Take Charge of Your Own Career Development!

4 Things to Do to Get the Challenges You Need to Grow


By Claire de Weerdt

Claire de Weerdt is a Junior Project Engineer working for a large publically traded engineering firm. While studying civil engineering at university, Claire ran a successful franchise business. She enjoys staying active in her spare time and reading business books.

Take charge of your career because no one else will.

The corporate world, especially in engineering, is busy. Managers are typically operating at capacity and although we’d like to think that they would be the mentors and career guides we need, they often have enough pressures of their own. It is up to you to manage your career and ensure you get what you need. It’s your own responsibility to cultivate mentors and establish the direction you want to take. In school everything was fairly clear, but in the workplace it is less structured and there are a lot of complicating factors. One thing you may especially want to ensure is that you are being challenged enough to learn and grow as a professional.

The list below describes four things you can do now to take control of your career and get the challenges you need to develop:

1. Ask Your Manager For Challenges
Managers are typically busy and they won’t know what you’re thinking unless you explicitly express it, nor are they supposed to know. They are people like everyone else and typically have a lot on their minds and plates. If you are looking for more challenge, chances are there is more work to be done. Approach your boss, say you have some extra time and could take on more work projects, but be careful what you wish for.

2. Get Creative and Take Initiative
A great way to occupy your time is to be proactive or creative in solving problems, even small ones. Try to take the time to look ahead and see problems ahead in the pipeline. Maybe there is something down the line that hasn’t been fully planned, or you can see a problem on the horizon that needs attention. If you see something that needs doing, just give it your best shot and go ahead and propose a solution to your manager. Your fresh perspective can offer a lot when it comes to finding innovative solutions to a variety of problems.

3. Take on Projects Outside of Work
This is especially good if you’re the type to need achievement. Throughout my studies, I had the opportunity to be on the Dean’s list and stand out. When starting your career, you may not have developed the skills yet to be an A player. Performance management systems are good up to a certain extent, but sometimes they don’t provide the same type of achievement you need.  Remember – a career is more of a marathon than a sprint so this may not be a bad thing.  Take some external courses and do well in them. Do some long term planning. Get a jump-start on your professional practice exam. Start a side business or volunteer. You could research graduate programs or consider going back to school. Your current job may only fulfill part of your interests and ambitions, don’t be afraid to take on side projects.  But be sure to keep them as side projects, know your priorities, and do not let them infringe on the confidentiality requirements or policies of your employer. They should be complementary activities that help your career development.

4. Be Patient and Learn From Others
So you’re new to your job and you want to do everything right away and make a big impact. Although it’s great to have ambition – the office typically assigns tasks based on seniority. Keep in mind that there are members in the office who may have 10+ times the experience you might have. Be patient, for a period of time, build on smaller tasks, and you may very well begin to gain more interesting work as you grow and improve. This is especially true if you are brand new to a company. You can also learn a lot from working with more experienced members on your team.

After working for two years as an EIT (engineer in training), I can say that transition from school to work definitely had its challenges. There are a number of things you can do to keep yourself engaged and inspired. A new career, although exciting, can be daunting and certainly difficult at times. It’s important to press through challenges and keep working through any difficulties.  Wishing everyone the best of luck with their endeavors!