Question: Hello, I work in a large engineering department and am 9 years into my career. Most senior engineers still treat me like the “young kid”. I feel like I am stuck and that career opportunities are limited. Is there anything I can do short of leaving the company?
John P., Dallas, TX
Answer: What you describe is common for engineers in early to mid career. You have enough experience and knowledge to be highly productive but are surrounded by other professionals that have 10, 20 or even 30 years more experience than you. This naturally puts you at the bottom of the pole and it results on you not getting the kinds of assignments or responsibilities you expect. There are several possibilities that you can consider to solve this issue:
1. Consider associating yourself with a well respected senior member of the professional group you are in. You can be upfront and once you identify the target person approach him or her and tell them you would like to grow professionally and that you can help them while getting mentoring support. Most senior engineers will be glad to help. If you can establish this with someone that is well respected you will gain in two ways. First you will be associated with this person and considered a person of high potential. Second you will learn from this person. Nothing beats experience, especially in engineering. So if you can take this route do it.
2. Consider transferring to a department or a part of the company where these is more room for growth. This is an option only in large organizations of course. In some cases you may be stuck in a stagnant group where there will be no opportunities for career advancement and you may even be perceived as a threat to some of the more senior folks. If that is the case you may have to move laterally to another group with less establish hierarchies. Even for an internal transfer you want to rewrite your engineering resume to reflect what you have done at the company and how you have evolved.
3. Consider professional training or furthering your formal education. This will better you as a professional and will allow you to bring new know how to the team. This will make up for your relative lack of experience. So you will still be the young guy but now you have more knowledge… Huge advantage.
4. Alternatively you may want to consider doing nothing. Engineering expertise takes years and years to build. Focus on doing great work every day, keep an open mind and give and learn as much as you can when you come to work every day. Over time your growth and contributions will be recognized and respected.
5. Lastly if all else fails you may want to consider working on your engineering resume and a few good cover letters. Someone with your level of experience is very employable. Engineers with 5-10 years of experience are a much sought after group. So get yourself a professional engineering resume and cover letter and start looking for another organization paying special attention to the culture when you interview. You don’t want another situation such as the one you have now.
If you have any questions about this or any other topics please feel free to contact me directly.
Good luck with your search!