"I found that an engineering background can be a real handicap for working in the digital age," said Jon DiPietro, founder and principal of consulting firm Domesticating IT and co-founder of CareerGravity.com, of lessons learned during his circuitous career path from automation engineer to marketing and social media specialist. "However, engineers can also strengthen the practices and habits needed to use social media, which is becoming increasingly important in the workplace and job market."
To access their creative sides and begin using social media to its full advantage, DiPietro reported that engineers must overcome some of their traditional reluctance in calling attention to themselves. "You have to defeat the resistance to unconformity," said DiPietro. "You can't be afraid to stand out a bit, and then you have to export that knowledge, which can make you indispensable."
Presently, it's very hard for employers to find and retain qualified and talented staff through traditional means, or even via online job boards. Consequently, research shows that 89% of employers are using social media tools for recruiting, and 87% of these are using LinkedIn, 55% are using Facebook and 47% are using Twitter, DiPietro reported. Likewise, about 75% of companies are also checking candidates' online profiles before interviewing them.
'Serious and Essential'
"So social media is serious and essential. Just think of it as SCADA for your career," explained DiPietro. "You might be able to run a refinery without PLCs, but you would not do it. And you could manage your career without social media, but you should not do that either. You can also think of social media as giving you a feedback loop for your career—and LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as the sensors that can help solve problems. However, if you wait until you need it, then that's going to be too late."
DiPietro recommended that engineers first set up a personal online domain and website because it will be their own digital property—unlike the social media websites where users' space could be taken away at any time. Next, once this "home base" is established, they can use it to set up outposts on LinkedIn, Facebook and other online communities, which can help bring opportunities to them.
In addition, he reported that engineers must practice three other skills to improve their social media credibitily. These are
- Storytelling and learning, to turn their expertise, whitepapers and reports into interesting problem-solution tales that readers will notice and find useful;
- Visual design skills, for presenting ideas with simplicity and restraint; and
"These days, you can't just do your job well. You also have to tell people about it," DiPietro explained. "This means being authentic, participating in groups, answering questions and building trust. People don't care about your products and services. They only care about how you can help them solve their problems."