Staying Relevant as an Aging Engineer

Bill Rybinski
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In many professions, aging has a positive impact on a person's career. The experience and contacts the individual gains opens doors to better opportunities. In the engineering field, however, your fortieth birthday can be the death knell to your career despite the vast catalog of engineering courses under your belt. Here are a few engineering tips for staying relevant as an older worker in an ever-changing industry.

Upgrade your skills: The shelf life of an engineer's skills seems to get shorter and shorter each year. The reason for such limited relevancy is the quick evolution of technology, particularly in the computer programming and engineering section of the industry. To remain competitive and viable, older engineers must constantly upgrade their skills. This means taking engineering courses and participating in self-directed learning such as reading books related to your skill set.

Stay current: In addition to taking engineering courses and pursuing other avenues for continuing education, engineers need to stay on top of the trends in their respective fields. Doing so can help them determine which skills may be in decline and which ones to pick up or continue developing. For example, when Nokia was the hottest cell phone on the market, Symbian was the language to know. Today, software engineers in the mobile market must know how to program for Android or iOS. Spending one to two hours a day reading industry-specific magazines, blogs, and news sites is a good way to stay abreast of trends.

Plan your career path: Instead of waiting for the day when your job is given to a new college graduate, chart a career course that lets you leave on your own terms. For instance, you may consider moving into a supervisory or managerial position where you can use your years of experience to motivate a team to successfully achieve company goals. This may require you to take additional engineering courses to obtain an advanced degree. Another option is to start your own business in the field or become a consultant.

Work on the next big thing: Nothing helps a person remain relevant than coming up with a groundbreaking invention. Taking engineering courses to improve or learn new skills and staying on top of industry trends can help you come up with ideas for innovation in your field. Work on the project on the side and present it to your employer when completed or use it to launch your own startup.

These four engineering tips for staying relevant as a senior engineer are, by no means, exhaustive. At the end of the day, you must prove to employers that you are a valuable asset to the company. In addition to improving your skill set by taking engineering courses, look for ways to demonstrate how you positively contribute to the company's bottom line. This may lead to a long and satisfying career doing the job you love.


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