Career Lessons

So I was thinking back about my old engineer career the other day.  I didn’t mind what I did for a living but it was time to move on to try other things.  But as I looked back on my career and I came up with some lessons that hopefully can help someone else in their career.

In no particular order:

  1. Asking for forgiveness is easier than asking permission, but it only really works on the minor things.  So try to be reasonable.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use your sick time.  I used to come in sick for the early part of my career and all I did was get no work done and then infect everyone else.
  3. Do good work, complete your work on time and be nice to work with.  Honestly if you can do that you are further ahead of most people.
  4. Own your successes and your mistakes.  It doesn’t get easier to admit when you screw up so get used to doing it earlier in your career.  And come with a plan on how to fix your mistakes.
  5. Good enough works sometimes.  For everyday items do good enough and save your energy for the key items your senior management really care about.
  6. Never depend on a raise or bonus.  It should accelerate your plans, not be your plan.
  7. The best way to a higher salary is usually a new job.  I got more raises moving jobs that I ever did just staying put.
  8. Always leave slack when estimating the amount of time you need to complete your work.  More often than not you will need it and if you don’t you just finished your work earlier.
  9. Know what you want or need in a job and try to maximize those and minimize what you hate doing.  For example, I hated repetitive work but loved getting new projects.
  10. People won’t recall your work, but they will remember how you made them feel.  So be nice as a default.
  11. When in doubt: speak up.  Ask the obvious or hard questions since most people have trouble doing that.  Senior leadership doesn’t know everything, contrary to popular belief, so ask.
  12. Time off is more rare than a raise, so when in doubt take the time off over money.
  13. If you can’t get all your work done in a day, it isn’t your fault.  It is often a resource problem, so doing overtime consistently will not fix it.  So avoid doing overtime on a consistent basis, but it is okay for that last push to finish a project.
  14. Take every dime of money you can for matched savings programs.  It will add up over the years.
  15. Social interactions make the world spin in business. So dear engineers get used to doing some small talk before diving into the agenda of your meeting.  I know it feels odd but when you really need someones help they are WAY more willing to give it if they like you.

So what lessons did you learn from your career?  Please add to the list with a comment below.

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