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Joe Miller, senior project manager at Turner & Townsend, shares his story and top tips for dealing with the sense of limbo engineers can have after they've become chartered.
Chartership was a big thing for me and I was keen to get it done as quickly as possible to progress my career.
I got great early experience in feasibility, design, construction, and worked for consultant, contractor and client in that time. Yet I still found myself frustrated at the profile of projects and responsibilities I was given when I felt I could have more impact.
While preparing for my chartership in 2014, I decided to move companies to join a small and growing consultancy team who were doing a lot of interesting and varied things. This really worked out for me, as I got some great experience to get me ready for my professional review and mentors for the review, resulting in a successful one.
Chartered in spring 2015, I was lucky enough to take an assignment working in Hong Kong delivering a contract on the Shatin-Central Link metro project (Hong Kong’s equivalent of Crossrail). This was out of my comfort zone, but I had a great time trying something new, while enjoying being overseas for five months on a fascinating project.
After I returned to the UK, I had a real struggle getting back into my old routine, and found myself again frustrated and unsatisfied with what I was doing. While seeking some career advice, a wise manager of mine suggested (1) I work on my communication skills and (2) I find out what I really wanted to do and go do that.
Something I knew I wanted to do at the time was work again in Asia. Knowing it was a mammoth task to relocate, I hired a career coach to help me with my job search. He quickly started asking me questions I had never asked myself before, about what I bring to a project, which is where I started working out what I was good at and enjoyed doing.
My coach also set me on a path of networking and creating content on LinkedIn based on my ambition and interests. This process of speaking with many people, getting advice from hiring managers, recruiters and other people who have been in my position helped me identify the role I wanted to do next and how to make the transition.
I came to the conclusion I wanted to move client-side as I saw a lot of opportunity to get into major infrastructure programmes in such a role that could help a move to Asia in the future. That realisation led me to do a skills gap analysis, working out where I needed to focus and how I could grow as a professional in that area.
Fast forward a couple of years and I obtained PRINCE2 practitioner, was working towards the APM's ChPP (Chartered Project Professional) qualification, managing complex multi-disciplined design projects and I even got my first client-side project management secondment.
When I started my client-side role, I realised how much I still had to learn, which was exciting as I knew there was huge potential for me now to grow as a civil engineer.
The icing started to make its way onto the cake when the strength I had built in networking and interview skills led me to having an informal conversation with my then-client, leading to my current role at Turner & Townsend, where I now work as a senior project manager and project executive client-side.
Alongside this career transition, I was moving towards a greater involvement with the ICE beyond attending the odd event at One Great George Street.
Initially, I worked as a delegated engineer, then after working on my presentation skills I started giving talks to large cohorts in my company on ICE competencies and running a presentation rota for engineers.
When I joined Turner & Townsend, I continued supporting chartership candidates by reviewing applications and conducting mock reviews.
However, my big break with ICE came from entering Pitch 200 and getting on the regional shortlist. The competition entry led to conversations with a membership development officer and the ICE regional director, before being invited to join the ICE London Regional Committee in 2020.
I am now serving on the regional committee, where I have become involved in shaping and influencing the future direction of the institution. What’s more, after a year of service, I am lucky enough to get more involved by taking role of honorary secretary for the next three year, which is a key strategic role on the committee.
Firstly, I would say don’t feel like you are alone in this post-qualification doubt. A lot of people go through this while they work out what they want to do next. It's ok to ask for help and a lot of people are willing to give you advice and tools, a lot of it free of charge. Do make sure you are show your gratitude though, however much the support costs you.
Secondly, trying things out is better than not trying at all. The search for where you want to go next is a process of trial and improvement. Have the courage to explore and sound out as many avenues as you can, so that you aren't left wondering 'what if'.
Lastly, remember that it is ultimately up to you to decide what's right for you. As much as advice is useful to show you options, only you know what suits you best.
Perhaps you want a change of career direction, sector, or are unsure about what to focus on and work towards in this new stage. The ICE Coffee Breaks will share stories from engineers at various stages of their careers and provide useful advice across a range of subjects as well as an opportunity to network with your peers.
Designed for members within 0 – 10 years post-professional qualification, they are open to all who wish to get involved.
Join us for the next session on how do you pick up your career after paternity/maternity leave.
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