In today’s job market you need to both seize and create opportunities that help to mark you out from colleagues and demonstrate to your line manager that you have what it takes to progress up the career ladder.
Impressing the boss has always had sycophantic connotations but this shouldn’t discourage you from striving to do your best for them. For newcomers, it is especially important to show a willingness to take on new challenges and be flexible in the early weeks and months, reckons Sarah Hernon, principal consultant for career management at the consultancy, Right Management.
“While you may not have worked in the industry before, you can show you’re prepared to go that extra mile and apply your technical know-how to the workplace,” she says. Whatever stage you are at though, if you are ambitious and want to forge ahead in the engineering world, it is important to showcase your talents and get noticed by your boss.
Build strong working relationships
Your manager is the most influential person in your career presently so invest time and effort into building a reciprocal two-way relationship with him or her. The greater your understanding of the pressures they work under and their motivations, the easier it will be to identify the things you need to do to impress them. Moreover, if you have built a solid relationship and helped them to perform well in their role, they will be more willing to give you credit across the organisation.
“Ask questions that help you to understand the expectations of your role and the direction it’s taking,” says Hernon. “And find out what ‘good’ looks like.”
As well as performing consistently well in your job, find out how you can best support your boss. For instance, are there some routine tasks that you can take off their hands? Where possible, over-deliver and never make a promise you can’t keep. Build a reputation as the ‘go-to’ person in the department and a reliable pair of hands. Hernon also advises forming relationships with other key individuals as well.
“It can help you understand how the business operates and how people can help you to do your job effectively,” she explains. “Your interpersonal skills should also be on show - have the confidence to share ideas and collaborate with people, be savvy about how the business works and demonstrate good communication skills.”
Seek additional responsibility and new opportunities
Once confident that you are performing well in your role, begin to look for fresh and additional challenges. Be willing to take on extra workloads and new assignments. Proactively look for opportunities that broaden your skill sets and discuss these with your manager. Consider a secondment, specific project or even a sideways move to another department that would expose you to new experiences. Demonstrate a thirst for knowledge and willingness to learn from others at all times. Also let your boss know that you are keen to travel if it helps with career progression.
“You will need to make a good business case to your boss as to why you should be considered for an international assignment, and having knowledge of a second language would work to your advantage here,” says Hernon. “But if this is something you’re interested in, articulate it to your boss in a one-to-one career review or speak to them sooner.”
Work on your personal brand
As well as establishing a strong reputation for delivery, it is important to indicate your broader commitment and interest in the engineering sector. Stay up-to-date with the latest industry news and developments and exhibit your knowledge to your boss and colleagues but be mindful not to come across as a know-it-all. Keep abreast of what competitor organisations are doing (news sections of their websites are a shortcut way of doing this) and don’t be afraid to highlight any news items you discover to your boss. They may know of the development already but it still demonstrates a keen interest.
Use social media to help build your personal brand. Hernon suggests one way to show you are an advocate for the engineering industry is by commenting on relevant articles on social media and she also highlights the importance of having a good “digital footprint”.
“It’s one of the best ways of being noticed as a young engineer,” she explains “Make sure you have a good LinkedIn profile that demonstrates what you’re achieving as you’re progressing. This can provide a great portfolio of evidence of what you’re delivering and the value you’re bringing to the business.”
She adds: “Keep your profile up-to-date, including key strengths and recommendations from others. Create a credible portfolio of connections to build your industry network. Follow different companies on Twitter, some of which may be your competitors, and comment on relevant industry articles, but be mindful about what’s on your personal page.”