Tomorrow’s Engineer: You Are Your Best Investment (March 2000)
Over the years, I have followed this advice and have been able to continuously enjoy the business while others complain about what is wrong with their employer. My philosophy has been to always look at where I will be, both a year from now and three years from now, and make plans to maintain job and career satisfaction. It isn’t always clear what you will be doing in a year or three years, but it is a good process to look to the future, consider your options, and plan accordingly.
As you enter the work world and — this is something you don’t learn in school — you need to be able to wake up excited about what you do. It isn’t unusual to see employees get locked into a job they don’t like, with a boss they don’t like, and yet do nothing to change the situation. Employees are in the position to make changes, either within the company or by leaving the company for a better job environment. On the other hand, many will choose the easy route: more money, less job satisfaction, and chronic complaints.
Getting AheadIf you are anxious to get ahead while enjoying your job, here are some signs along the road to follow:
- Write down 10 new skills that you have learned in the past year that have increased your ability to perform your job.
- Write down five activities that you have learned in the past year that will help you advance to the next job level.
- Do you have a minimum of five goals along with five milestones per goal that will help you in your professional development in the coming year?
- Have you asked for a mentor within the company to assist you in job skill development?
- Have you taken any classes or read any books in the past year that will assist you in job skill development?
If you don’t score at least three out of five for the above, you aren’t doing what it takes to invest in yourself and are probably waiting for your employer to advance you along. This reactive strategy of waiting for your employer to promote you is not a good idea for the up-and-coming professional. Furthermore, a proactive strategy keeps you in control of your future. No excuses, no “bad luck stories,” and no one else’s fault.
Enjoying Your JobJob satisfaction is not directly related to continuous job advancement. If you are an individual who is anxious to maintain and enjoy your current job, here are some road signs for you:
- Write down 10 new skills that you have learned in the past year that have allowed you to continuously perform your job at peak performance.
- Do you have a minimum of five goals along with five milestones per goal that will help you to continue to maintain your stature as the best at your current job level?
- Have you asked to be a mentor for your company so that you can assist others in similar job skill development?
- Have you offered to develop the office standards associated with your job description so that quality control can be established?
- Have you taken any classes or read a book in the past year that will assist you in job skill development?
Employees who recognize that they have reached a comfortable level of job responsibility and job satisfaction are a rare breed. I remember telling one hvac design engineer that he should recognize that he was at a level where he was the very best at what he did. At the same time, he was not going to advance because he was not committed to doing the necessary learning to reach the next plateau.
Not everyone is intended to be the boss. Many who reach that level should never have made the climb! Job satisfaction is not something that gets better the higher you climb the corporate ladder. Job satisfaction is based on recognizing what you enjoy doing, being excited about getting up in morning, and being the best at what you do best.
Investing in one’s self is an investment that can be directly related with job satisfaction. Don’t wait for your employer to invest in you. Lead by example. It is worth the trip.