Getting that niche!

We all hate going for interviews, they are the worst after maybe having to pull an all-nighter before exams. What I am about to say next will surprise you as it did me. I loved my most recent interview; it was the best I have ever gone to. I got to learn! You know the way they say that learning is a never ending process well this was it for me. I never ever thought I would say this about an interview but I wouldn’t mind repeating it again. (I know what you are thinking, she must be insane right?)

One of the interviewers (no mentioning names) looked at my resume and I think he found it pretty amazing so to say (he smiled). The question he asked me next is why I am wiring this post today. Just to paraphrase, he asked me what my niche was and why I had worked in various unrelated industries. Up until that time to be honest I had not thought much about what my niche really is. If you are an engineer you definitely know that all the branches of engineering are wide and it is not just enough to be a Mechanical, Civil, Electrical engineer and many more. And in that room, sitting on that chair, looking at the interviewers I got my Voila! moment. You know the way Newton got his while sitting under a tree and an apple hit him on the head? Yes that is what I am talking about.

Back in campus I would pride myself that I knew a little bit of everything there is to know about Mechanical Engineering. Until I got out into the gold mine of the engineering world, a world where knowing it all was just not good enough. A world where there are all kinds of engineering leave alone the generalities we are used to. I also wanted to be somewhere in this goldmine (sigh) there comes again the thought that learning is a never ending process! (If you are still in engineering school, you are just but starting). Knowing every little thing in engineering is not good or bad. It just does not set you apart from the rest. How many engineers in your branch of engineering do you think are there? Many, of course! No one tells you just how much compared to other industries, engineering is such a specialized field.

Most if not all engineering jobs require specific knowledge and skill-set. Of these some can be learned in school but truth be told most are learned while on the job. Having worked in various different industries I have come to realize that in the quest for specialization, and in order to make the most of your career as an engineer, it is important to balance both job specific skills and career skills. Quite ironical, but what isn’t in this our world? Well specialization gives you the much needed expertise, higher pay and less competition which translates to higher job security as long as your role exists. Or if you are an engineerpreneur (I came up with that) then it sets you apart from your competitors.

It is important however to note that specialization does not always guarantee job security. I got to look at it in this perspective; specialized engineers can have a very hard time finding another job due to the nature of their narrow skill-set. Again if you get bored quickly, then specialization is not for you. In the course of my few years in the engineering field I have seen specialists suffer a lot in a struggling job market as is evident in Kenya right now. But that does not mean you should not specialize, it just means you be smart while at it.

The big question is therefore, how do you, I, We get to specialize and still broaden our knowledge base to include job- specific skills and career skills?

Career skills mean those transferable skills, both engineering and non-engineering in nature that can be used across various jobs and industries. So after that eye-opening interview I realized that just because I identify a niche and develop it doesn’t necessarily mean I cannot use my skills elsewhere, but in order to do that I have to gain and develop other skills which are both engineering and non-engineering related. These are the so called soft skills, computer skills, entrepreneurship skills and many others.

However, you don’t have to force yourself to specialize, some people are just not cut for it, and it is fine because it’s an inherent reflection of character. As we all know when it comes to character we are all very different! But hey, I am no career expert and that being said, Engineering is such a broad field with a lot to choose from. Expert or not identify what works best for you and develop it!

Hi! I am Brenda Rombo, a mechanical engineer, a writer and a dreamer but you can call me Bee. In 2014 I started a platform to discuss the various issues and emerging technologies in Engineering. During my years both as a student and an engineer I have always been fascinated with new and emerging technologies and diversity and inclusion.

06 Comment

  1. November 20, 2015

    Kerry

    loved the piece on climate change ….it starts with you as an individual, at the least do not waste food.
    getting that niche too…I’ve come to realize specialization is a good no. of times necessary. so choose an industry you love, and focus on that, whether jobs or study!!!

    • Thank you Kerry for the feedback,everything starts with oneself,let’s not wait for others to conserve the environment it’s our responsibility.

  2. November 20, 2015

    Linus

    We have to get our niche and become the best in them…And make sure they are the right ones

    • Yes Linus,its all about getting what works best for you and the industry demands.

  3. November 20, 2015

    Phil

    I can relate…good read, engineerpreneur…interesting

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