Disclaimer: This is rehashed from an article I wrote in June 2017 for GineersNow. Some parts are added or edited for clarity.
Work as an engineer is never stationary as it always progresses. As roles change and responsibilities pile up, there is a career growth.
But the progress does not come overnight. Or even after a week. Instead, it takes years of experience to feel that an engineer’s career is forwarding or heading to a direction. Unless of course the engineer changes a field along the way, then the growth is disrupted and he or she has to start again.
The career of an engineer, regardless of the specialization, always starts with what they call as the Aspiration Phase.
This is the first few years in the industry, say up to 3 years of being acquainted about the whereabouts of the job. The Aspiration Phase is about discovery and introspection, maximizing the potentials of the engineer in every task. In short, this is where the learning curve is the steepest.
Every knowledge learned in the Aspiration Phase is valuable as they are the foundation of future engineering work. But the engineer has to do a variety of tasks and jobs even not related to the field – his or her whole-roundedness, including personal, emotional, and social skills, is tested in this stage of the career. It is also in this part where opportunity to build professional networks should be seized.
The next phase called the Promise Phase is all about the continuity of what happened in the Aspiration Phase. For many engineers, this is the period within 3 to 10 years of working in the field.
The impact of the job during this phase is already different. By this stage, the engineer should already be holding a higher position or bigger responsibilities, which only means critical work is upon his or her shoulders. This translates to bigger impact.
Engineers in the Promise Phase should not forget to maintain the good qualities in order to achieve further success. Bad habits should already be filtered out too, and it’s all about doing quality work.
This phase is the perfect time to assess which specific side of the job – technical, management or leadership – the engineer is most inclined to. Because those positions are what will most likely be given to engineers in the next phase.
After 10 years or more of engineering experience, the Momentum Phase is exactly what its name suggests: the engineer should already be near the peak of his or her career if not exactly at the peak.
Reputation as an engineer is already solid in this phase, backed with a track record and exceptional performance. Engineers in this phase are bound to be priority hires in any company, only if they have been empowered by their engineering experiences in the past, despite the increasing responsibilities outside of work like family and business.
Which phase are you in?