Note: This is related to attitude and being positive... but I'd note that being constructive and pointing out things that need to change and having ideas is not being negative.  Some people think all conflict and all criticism is negative.  Conflict can be healthy if it's on topic about the issue, and constructive criticism is necessary as well...

I'm then going to raise the stakes a bit on @Suze456's comment:

Check in with  your managers periodically, make sure you have the same priorities.

...which is to say more broadly "learn to prioritize"

Don't go in and ask "what should I be doing".  Go in with a list of things:
(1) Keep your boss up to date on things you are doing before he or she has to ask (as others have noted)
(2) Periodically (at each 1:1 you have) list the things people have asked you to do, but you don't think are top priorities and that you don't think you should be doing.

Only with #1 and #2 together, can you validate that you have the right priorities.

If you are off base with #2, your manager may know things you don't and can fill you in and help you change priorities.

#2 also lets them delegate that work to someone else on the team if appropriate, and doing it proactively before someone complains to them.

With #1 and #2 it also lets your manager defend you proactively if someone comes to push on them of why it wasn't done, because they know both what you are doing and that they agreed it wasn't your top priority.

#2 is at least equally important to #1 and forgotten by many, many people.

I'd also add to the list
(3) When necessary, talk about places where you specifically "need help" and be prepared to talk through what you need to learn or how they can help you reach out to the right people or whatever... don't be afraid to periodically give them work to do if it's helping you move your project forward and appropriate for them do to either for your development or because it's a cross team interaction that can't be agreed upon at your level (because it involves budget changes or whatever)

Then a few comments:

Don't blab confidential/sensitive stuff

...and to double down on this, if you discover a confidential project (or what some might refer to as a non-disclosure project) exists (these usually have code names associated with them), don't ask anyone about it.  If someone starts talking too much about it, politely point out you are not disclosed to it, and change the subject or move out of that conversation.  Also, don't ask to be added to the project.  Leave it alone, and it will find you if you need to be included.  The more you try to get on such projects, the less they will find you.

* Punctuality (showing up to work, email responses)

The first part I get.  Early on it's probably better for you to arrive before your boss and leave after, if just for the perception value.

I have to say the latter part of this makes me nervous, because "punctual" is relative and can be misunderstood.  (e.g. My mom's definition of punctual and my dad's definition of "punctual" are VERY different)

It is distinctly possible e-mail rapidly becomes overwhelming, but keep in mind e-mail is (likely) not your job.  I'd set aside time each day to deal with it, but don't feel when an e-mail comes in you have to reply immediately.  First, it can (falsely) give an impression you have nothing to do.  If it happens all the time, it demonstrates you are prioritizing e-mail, and you should seriously ask whether that should be first on the list... (hint: usually no)  ...to be literal, it's the "on schedule" part of punctual, not the "prompt" part of punctual that is important...

Again @Suze456 is right on: The key is to keep any commitments you make.  In my experience, consistency about keeping commitments is far, far more important than being quick with responses.  Also learn what e-mails are important to respond to quickly.  When a sales team asks a question, get on it, because you are likely in the critical path of revenue.  If someone asks for status on a lower priority item, it can probably live for a few days if other things are critical... note again how this comes back to learning prioritization (and being "on schedule")...

Last, but certainly not least: Do the right thing.  This is much more than a moral/ethical statement, although that is the place to start.  As you get the rest of the items from this list you are generating mastered (and as you learn about the company's eventual goals): Don't think one step out about what you can achieve. Think strategically about what is the right thing to do, then define the tactical steps to get to the right thing.  Don't compromise with yourself, communicate with management and make them put the plan back into a budgetary or other box.  You can't be insane about fighting only for the strategic, but the higher "band" employees must think strategically... and sometimes have to be asking for the $ and resources to do the right thing and cause lots and lots of discomfort for the company.

Goldielocks

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4769
  • Location: BC
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2017, 01:12:47 AM »
The huge difference in new hires:
Those that have a "can do" attitude, even if something is new (they don't know it), or legitimately beneath them.  Engineers often don't have huge egos, despite what you may read on this forum sometimes. '-)

e.g.,   I asked the new engineer to help me lay out a racking layout on the new client's floorplan.  He said he did not know, I gave him tips, and he tried it and with my input, we eventually got something together.  Later, he had to research the best cardboard baler for this client, and neither of us had ever spec'd a baler before.... but he was game to try it.

