The Best Career Advice I’ve Ever Heard

Focusing on progress over perfection goes a long way

27 March 2014
Image: Sergey Nivens/iStockphoto

As an engineer, I realize how tough it can be to grasp the other aspects of our profession that don’t involve engineering such as the business side, or how to become better leaders, or more productive. Or even more basic, how to move up the career ladder and land a better job. I care about these issues to a fault, hence why I started my blog, Engineering and Leadership. If I can, I’d like to help other engineers succeed in this industry.

I believe that engineering is a crucial profession and that we can do great things for society. Before anyone gives up on their search or feels like there is nowhere to grow in their company, I’d like to share what I know in order to help you progress—and ultimately make an impact on the world around you.

Let’s start things off with a bang, shall we? The best advice I could possibly give you is this: take one big step daily toward your goal, whether it’s working on getting a promotion, completing a project, or seeking out a new opportunity.

This advice might seem simple, but it doesn’t seem to be the way engineers go about reaching personal goals (or completing projects). I know because I’m one of them. We tend to like to have things lined up just so. We will bend over backwards for a design to be just one percent more efficient. We love things to be perfect. However, having a perfect plan or a perfect design is well and good, except for one thing: perfection is impossible. It can also be a hindrance to getting things done.

I think of careers in the same way. If you wait for the timing to be “just right” to make a big move, you’ll never make the move. There never seems to be an ideal time for big, disruptive changes in life.

A career in engineering, or any profession, is about progress and not perfection. And you can’t make progress without taking action (just thinking about doing something doesn’t count). And if the idea of taking some particular action is scary, then you’re probably on the right track.

So, before I end this post, I’d like to offer you a challenge. Think of what your next bold action step might be toward achieving your career goal, and tell us what it is using the comments section below. Then go and actually do it and come back to let us know how it went. I’m sure other readers would like to hear about how things worked out for you, as would I. And I promise to respond to every comment.

Pat Sweet Photo: Pat Sweet

Pat Sweet is an IEEE member and a professional engineer working on rail systems in Kingston, Ont., Canada. He is the author of the blog, Engineering and Leadership, where he shares his thoughts and experiences on leadership and productivity, and provides career advice for engineers.

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