If you’re starting out in your career, it can be invaluable to have an experienced engineer help you advance through the ranks. That’s why IEEE Life Senior Member Harry T. Roman wrote the e-book Tips for Young Engineers. It covers basic, effective skills.
“Most of these tips are the direct result of guidance from bosses and colleagues I’ve worked with—all of whom are IEEE members,” Roman wrote in the forward. “They are the survivors, and they can teach you how to become one, too.”
Roman worked for 36 years with the R&D group for Public Service Electric & Gas Co., in Newark, N.J., before retiring in 2006. He has written books on career guidance, power and energy, and science, technology, engineering, and math education, as well as poetry.
DOCUMENT YOUR CAREER
On average, today’s workers change jobs about 12 times during their career, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because they switch companies so often, they should keep an updated file of significant accomplishments and work activities, Roman says. He calls it a career history file.
“Don’t get caught flat-footed when a corporate downsizing comes calling or you want to apply for that dream job,” he says.
Include such information as projects, published articles, patents, continuing education classes, and volunteer positions.
For more information on how to build your career history file, check out Roman’s three-volume e-book, A Living Résumé.
THE VALUE OF NOTE-TAKING
Roman recommends getting into the habit of taking notes about what you’ve learned at conferences and offsite visits to customers and manufacturers.
“Extracting useful information from technical conferences was absolutely essential to my work,” he writes. He says his notes were crucial to understanding how his company might use the technology. He suggests writing up the notes in your hotel room or during the plane ride home—while the information is still fresh.
During off-site visits, carefully document what you’ve seen and learned, he recommends. Include such details as the genesis for the project, its relationship to your industry, and costs.
“Be a detective and bring back as much relevant information as possible and, whenever you can, quantify your learnings in mathematical form,” Roman says. “These reports can prove to be valuable later.”
GET YOUR NAME OUT THERE
Submitting your technical papers to publications and presenting them at conferences are great ways to become known in your industry, according to Roman.
“Part of being the consummate professional is to enrich the industry through your research,” he writes. Through that exposure, people in the industry will start gravitating toward you, he says. The subsequent networking can expand your influence and might lead to new projects or business ventures with others, he adds.
Good presentation skills are also essential, he says, whether it’s for your boss, upper management, or conference attendees. Slideshows should never be more than 10 minutes long, and one minute is enough time to spend on a slide. Be sure to practice beforehand with colleagues, who should grill you with tough questions.
To sharpen his presentation skills, Roman joined his company’s speaker bureau, where he gained experience in talking in front of large groups.
BECOME A MEMBER
Roman recommends joining IEEE for benefits such as access to technical information, conferences on cutting-edge technology, the chance to meet engineers from all over the world, and the ability to publish articles in the organization’s respected publications.
“Being an involved IEEE member really turbo-charges your career,” he writes. “Being close to the organization’s heartbeat opens many doors to exciting projects and access to the many movers and shakers of the electrical engineering world.”
Other tips he covers in the book include building a personal contacts database, protecting your intellectual property, and learning about the history of engineering.
Roman has that last point covered, as a docent and lecturer at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, in West Orange, N.J.
IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and become part of this worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and working professionals.