With the year 2020 bringing in a fresh start, now is the time to take advantage of the rush of optimism and planning for the future that is in the air to make goals and set yourself up for success on your own professional track. 

In the Masters of Engineering degree with a concentration in Information Engineering Management (IEM) program, we encourage our students to use the clean slate of a new year to think about the next steps for their professional career. Whether you're wanting to transition from engineer to manager, pursue professional networking growth, or ask for professional development opportunities in your current position, these four tips will help you start the new year with purpose and action:

1. Know What You're Worth

The best way to know what decisions you should be making, what you should ask for, and how to have confidence in making those requests moving forward in the next year is to actually know your personal value. By assessing your personal economy you will know exactly what your time and work is worth. 

Personal economy goes beyond just increasing your net worth. Assessing your personal economy examines how you spend your time, the sources your income is coming from, your satisfaction and opportunities in your career, the balance in your family life, your health, and what kind of life you want to live. Knowing how to balance the important areas of your life can keep you from being unhappy and frustrated, and instead allow you to be fulfilled and focus on what really matters in your life. 

2. Maintain and Mature Your Professional Network

When assessing your personal value, it's important to consider both the personal and professional network that you carry in your back pocket and the value of knowing the other people that you do. Your contacts not only help you with finding new work opportunities and meeting other people in your field, but they can also be a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, or even a mentor.  In 2020, challenge yourself to make reaching outside of your comfort zone to not only build your network, but also grow the individual relationships with the people in your network a priority throughout the year. 

If you're new to the networking game here are two easy tips to meet, connect, and build connections:

  • Join organizations and associations in your area. One of the best ways to build a professional network is to be active in professional organizations, which are typically either at a larger level (regional and international activity), or focused on local business and are typically tied to Chambers of Commerce. The leadership work you do outside of an office in an industry organization or association can also help you become noticed as a leader within the office walls and help you move from engineer to manager.
  • Attend a conference focused on your industry. Another excellent way to build your network is to attend conferences in your professional field, or even a hobby or extracurricular you are interested in. Often these types of events have networking activities built in, and you can also use social media before, during, and after to reach out to people who are also attending. We at UAB IEM also attend several conferences around the country each year, so if you see us at an event soon, make sure to say hi!

3. Talk to Your Boss about Professional Development

Another way to make the most of your 2020 is to take your career situation in your own hands. This may mean looking to make a move to a new company, or sitting down with your boss to have a conversation to ensure a viable future in your current situation. No one is more invested in your future than you, so having a conversation to talk about your personal wins, sharing your professional dreams with your supervisor, or asking for professional development opportunities in order to position yourself for success in your current position or ensure growth in the company. 

There are so many professional development opportunities available, so get creative and research options that seem exciting and interesting. You may find a conference that can provide experience to new practices and other colleagues in your industry, or even corporate training opportunities through your company. Also, research if you have access to internal assistance to pay for these professional development options. Know your options, prepare a pitch, and treat this conversation like a strategic business meeting—because that's exactly what it is.

4. Pursue a New Degree

Perhaps you've explored your professional development opportunities and decided that you're in a place where a secondary degree will serve you best. Well, you've come to the right place. At IEM, we provide a curriculum that will take your knowledge as an engineer and build upon what you already know to enhance your management abilities. 

You'll complete coursework that will help you clearly define your professional goals and strategically grow your network in order to make progress to achieve those goals. Establishing a connection, in-person not just over social media, with a network of leaders in your field is essential for making a career change, whether you're considering making that change now or even in the future.  You will also complete a design project that will culminate all you've learned in IEM and prepare you to apply your knowledge and skills to a future growth plan. Many design projects are startup related and students receive mentorship as true entrepreneurs, while other projects are an internal project at their current position that will get them noticed by leaders. A small portion of our students use the this project as PhD research to prepare for their doctorate degree. 

Whether you're ready to make a career change today, or dreaming of owning your own company someday in the future, IEM can prepare you with management skills and knowledge to apply right away in your current position and the confidence to start leading no matter what level you may currently be at in your company

Make this your year.

You may already have clear plans for what you want to accomplish this year, or you may still be in the initial drafting stages of even thinking of what your goals could be. A new year brings with it another round of 365 days for you to make more big dreams, and accomplish more big goals. Wherever you are in this dreaming and scheming process, my personal hope is that 2020 will be the year that you take action and see progress as you move forward in life.

If pursuing a master's degree is something you would like to accomplish, we would love to meet with you to show you your options for growth, and most importantly support you as you grow and meet your goals. Fill out the form on this page to schedule a time to talk or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Let us help you take the steps to set your path to a technical or engineering management career.

About IEM

The Master of Engineering with a concentration in Information Engineering Management (IEM) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a specialized concentration designed primarily for engineers and people in technical positions. The concentration presents business systems and soft skills in a curriculum that is based on actual engineering industry needs and is offered completely online.

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