A career in engineering can be extremely rewarding but it is up to you to take control of your self-development. Establishing measurable annual goals is an effective way to ensure you are improving your skills and working towards achieving specific career goals. But while many people set goals for themselves, some struggle with developing goals that are measurable. Creating goals for yourself will keep you on track and will help you measure your own performance each year. And as you advance in your career, the pay opportunities can become very attractive. Typical salaries in the field can range from $40,000 to $120,000 annually, so keep up the hard work and push yourself to improve your skills.
Before you can establish goals you should really think about your future career and where you want to be. If you see advancement opportunity at your company, you should take advantage of it and get the support of your manager to develop your skills. There are often two paths to consider in the engineering career -- the managerial and technical paths. If you are interested in becoming a manager during your career you will need to set goals that help you achieve this. These goals should have a defined end point and you should easily be able to evaluate whether you met your target. For example, developing decision making skills and interpersonal skills are extremely important. If management is not for you, then you should improve your technical skills and work towards taking on more responsibility in your current role. Work with you manager to see if you can come up with measurable goals to accomplish this development.
You should work together with your manager to establish a clear set of goals. Be sure the goals are not vague but rather specific and written in a way so you can evaluate them with a yes or no answer during the review process. Most companies have a formal review process at least once a year so this should already be in place. If not, ask your manager if you can set goals independently. This will help improve your skills which benefits both the company and your own personal development. In fact, companies that fail to implement goals for its employees often fail to provide valuable work experiences. So it may be up to you to ensure you are getting the best opportunities. Be sure the goals are in writing and reviewed with your manager at least twice a year, but more if possible. This continuous dialogue helps create an open environment with your manager in which you can discuss your career freely.
When setting goals it is best to follow a proven methodology that will help you organize and measure you performance. Dr. George Doran developed a methodology called SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals). These five categories will help you develop your goals in a way that allows simple evaluation while holding yourself accountable. When writing your goals, you should ensure your goals are specific and relevant to the work you are doing in your position or company. Try to incorporate your goals into projects you are already working on as this will make the goals easier to achieve. For example, as a mechanical engineer, you might already be working on designing a new product which needs promotion from the marketing department. This could be an opportunity to collaborate with different functional groups to better understand the entire development process. But remember, the most important element is that these goals are measurable. A measurable goal will allow you to properly evaluate your performance and determine if you need additional focus.
If you've followed the SMART methodology then evaluating your goals should be simple. You should try to review your goals monthly to ensure you are on track and not getting lost in the day-to-day tasks at your job. If you feel you are getting off-track, request a meeting with your manager to review the goals. You want to make sure you have buy-in and support from your manager since she is the one directing the work you do. Since the SMART methodology requires that your goals are relevant to your work, it should be fairly simple to stay on track. Maybe you decided to develop your skills working on cross-functional teams representing your engineering group. Simply writing this goal is not enough. You need to include who you want to work with, what specific task you need to accomplish and when it should be finished. Look at each goal and ask yourself if you've completed the task on time. And if you've written your goals correctly, the answer should be clear since your goals are specific and measurable.
Auston Matta is an experienced engineer who has worked in the packaging industry since 2003. He holds a bachelor's degree in bio-engineering and a master's degree in engineering management. Auston has also contributed to "Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News."