Three Ways to Get Ahead In Your Engineering Career

How to advance when you’re feeling stuck

8 December 2017

You've worked hard, stayed late and gotten in early. You've shared ideas, collaborated constructively and listened to opinions. And yet, you haven't moved up the ladder in what feels like a reasonable amount of time. Here are a few ways to get out of the career doldrums and get ahead.

  • #1: Get an Advanced Degree

    Have a bachelor's degree? It might be time to go back to school and get your master’s or even your Ph.D. While the workload is challenging and salaries are certainly respectable for engineers with a bachelor’s, more schooling generally means more responsibility. Engineers with master's degrees are in better positions to lead engineering teams, and can begin to narrow their focus within the discipline, specializing in areas in which they have a particular interest.

    Salaries are generally higher for those with advanced degrees as well. For example, the median starting salary for an MIT alumni with a bachelor of science degree is roughly US $85,000, while those with a master’s in engineering earn approximately $110,000. And at the Ph.D. level, engineers often can pursue research and projects at the highest levels in both the private and public sectors. An advanced degree provides a foundation for earning a good salary in an area of engineering expertise.

  • #2: Network

    Networking and socializing at the office encourage teamwork. You’ll get to know others above you and below you on the organizational chart, including their strengths and weaknesses. You’ll also see their attitudes, what's important to them, and their work ethic. As a result, communication will improve and you may just have found a solid group of fellow engineers to use as a sounding board. Productivity and creativity can only benefit. In addition, when an interesting position becomes available elsewhere in your company, there's a better chance you'll have a connection when applying.

    Networking outside the office provides the opportunity to know others in your engineering field, learn about their projects and discover new trends. It's a way of cross-pollinating. Share your ideas and let them opine. Join business or trade organizations. By offering useful information to others, you build your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person—someone others would like as a co-worker or even as a boss. Having relevant connections in your business network will help in the job you currently have as well as the job you’ll have in the future.

  • #3: Find a New Job

    Sometimes you just need to move on in order to move up. Be sure you are being reasonable, though: 18 months to two years is usually the minimum amount of time to wait for a promotion, according to Workopolis. But if the writing is on the wall, do a personal work-skills inventory. Use it to create a new résumé.

    At the same time, consider a conversation with the boss. If your inventory has several examples of your contributions to the company's success, you might be able to get a promotion after all. If not, connect with some of those with whom you've networked and see what opportunities they may have heard about—or even ones they may have for you.

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