Electrical engineers can have a tough time standing out; with over 50,000 employed in the UK alone, competition for the best positions and most lucrative contracts is fierce and unrelenting. While every professional acquires a solid set of skills during their training, it often isn’t.
The key to success today – not just for professionals but for any enthusiast interested in developing their abilities – is a commitment to continual self-education. In a sector where regulation is ever evolving and technical innovations are on-going, it is difficult to overstate the power a thirst for knowledge and the willingness to develop new skills can have.
This is not just about maintaining your skills; it is about having the up-to-date expertise to provide meaningful value and differentiate yourself from other trades people or organisations.
Too often, Continued Professional Development is seen as a chore - a necessary-but-annoying addition to an already challenging job. This is the wrong way to see things: keeping fresh isn’t only about ensuring your status isn’t usurped by recently qualified electrical professionals - it makes the job more engaging, more exciting, more meaningful and ultimately makes you stand out from everyone else.
Even those with vast expertise and years of stories experience benefit from an openness to new ideas and innovations: they will find ways to improve their performance, and they will have their passion for the profession renewed.
Legislation and Regulation
Clearly, any engineer needs to read and understand new legislations and regulations; being able to make sense of it in a properly nuanced way is vital. This is also true of working in different geographical territories or on new kinds of projects – all require engineers to understand guidelines and protocols which may, objectively, appear dull.
Learning is like a muscle: the more you use it, the easier it becomes. And in a beautifully self-reinforcing cycle, as learning becomes easier it also becomes more fun to do. Parsing out new legislation or technical requirements can be tough, but those who are well practised find it easier and more engaging; this gives them a serious advantage.
Like any worthwhile craft, your electrical skills have to be carefully, continually maintained. Successful engineers require that wonderful mix of technical know-how, problem solving and strategic skills; any of the set weakening will cause serious disruptions.
Keeping technical skills up-to-date and on top form is clearly important, and any great engineer will dedicate plenty of time to retaining their mastery. However, the other skills – logistical, strategic and lateral – must too be maintained, and it may be in this that the greatest gains are to be had.
Whether it’s practising problem solving or staying up-to-date with project-management trends, continual engagement and development with these capacities can give engineers a profound leg-up.
From state-of-the-art tools and accessories to whole new methods of generating power, the world of engineering is continually evolving and presenting electrifying possibilities to any engineer interested enough to take note.
The value of this innovation is immeasurable: whether it’s time saving tools or improved energy efficiency, the technical opportunities for engineers to develop better practises and more impressive results are endless.
It’s estimated, for example, that poor quality power alone costs the global economy £500 billion per year; an up-to-date understanding of how power quality can be improved will help engineers provide huge value to their clients – and improve their own performance in the process.
So, what should you do?
The number of ways for engineers to develop their knowledge and skills are clearly immense; it can be overwhelming simply figuring out where to begin. The key to successful, engaged and above all personally nourishing learning is not to prioritise any specific element of your learning - it is maintaining a growth mindset.
Rather than considering your abilities and knowledge to be set in stone, you need to see them as a continuous project; growth and improvement is cumulative, and the greatest skill an engineer can have is adaptability.
Here are three simple principles which will help you do achieve that:
The simple pleasure of learning should always be fresh; never lose the excitement and passion that made you want to get involved with engineering to begin with, and constantly seek out inspiration and new ideas.
Nobody is above a skill refresh or a re-read of the regulations. There is always new information to absorb and new tools to explore; regardless of your mastery, never forget that you are always a student.
Staying up-to-date means continuing to seek out information about trends, tools and accessories. Whether it’s maintaining a network of peers, attending technical workshops or simply reading authoritative articles online, learning should always be active and those in the know should always be making connections.