Your CAD Management Career Wake-Up Call, Part 2

10 Jul, 2018 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: You’ve made an important decision — to keep your current position, or move on to greener pastures — but what comes next?

In the previous edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I addressed job dissatisfaction and provided some steps you could follow to determine whether leaving your job might be the right decision. Hopefully you had a chance to go through the exercises; if not, take some time to do so now, so you’ll know whether you’re ready to move on or not.

In this edition, we’ll focus on preparing for a job search, or — if you’re happy with your current position — analyzing your own strengths and weaknesses. These steps are presented chronologically, so take care to tackle them in the order presented. Here goes.

Polish Your Image

If you’re moving on to greener pastures, or even just considering a possible move, there are a few things you absolutely must do before you send out your first resume:

Clean up social media accounts. Don’t delete them entirely, but remove anything that you wouldn’t want a human resources department seeing. For example, those pictures of you coaching your kid’s soccer team should stay, but any profanity-laden political rants must go. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the point is the same.

Update LinkedIn. LinkedIn is where the action is, professionally speaking, so make sure you’re putting your best career foot forward with complete, up-to-date information.

Check profiles on any professional membership sites. Whether it be a user group profile, a volunteer association website, or even a hobby site you visit, make sure your information is current on these sites as well. And if you’re no longer active on these sites, delete them and clear your digital desk of clutter.

The bottom line is that when you begin a job search, you’re inviting people to check out your background and experience, and these days that includes your online presence as well. If you haven’t looked for a job in the past five years or so, I can’t stress enough how much things have changed with respect to your digital footprint.

Assess Your Skills

So, what is it you do well? What are your weaknesses? How would you describe yourself to someone interviewing you? You know you’ll face these sorts of questions in a job search, but even if you’re not looking at the moment, it pays to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. So, get out a notepad and write down a plain-language summary of your skills. Here is a quick assessment I’ve done on myself that you can use to get your juices flowing.

On the positive side:

  • I’m a great design engineer who became a CAD expert.
  • I speak “engineer.”
  • I’m good at learning programming tools to automate tasks.
  • I’m always asking, “How can we do this better?”
  • I’m skilled at communication and teaching CAD users.
  • I’m very comfortable creating budgets and analyzing purchases.
  • I have a solid knowledge of IT concepts and tools.
  • I can easily explain technical concepts to non-technical people.

On the negative side:

  • I have little patience for those who won’t learn or work hard, and my management style sometimes reflects that.
  • I lack experience in building and civil trades, which makes me weak in building information modeling (BIM).

By preparing for these questions, you’ll do better in an interview: Almost any interviewer will ask you to explain your good points, and most will corner you into describing a weakness. And if you aren’t looking for a new job, you may be surprised at how self-assessment can make you think about your career in new ways.

Address Your Weaknesses

It’s great that you know your strengths, but the most important thing to do now is to address your weaknesses. I do this in two ways:

  • Admit personal weaknesses. 
  • Work to shore up knowledge gaps.

Here’s an example of admitting a weakness in an interview context:

If asked, “What is a weakness you have?” by an interviewer, you could respond in a way that acknowledges the negative while framing it in a way that shouldn’t hurt you, like this:

“I sometimes find myself not being tolerant of CAD users who don’t give a good effort to learn new methods or follow best practices, and you may notice that in my management style. I try to balance this aspect of my personality by telling users up front that great effort and adherence to standards is expected, so they won’t be surprised should I be terse with them if they don’t try hard.”

And here’s an approach for dealing with my building trade and civil knowledge gaps:

I read everything I can get my hands on, and utilize evaluation software combined with online training materials to learn everything I can. While none of this will make me a civil engineer or construction management specialist, it will make me more conversant and aware of the practices and technologies that my users need to apply.

Do a Mental Tune-Up

Have you become lackadaisical in your current job? Has your level of mental preparation gone from an ongoing, proactive examination of how to do things better to a grudging acceptance of how bad things are? If so, snap out of it and start approaching your job with a renewed vigor — even if you do want to quit. Try taking the following steps to mentally “tune up” for the rigors of interviewing and obtaining a new job:

  • Think about how you could run projects better.
  • Think about how standards could alleviate problems.
  • Create a list of errors that are frequently made.
  • Devise a plan for how you’d change things if you were permitted to.
  • Think about how training could make processes work better, if you were permitted to run a full program.

By thinking along these lines — even if your boss won’t give you permission to actually take the steps — you’ll awaken your mind and kick-start your creative processes. In short, you’ll get sharper, which means you’ll interview better when in a job search and be more valuable to your current company if you stay.

Update Your Resume

No matter what your job circumstances, there are several things you should always be sure you keep current, including:

Skills inventory. What skills do you have (even though you may not be using them all at your current job)? No matter how insignificant a skill may seem, it could be marketable to someone. Take some time to catalog all the software you know, management skills you have, etc. As companies struggle to hire more versatile employees, they’re always looking for those who have a wide variety of skills.

Education and certification summary. A list of all college studies and degrees comes first, followed by certification programs. Finally, any partially completed study programs can be listed to show a continued commitment to your educational pursuits. While some jobs do require college degrees, many do not, but all employers are looking for people who are willing to learn and put in effort to educate themselves.

Update your resume. All pertinent dates, job titles, responsibilities, and software proficiencies should be listed as they pertain to your CAD management skill set. Be sure to include the high notes from your skills inventory and educational background as well.

Now it’s time to start exploring new possibilities via LinkedIn, personal references, or recruiters. You’ve done most of the work already — now it’s time to get that interview.

Get Your Elevator Pitch Down Pat

Imagine you’re riding in the elevator with the CEO of a company you want to work for. You’ve got a minute — at most — to explain why the company should hire you. What do you say?

This short speech, called an elevator pitch, is something you should be able to recite calmly and professionally to any recruiter, interviewer, or human resources professional you talk to. Here’s what a good elevator pitch does:

  • It states what you want. What job are you looking for?
  • It states why you want to work there. What about this company captured your attention?
  • It states how can you help them. A quick summary of qualifications that make you the right person for their needs.
  • It asks for the chance to have a more in-depth discussion. Make sure you ask for the chance to talk more.

Think about this elevator pitch carefully, write it out, make sure you can recite it naturally and earnestly in less than 60 seconds. In all likelihood, your elevator pitch will be what gets you a follow up interview after an initial contact, so you should absolutely give it all the attention needed until you’ve got it down.

Summing Up

During my career I’ve seen many things change, but the occasional need to switch jobs or secure a better job is something that doesn’t change. The good news is that by following a relatively simple checklist of to-do items, you can be ready for any eventuality — even if your current situation is going great.

Whether you’re searching for a new job in earnest, still thinking about it, or are totally happy where you are, I hope you’ll find the career management concepts we’ve covered in this series useful in assessing the status of your career. After all, it’s never a bad thing to know where you stand and be ready to react to the changing career marketplace! Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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