Beginning Your Professional Life
Your first few years in the engineering profession can be among the most important in your life.
Up until now, you have been receiving an education based upon the experiences and discoveries of others. From now on, you are expected to use your knowledge and ability to produce results. You paid to learn; now you must produce to earn.
Up until graduation, the work that you did was regulated, programmed, and graded. In the future, it will also be regulated, programmed, and graded, but not in the same way. The regulations are a combination of policy, professional ethics, law, and unwritten law. Programming is usually informal, but in every company, tradition or experience governs the initial assignment for an engineer, and establishes what is expected in the way of performance. The grading consists of first impressions, constant appraisal, and your record of accomplishment.
Most engineers are highly motivated, or they would have picked a career which requires less rigorous preparation than a degree in engineering. You probably have some objective which you consider success - some level of responsibility, some salary, some contribution to mankind, country, profession, or employer. Whatever that objective, it is important for you to realize that you are in competition with all of your fellow engineers. Promotions are not likely just because people think that you are a nice person. Selecting people for advancement is like “choosing up sides” for a softball game. The manager making the selection wants to choose the winners.
Progress – even existence – as an engineer requires recognition of an acceptance of responsibilities to your employer, to society, to your profession, and to yourself and your family. Your employer is paying you to do the job and accomplish the results which they have a right to expect from an engineer. You have a responsibility to your employer to do that job as best you can. You have a responsibility to work with the organization, to communicate with the people, to do your full share of the work.
Your responsibilities to society are becoming more widely recognized, as we learn more about the conflict between technological development and the environment. Safety of employees, consumers, and of future generations must be considered, as well as cost and utility, in arriving at recommendations.
You are a representative of the engineering profession. Your conduct and your performance, both on and off the job, reflect on engineers in general and upon your associates in particular. You have an obligation to try to make your profession better than it is – more enlightened, more concerned, more effective, more deserving of the respect of other people.
Above all, you have responsibilities to your family and to yourself. The needs of your family and concern for your own mental and physical health are as deserving of attention as the other responsibilities which demand your time.