Another new hire -- just dug into the computer program and kept trying to make it work, looking up the tutorials, etc without being prompted, or asking a million questions... versus the guy that just sat there waiting for the formal class / training, and would only do what he was confident in knowing how to do well.

In my engineering career, it is amazing how many times I am asked to do something, design something, that at first I have NO CLUE... and then I start, try, go ask others, and often find out that NO ONE KNOWS.  it is a new problem.  That is the reason I like engineering -- you get to try new solutions to new problems, and figure things out, and work as a team to check it ou.

Lastly -- engineering is all about getting others to check your work.  NEVER NEVER skimp on having someone else audit or spot check or provide feedback.  That is 30% of the job, and required part of most P.E. licensing.   Give a heads up to whomever will check your work for that phase / week, and allow them a couple of hours before the deadline to do it.

Lady SA

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 207
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2017, 05:13:39 PM »
Thank you mozar and suze456.  I added those to my list!

Lady SA wow!  That was a great response.  I am absolutely going to utilize it in my upcoming position.  You sound very on top of it.  Were you like this from the beginning or have these questions evolved over the course of your employment?
Lord no, I was definitely not this on top of things 3.5 years ago when I graduated and started working :) University was good for teaching me knowledge, but practical workplace skills are sorely lacking in education (in my opinion). You're just supposed to KNOW how to effectively work in a business immediately upon graduation by witchcraft and voodoo.

A lot of my tips come from my job, which is actually orchestrating software teams and organizing projects--A lot of these tips are practices straight from my industry/specific role but I feel are applicable everywhere. I also work with a lot of very smart people and had a few mentors --(oh! That's another tip I have for you! See if you can convince 1-3 relative higher-ups in your company to be your mentors. They can give you some really great insider tips to succeed and grow in your organization)-- suggest these activities to help me keep track of all my work and become more effective.
https://www.earnest.com/invite/lillian2 --> Use this referral to refinance your student loans with Earnest and get a $200 bonus!

craiglepaige

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 792
  • Location: Ohio
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2017, 06:38:25 PM »
I was a 13yo punk-ass kid when I my father drove me to my first day of work at Taco Bell and said to me, "Don't ever let the manager see you standing around. There is always something to do".  Sure enough he was right. Other workers would dick around, grab-ass and eat the food, but I just found things to clean.  Needless to say, 23 years later and I still find things to do at my work.
-The conqueror will always become a slave to his conquest.

- Eres Un Esclavo Financiero
https://youtu.be/GO1Fsp4cUTQ

Noodle

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 749
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2017, 07:44:33 PM »
Spend some time on the Ask a Manager blog askamanager.org. You will learn a lot about what to do in the workplace, and a lot more about what NOT to do in the workplace.

kwarden13

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 181
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2017, 11:10:42 AM »
I skimmed through some of this so below may be a repeat.

I would definitely be a go-getter. If you don't know how to do something, GOOGLE it. Do not ask how to do something in Excel or in Word, just GOOGLE and learn. My biggest pet peeve as a manager is when someone asks me a question that could have been googled. Also, by searching online you can sometimes find other solutions that may help spark your creativity.

Also, if you can streamline a process, then talk yourself up when speaking to the boss. It can be something simple but value added. For example, taking a report that requires copying/pasting and writing a macro to do it. This can be done by self teaching through GOOGLE.


Better Change

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2017, 01:06:51 PM »
1.  Volunteer!  Even when the task or responsibility totally sucks.  It might not further your career, but managers really appreciate it when someone will step up and get shit done.
2.  Own your mistakes.  If you're responsible, admit to it and move on.  The earlier you acknowledge the problem and try to fix it, the better.  Ditch any sort of victim mentality.
3. Take risks.  Realize that you'll make mistakes (#2).  But if you don't try, you look like any boring schmo.
4. Don't harbor resentment.  It doesn't do anybody any good.

dcamnc

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 504
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2017, 01:48:40 PM »
My biggest career mistake has been not taking advantage of opportunities. I could be second in charge of the entire organization now, had I only taken opportunities. It's been a theme throughout my whole life that I turn bosses (and people in general) down for things. I wouldn't recommend this strategy fwiw.

