7 tips to get started on a different engineering career path

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Are you in an engineering discipline, job, or career path that you’ve fallen out of love with?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many engineers choose a career based on interests they developed during their teens or early twenties. Of course, our interests and priorities change over time, so it’s not uncommon to find yourself in a profession that’s not a good match anymore.

The good news: it’s completely possible to change paths. The following seven tips will help you get started:

  1. Use a career test to perform a self-assessment. As Dawn Rosenberg McKay advises in her article “How to Make a Career Choice When You Are Undecided” for The Balance, career tests can help clarify your interests, skills, values, and personality type. Most career tests provide you with a list of engineering jobs that could be a good match once you’ve completed them. Pat Sweet covers a few more specifics in his article, “Three Simple Questions that Will Change Your Engineering Career.”
  2. Research the disciplines that appeal to you most. Use online and educational resources to learn more about each profession or engineering discipline. A quick Google search will give you some basic information, but it can be helpful to visit professional organizations’ websites for further insights. In his article, “Creating a Plan to Transition as an Engineer from One Discipline to AnotherAnthony Fasano considers this to be one of three key steps to achieve the transition.
  3. Determine if you need to retrain. Depending on your transferable skills and experience, you may need to get more education. You can work out a plan that will allow you to do so while you’re still working your current job. But, as Derek Sankey explains in “How an engineering degree can help you find a career in another sector,” the reality is that in today’s job market, an undergraduate degree in engineering can take you down almost any career path.
  4. Research industries and companies you’re interested in. Beside your engineering discipline, it’s important to be aware that the industry you’re in and the company you work at play a large role in your happiness. Spend some time finding out about various relevant industries, as well as which companies have the kind of projects and ethos you’re looking for. Check out the article from Engineering.com, titled, “How to Decide to Take the Technical or Managerial Career Path as an Engineer” for more info.
  5. Network. In her Inc.com article titled “Wrong Career Path (and 4 Steps to Get You Back on Track),” career coach J.T. O’Donnell points out that nowadays, almost all positions are filled as a result of referrals. That’s why you have to leverage your network by constantly making new contacts, cultivating existing contacts, and trying to get a connection to the company where you want to work.
  6. Perform informational interviews. Jessica Abo offers some good advice about informational interviewing — speaking to a seasoned professional in a specific field or company to learn more. In her Entrepreneur article “Successfully Change Gears After Choosing the Wrong Career Path,” she recommends rehearsing your message so you know what you want to say, sending a thank you email, and following up with whatever you agreed to do — whether that’s contacting someone or scheduling an appointment for a more in-depth conversation.
  7. Work with a recruiter. A specialized engineering recruiter can help you find jobs that are a good match for your skills and preferences while still taking your experience into account. Moreover, recruiters hear about jobs before they’re posted on job boards and can help get your résumé on the right desks.

It’s only logical to be a bit intimidated at the prospect of changing careers. But when you’re passionate about what you want to do for the rest of your working life, the time and energy you invest now are nothing short of an investment in your professional and personal happiness.  


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