Work-Life Balance Tips for Engineers

By 2040, Australia will face a critical shortage of 200,000 Engineers. This shortfall is expected to have a major impact on projects across a host of industries, putting many mining jobs, as well as oil and gas positions, at risk.

There are numerous reasons behind this shortage. One is the fact that Australia has a low rate of engineering graduates in comparison to other countries, sitting at just 8.5% (Canada is 12% and Germany 23%). Another is that only 40% of skilled engineering migrants end up working in engineering roles upon moving here.

But there are ways to circumnavigate these challenges – and senior Engineers have an important role to play. This involves mentoring to not only attract but also retain junior, mid-level and migrant Engineers.

Why Mentor?

In your position as a senior Engineer, you have a priceless cache of expertise that ensures project success. But this experience can also be used to shape the future of the profession.

Your wealth of knowledge is invaluable in developing less experienced Engineers. Your understanding of how your industry works, coupled with years of honing emotional intelligence, adaptability and critical thinking skills, are assets that are hard to acquire with a university degree.

By mentoring junior Engineers and those new to the country, you will contribute to the longevity of the profession. MentorCliq found ​​employees involved in mentoring programs have a 50% higher retention rate than those not involved in it.

As a bonus, you’ll create a niche and job security for yourself, alongside experiencing the intrinsic rewards that come from mentoring others.

When it comes to mentoring young Engineers, mid-career and migrant Engineers, there are many options to consider. It might be those within your current company or at university. For instance, Engineer’s Australia has a ‘Mentor Match’ program for their graduates.

As you ponder your choices, here is some general advice to consider for embarking on a mentoring journey.

Be A Role Model

Think back to when you were just starting your engineering career. The most valuable nuggets of information you gleaned were likely from observing and listening to your more experienced colleagues. You are now that more experienced colleague.

As you go about your daily work, you can demonstrate to younger and less experienced Engineers what it means to be a professional in the sector in Australia; things like having a strong work ethic, integrity and high-end collaborative skills.

Aim to include new Engineers in meetings with clients, design professionals, contractors, tradespeople and other stakeholders across your business. This will give them ample opportunities to learn from others, as well as understand the internal dynamics of a project.

You could also consider undertaking unconscious bias training to help you cultivate an inclusive and equitable mentoring approach, no matter the mentee’s background, gender or ethnicity.

This is especially important in a field where you’ll likely be mentoring Engineers from other cultural backgrounds, as well as females entering a highly male-dominated sector (less than 20% of engineering students and professionals are women).

Mentorship for female engineering students is extremely effective. As an example, the University of Technology Sydney paired over 100 female engineering and IT students with industry professionals. After the program:

  • 75% of mentors agreed their mentee’s motivation to pursue a career in engineering or IT had increased
  • 88% agreed that their mentee’s career confidence had increased, including in putting their hand up for opportunities, job hunting and approaching employers
  • Over 40% of mentees had met with potential employers
  • Over 20% had received a job interview
  • 12% had received paid employment
  • 30% agreed to continue their mentoring relationships

Create a Supportive and Empowering Environment

A culture of collaboration, open communication and mutual respect allows everyone to thrive. When mentoring junior Engineers, encourage them to voice their ideas and ask plenty of questions.

While giving your time to answer questions is important, so is providing constructive feedback. When doing this, focus on specific behaviours or actions and offer suggestions for improvement. At the same time, provide space for them to make decisions and learn from both successes and failures.

Acknowledge and celebrate their achievements and milestones. Recognition boosts morale and motivation, reinforcing their sense of accomplishment and belonging within the engineering community.

Help Mentees Find Their Own Answers

When you see a less experienced Engineer struggling with a task, it’s hard to resist providing a quick solution. But it’s worth it.

Guide them through the problem-solving process of asking good questions, challenging assumptions and analysing information. This helps them arrive at their own solution, boosting their critical thinking skills – an essential component of being a great Engineer.

Encourage Cross-Functional Collaboration

Engineers who know how to effectively cross-collaborate often address challenges more comprehensively, and produce better solutions that meet a client’s diverse needs. Ensure less experienced Engineers have ample time to understand the different roles within their team, as well as their priorities and pain points. Facilitating meetings across the team can be an effective way to break down barriers, and make more experienced colleagues feel more approachable. This can help develop their emotional intelligence, whether it’s being able to empathise with differing viewpoints or deal with conflict.

Champion Continuous Learning

Engineering is constantly evolving, especially in the technological space. It’s important to encourage your mentees to pursue continuous learning opportunities to stay updated with industry trends and advancements. Invite them to seek these out, whether it’s certifications, conferences or self-directed study.

And when they learn something new, ask them to come back and share it with you and the team.

On this note, recognise the value junior Engineers offer in bringing fresh perspectives, innovative ideas and emerging technologies knowledge to your team.

Be open to learning from them. You may like to formalise this with a regular knowledge exchange where both senior and junior Engineers can learn from each other.

Continue The Mentoring Cycle

Mentoring is extremely valuable for both mentees and mentors, with the power to retain much-needed employees, and contribute to an increasingly diverse and sustainable workforce.

Part of any great mentorship is encouraging your mentees to continue the cycle – it’s often something that occurs organically with the vast majority finding the experience so valuable.

No matter whether you choose to take on a formal mentoring role or do it informally in your everyday working life, you are playing a pivotal part in nurturing the next generation of engineering talent.

Part of our work in oil and gas recruitment is to also develop the engineering talent of today and tomorrow. If you’d like to find out more about furthering your career through mentoring, please feel free to get in touch with one of our Patch Personnel specialists.

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