Get out of the weeds


    One of the keys to career advancement is to work yourself out of your current job. In order to do that, you have to train someone else to do what you do and clear your own way to do bigger things.

    However, the problem for many technical professionals right now is that workloads are at historic highs in many AEC firms. That, combined with the tightest labor market we have seen in decades, is making an ideal career advancement environment very difficult to foster. As such, many engineers are over their heads in projects, offering little time to train, develop, and advance themselves or others.

    Another tragic and latent side effect is that heavy project loads are eliminating time to focus on the future of the firm. Whether it be time to develop new business, expand operations, or simply work on improving internal processes, these critical activities are not getting done in many firms. Everybody is off in the weeds right now and nobody has their head up looking beyond the field and to what is coming ahead.

    If there is any way you can get yourself out of the weeds and help your firm with any of the critical business activities mentioned above, there could be huge rewards for you. I would prioritize pushing work down as far as you can in your team. Put more work and responsibility on junior team members and then reward those who respond positively.

    Our employee surveys show that there are a lot of younger staff in AEC firms looking for the opportunity to step up. The problem with senior engineers is that they often see pushing work down as risky and possibly causing more time and effort than if they simply do it themselves. However, that mindset keeps us on a never-ending hamster wheel. We have to trust people more, offer opportunity to prove themselves, and then advance — in both pay and position — those who perform. This is the only way you will get out of the weeds!

    Chad Clinehens, P.E., is Zweig Group’s president and CEO. Contact him at