It's a fact: The engineers with the broadest range of talents move up the ladder faster than those who simply maintain their technical prowess. To move up to management, engineers must add people and communication skills to their technical skills. Here's a quick list to help you move up:
Polish Your People Skills. If you want to fast track your engineering career, you must hone your ability to communicate effectively, to manage people, and to get along well with colleagues, superiors and subordinates. If you only develop your technical skills, you'll plateau your career and watch others pass you by.
Build and Protect Your Reputation. Remember, your reputation goes out in front of you; it does not follow you. Most engineering subfields are small and both good and bad news travels fast. Your work and what you say about others--both inside and outside your organization--gets around. A good reputation is hard to build, protect it.
Develop the Art of Listening. Most people simply don’t know how to listen. This is an acquired skill that engineers must perfect. For even the smallest technical detail ignored can mean disaster. Most of us listen with about 25 percent efficiency. This is because listening is hard work. It demands that you put the needs of the listener ahead of your own, and that you suspend your judgments, biases and opinions while you absorb what is being said.
Keep Your Promises and Keep in Touch. Your word is all you have, so keep even the smaller promises you make—jot them down so you won't forget them. And keep in touch with co-workers as they move up the ladder. Having friends in management can help you, especially when departments expand and you end up on the short list of possible new managers.
For more insights on advancing your engineering career, check out B. Michael Aucoin book, "From Engineer to Manager: Mastering the Transition."
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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.