5 keys to unlocking professional success as a civil engineer

Isaac Kontorovsky, P.E., M.ASCE, is a principal at BKF Engineers, a leading consulting firm established in 1915, providing civil engineering, land surveying, and land planning through a network of 16 West Coast offices. Originally from Venezuela, he resides in Silicon Valley, where he also serves as director of innovation for BKF. His client list includes Fortune 500 companies and numerous government agencies.

Kontorovsky

In today’s Member Voices article, Kontorovsky outlines five secrets to his success as a civil engineer; tips that could help you too.

Roads require engineers. The road to success is no exception.

But how do you get on that path?

I’m sure you have read similar articles offering you the so-called “keys to success.” The truth is that there is no single “right way” to find success, but there is a “right way for you.” Here are five keys that might help you unlock professional success as a civil engineer.

1. Find yourself the right mentor

Mentors can positively change your path to professional success – whether you are just getting started or have been in the industry for many years. Most people envision the mentor relationship as one where there are highly structured periodical meetings in which the mentor draws a clear roadmap for their future. That is not always the case. While you may find a mentor who structures sessions this way, you should consider this the exception rather than the rule.

One interesting fact is that the person you choose to be your mentor might not even know that you consider them as such, and this is OK. Don’t expect that there will be an official ceremony in which you give the person the title of “mentor.” Be happy with any time that you can get out of them; be a sponge, ready to absorb all the wisdom that they offer you.

While it is possible to expect professional success without a mentor, there is no reason to make it harder on yourself. Under the wings of a mentor, you will increase your odds of meeting your goals in a shorter timeframe.

2. Become a great communicator

Engineering projects become a reality through communication and collaboration across different disciplines. Communication is not just about expressing your thoughts, but also about making sure that others can fully understand the information you are providing.

ABET requires engineering programs to demonstrate that their graduates can communicate efficiently. Communication, be it in oral or written form, is a critical aspect of an engineer’s success. Get out of your comfort zone and take some lessons on creative writing, or join a writing group if you can. The better you get at communicating technical information in an easy-to-follow manner, the more likely people will enjoy hearing what you have to say.

3. Do it right the first time

Engineering businesses need to stay profitable to maintain sustainable operations. One way to increase profitability is by staying efficient (of course). A known efficiency killer is the process of doing things more than once before completing the task at hand, which is something that most supervisors will be concerned about. This can become a significant obstacle for you at work, assuming that you are determined to move up the leadership ladder.

Create processes that allow you to take concrete steps when working on a project or when intending to complete a task at work. Avoid having to redo any work that you had deemed complete. Also, avoid putting such incomplete or inaccurate work in the hands of your supervisors at all costs. It is one thing to create more work for yourself, but it is a different thing to also create more work for others along the way. Make it easy for your supervisors: stay highly efficient.

4. Enhance the life of others

It should not always be about you. Meeting your goals is only half the battle. If you do great work, it will be noticed. If you do great work while you also play a crucial role in bringing up the quantity and quality of the output from your entire team, it will be noticed even more.

People who act as catalysts, bringing the best work out of others, are always valuable assets to any organization. These people can help maintain high and efficient productivity levels while preserving a very positive environment at work.

Do the right thing. As your career starts shaping up to reach new heights, never forget to pay it forward and do the same for others. Whenever possible, come full circle and mentor those who may be starting to walk a path you have already walked.

5. Stay present at work

Arguably, this could be the most important key to unlocking success, and it requires you to be present. Don’t just show up at the office. The secret formula to unlocking massive professional success requires you to go to work without it only feeling like work. You need to be motivated enough, challenged enough, and excited enough to show up ready for anything that comes your way, every day.

This kind of energy must come from within you. If you are not feeling this at the office, make sure to have a conversation with your supervisor or your mentor. If you are passionate about engineering, your drive will push you in unique directions, and your positive energy will be contagious enough to bring others along for the ride. If you enjoy what you do, it will never feel like work.

The keys are in your hands

Achieving your goals requires discipline and determination. And remember, today is always a good day to set yourself up for exponential success.

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