Unfortunately, this is a question I get all too often. Lack of confidence is one of the biggest inhibitors of professional development and overall success for civil engineering professionals (and many other professionals, for that matter). So, as a civil engineer, how can you build your confidence?
I have found that to build your confidence, you need to engage in activities that are uncomfortable for you, but also watch and spend time with people who are doing things that you are uncomfortable doing.
Here are some examples of confidence-building activities you might consider implementing.
1. Ask your supervisor if you can attend client meetings with him or her.
Explain to them that you just want to observe how they correspond with clients, so you can start to develop those skills. You may face some resistance initially, just because they will be cognizant of your time away from the office, but keep asking and eventually, they will allow you to go along.
2. Volunteer to attend town/village board meetings where your supervisor is presenting to gain project approvals.
Again, there may be resistance here, or they may just tell you that you can come but it will be on your own time. Do it. I did this for a few years and it allowed me to get a really good understanding of how to best present projects in public to a nontechnical audience.
3. Volunteer for a leadership position with a local association, like an ASCE chapter.
Doing this will give you leadership experience, force you to make decisions, and help increase your confidence. You will also build industry relationships.
4. Speak in public as often as possible.
I know. This may be really uncomfortable for you. Well, that means you should be doing more of it. Every time you get up in front of the room and present (whether it is for two people or 200), your confidence increases. I want to stress that this does not have to be in an engineering or professional setting. You can read at your church, or volunteer to coach one of your children’s sports teams. Anything that forces you to speak in front of a group will help build the confidence you want.
5. Recognize what’s working for you and what’s not.
As you engage in these different actions, take note of the specific things you did when something went very well. Write them down and make any notes that might help you to repeat or improve your actions the next time. On the other hand, if you had a challenging situation that didn’t go so well, take note of what went wrong so you won’t repeat it next time.
So, please, start thinking about how you can stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. You will develop new skills, reach new heights in your career, and become a confident civil engineering professional.
Please leave comments below with actions you have taken to increase your confidence as a civil engineer.
Anthony Fasano, P.E., F.ASCE, is the founder of the Engineering Career Coach website, which has helped thousands of engineers develop their business and leadership skills. He hosts the Civil Engineering Podcast, and he is the author of a bestselling book for engineers, Engineer Your Own Success. You can download a free video series on his website that will give you the tools needed to immediately improve your networking and communication skills by clicking here.
Anthony has also recently started the Engineering Management Accelerator to help engineers become more entrepreneurial: www.EngineerToManager.com.