RidetheRain

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 250
  • Age: 25
  • Location: Los Angeles
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2017, 03:06:47 PM »
Tell people what you want. I told my boss that I wanted to be in charge/manage a team. Months later there was a spot open and my boss got me the spot. He would never have done that if I hadn't told him my career aspirations.
See my journal

EfficientEngineer

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 26
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #14 on: Today at 01:24:56 PM »
This is great! Thank you everyone for all your help.  I've added your suggestions to my main post.

Here's another question:

Did you/would you recommend negotiating a higher start salary? 

I do not have any full time employment experience, but I will have had 3 internships and another part time position by the time I will graduate.  If I end up getting an offer from this last internship to work full time - should I try to negotiate it higher?  They will have put quite a bit of resources into training me.  I am at the point right now where I am leaning towards applying to a number of other positions to see if I could be offered other opportunities.  I could then leverage these counter offers against one another to achieve a higher starting salary.

Does this make me look disloyal to the company after they educated me through their internship? Thoughts?


GnomeErcy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 30
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #15 on: Today at 01:50:57 PM »
This is great! Thank you everyone for all your help.  I've added your suggestions to my main post.

Here's another question:

Did you/would you recommend negotiating a higher start salary? 

I do not have any full time employment experience, but I will have had 3 internships and another part time position by the time I will graduate.  If I end up getting an offer from this last internship to work full time - should I try to negotiate it higher?  They will have put quite a bit of resources into training me.  I am at the point right now where I am leaning towards applying to a number of other positions to see if I could be offered other opportunities.  I could then leverage these counter offers against one another to achieve a higher starting salary.

Does this make me look disloyal to the company after they educated me through their internship? Thoughts?

Absolutely negotiate. That'll compound over the years as you get raises and promotions. The worst that happens is they say no and you're no worse off. I'm not sure I'd specifically leverage the counter-offers in this case but knowing you've got options should give you some confidence to negotiate for higher pay.

If you can't negotiate salary, what about other things like vacation time, etc.?

Goldielocks

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4769
  • Location: BC
Re: Optimizing Your Career
« Reply #16 on: Today at 03:16:34 PM »
You can ask, but at our company, we pretty much set a start salary for EIT's with limited experience after graduation.    So go ahead and ask, but don't be a dick about it... you know?

 To be in a position to get more, you need to have at least 2 years experience, more likely 4 years, at the type of client that we want to do more business with, or experienced in the type of design (consulting design) services that we sell.   For those people, I have seen them jump 15% above their standard market salary level.   But,  the company specifically needs to want it, and the person getting the extra money at hire is never a woman, in my experience (maybe they never ask). ie., I have to tell the women after 2 years of great experience with our company to demand more to bring them up the male coworkers who negotiated at the start, if they are worth it and the company has just landed a big contract that needs them..   I would say 20% of engineers with less than 7 years experience are paid more than the "market standard" wage.

Note, at this time, we do not hire anyone without intern experience, so our payscale offer is based on that, it is a requirement to get an interview.

What you can negotiate for is: 1 extra week of vacation or PTO up from minimum 2 weeks (this is granted about half the time), or attendance at a specific conference in the upcoming year (building code updates to 2017, IIIE conference, etc), or  a small amount of money for relocation (think a hotel for a weekend plus gas),  or reimbursement for safety clothing, or a company phone or monthly credit (if needed for work), or annual fees for zipcar registration if you need to drive from the office to client site, re-imbursment for a engineering night class you will be taking, etc.

What you can't negotiate for is all of the above, start with an idea for one or two things -- salary and ??   

One trick is to find out if your company does not offer a benefit that is standard for at least half of the employers in your area and industry.  Our local office no longer pays for the provincial monthly medical premium of $150 per month.  Someone junior, negotiating to have $1500/yr in additional starting salary to cover that would go over very well.   A single parent negotiating additional PTO of 5 days per year,  would also work.   Making your request specific to a need helps.

Good Luck!

« Last Edit: Today at 03:39:28 PM by Goldielocks »