Frustration and Imposter Syndrome . . .
The transition from engineering school to industry can be frustrating.
In engineering school, the parameters of a problem are often well defined. This allows you to grab the variables and apply the applicable formula(s) to get the answer.
In contrast, once you get out into industry, not only are you not given the variables, but you often need to dig into the problem to figure out what variables are even necessary. Once you have those determined, only then can you can out which formulas to apply accordingly.
In many cases, young engineers begin to develop feelings of Imposter Syndrome and start to question their engineering abilities when the search for these variables is fruitless.
You’re not alone in these feelings . . .
First and foremost, you should know that ALL engineers at one point or another have felt these feelings of frustration.
Second, a lot of this is in your mind because you don’t think you are performing up to par. In reality, you are probably doing just fine as you move through the learning curve of any new experience.
One mindset shift that I like to recommend to younger engineers is to recognize that your employer knows your skills & background and knows what it takes to succeed in your role. Given this info, THEY CHOSE YOU to fill the role and that shows the confidence they have in you to be the answer to their project needs.
Looking past this mindset shift, one of the best ways to push through this period and really flourish as an engineer is with the support of your senior engineers. While some may be more outgoing and helpful than others, I think that the overwhelming majority of senior engineers are happy to help you along.
We all remember being frustrated & overwhelmed young engineer and it was the senior engineers that came to our rescue. Now, it is our turn to guide the next generation and I hope you guys do the same as you move along in your career.
However, there are still better ways to ask to ensure that you get the most from the relationship and not waste their time which will drive them crazy. Remember, aside from helping younger engineers, they have their own work to complete as well, so we need to be respectful of their time.
5 things to keep in mind when asking for guidance . . .
- Tip #1 – Come with solutions – Seriously, I don’t care if you are dead wrong with your solution. I simply care that you TRIED to think it through and come up with a solution. This tells me that you are putting in a good faith effort and not simply using me as a crutch.
- Tip #2 – Batch your questions – Have you read Cal Newport’s book Deep Work? One of the things he talks about is how little distractions are really more disruptive than they seem. Getting pulled away from what you are working on for just 10 seconds has a longer last affect before you can really back on track to what you were working on. Therefore, unless an answer is absolutely critical to you being able to continue, try to batch those questions together so you are not disturbing the senior engineer’s work flow.
- Tip #3 – Schedule your questions – Ask the senior engineer if you can set a specific time to review some of your questions. This sets expectations and also gives you a better chance of having their undivided attention since they have committed to this time block for you.
- Tip #4 – Don’t fake it – If you don’t know something, JUST ASK. If you don’t, we assume you understood everything and will be more disappointed when you come back to us afterwards with that clarification request.
- Tip #5 – Take notes – I’m happy to answer even the most minor of questions. However, what is extremely frustrating is answering the same question over and over. If you really need it explained again because it didn’t click, that is one thing. However, if a simple note that you could have referenced would have saved this second asking, then it can be frustrating. I recommend a composition notebook that you keep with you at all times to keep a running tally of these types of answers to create your own reference manual.
Before you go . . .
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