Thank U, Next: Engineering Career Transitions

hair flip

hair flip

Ariana Grande is not the only one learning from her past and getting stronger ‘cuz of it.

Many of my friends have recently transitioned from their first engineering jobs. Every month, it feels like someone is changing companies or careers. Most have been working for 2-4 years and many have just become licensed engineers. Some are leaving their jobs for MBA programs, others are changing companies, and a few are leaving engineering altogether.

Regardless of where they are going, there are some common points they had to consider before their next step:

1. How to identify personal goals and value. 2. How to recognize the signs that it’s time to say goodbye. 3. How to make moves to move on.

Step One

Personal reflection time.

It can be easy to lose sight of our long-term goals and dreams when we are caught up in the day to day business of work and life. Writing down your goals can help you refocus your energy on what matters to you.  If you are still figuring out what you want to do with your life, that is OKAY! Start by setting shorter term goals like getting your P.Eng, if that is important to you.

Once you have reflected on what goals matter most, it’s time to think about your value and what you bring to the table. Knowing your (monetary) value can be challenging amid the taboo of discussing salaries, so do your research if you are feeling under-compensated. Good resources include the annual compensation study published by OSPE and friends in the industry who can share their salaries with you for comparison.

Your value is not only limited to your compensation. Value also encompasses your experience. Where have you experienced success in your current role? How are you kicking butt at work? What have you learned in your time at the company? What projects have you been assigned? What’s one thing you rock at where others may struggle?  

These are helpful questions to ask at any point in your career, whether or not you are looking to change paths. They also provide a healthy confidence boost if you are thinking of looking for the next big thing. In addition to these questions, you might also want to ask questions related to what could be next for you.

Is your work setting you up to grow and meet your goals? Do you feel supported? If not, keep reading.

Step Two

Signs it is time to go.

It is usually not a surprise when I learn that a friend has quit their job. Typically, this is because they have shown some signs of dissatisfaction or developed other career aspirations that couldn’t be fulfilled by staying where they were.

Here are some signs it may be time to leave:

  • You feel undervalued at work

  • You feel constantly overworked and underappreciated for it

  • You have minimal or no role models within the company

  • You find it difficult to picture yourself moving up in the organization

  • You feel like you have stopped learning or have plateaued

  • Your work environment feels toxic

  • The corporate structure is rigid and does not fit your goals

It’s important to note that this list only encompasses some of the signs that it is time to move on from a role. Leaving a job is a difficult decision and it is sometimes hard to act on the signs even if you acknowledge they are present. If you aren’t sure, talk to a few close friends about how you are feeling at work. They can help you recognize and reaffirm your value and also provide insight into what a healthy workplace can be.

Step Three

Get the hell out of there- onward and upwards, bitches!

It is easier to get a job when you have one, so use this to your advantage once you have decided to leave. Figure out what kind of job or educational paths align with your life and career goals. If you are planning to stay in engineering, hopefully your work experience has exposed you to broader possibilities for careers in engineering than your undergraduate degree did. If not, fear not. LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter are great tools to research the engineering jobs out there and can also be used to meet new connections.

Speaking of networking...Use your network if you are starting to look for a new job! You never know who might be hiring, as most jobs are never posted.

Last but not least, avoid burning bridges on your way out. The engineering industry is smaller than you may think. Be positive and grateful for everything you learned at your job because YOU ARE AMAZING. Just like Ariana.