We are in the first month of 2024. For all the field engineers working in all industries in all countries, mostly unseen and unremarked upon, perhaps now is the time to plan a little on your own behalf. Field engineers are rarely mentioned or noticed in headline news, but they would hit the headlines if they were not there. Things would stop working, and people would ask why. Power would be disrupted, hospital appointments cancelled, food not packaged, household appliances would remain broken,… This article looks at nine areas for successful field engineers to focus on as 2024 begins.
How to be more successful as a field engineer
Exercise for flexibility and joint and back care
If you spend a lot of your time in cramped spaces – behind machinery or crawling in the nacelle of a wind turbine. Or, if you spend a proportion of each day fixed in position behind the wheel of a car, or in a plane, or helicopter. If you are offshore or on a remote site and so have little space at any time in each 24 hours to move or exercise. Then, make it a regular habit to exercise and in particular do something to help your back and joints.
If you are not familiar with your fascia, maybe this is the year to get to know it. Lots of pains come from having a stiff fascia.
If you spend a lot of time in a building or in a vehicle, then when you can seek fresh air and breathe. If you start to do this as often as you can, it will become a habit.
Mental health toolkit for successful field engineers
Keep something funny on your phone to view when you need it. Something which makes you laugh out loud.
As well, keep some photos which make you smile when you look at them. These can be of people, places, or events. Anything which makes you internally or externally smile.
Humour is not universal but Mr Bean sometimes is, so here is.
Family and friends
Working in the field can be a lonely job especially when away from family. So, keeping relationships strong with family and friends is very important even if you have little time to stay in touch. Setting up a WhatsApp group for a group of friends or family, can be very rewarding.
Family or friends who do not work away from home or onsite alone, may not understand what your life is like. It may, from the outside, sound very glamorous. So, it can be helpful to take time to explain a little of what your life is like. For example, hotels are great for a few nights, but not always for six weeks.
Any new skill you learn will enrich your life and so if not directly then indirectly will help you do your job better. For example, is this the year you want to learn a new language? Even if you don’t use your language during your working day, studies have shown that people who speak more than one language are overall better communicators.
Most field engineers have a job which is very technical, so would taking up an art or a craft, give you balance? It doesn’t have to be anything complicated or costly. For example, photography but not taking work photos, perhaps taking photos of trees or sunrises.
Are you completely up to date with your industry skills. Is there anything else you could upskill in? This could be a good month to ask your team leader for a chance to be involved in a new project or to be sent on a training course.
When was the last time you looked at your company website? There may be something new worth knowing about. Perhaps a new product launch and you could be involved in the initial training?
Communication skills for successful field engineers
All field engineers agree that communication skills are as key to success as technical skills. If this is an area that is challenging for you, can you do something to improve your communication skills? There are online course and self-help tools. In some countries, there are groups you can join, for example, Toastmasters.
This is a growing area because of AR. Are there other sources which could help you when you are out in the field? Are you avoiding remote support because you feel it further complicates the job you have to do? If so, is there a way you could learn more so that it a plus not a minus?
If you feel stalled in your career or feel that you need a change but are not sure what type of change you need. Perhaps you can find a mentor either among colleagues, past or present, or someone else in your industry. Mentors can be of great help no matter what stage of your career you are at. It may take some time to find the right fit, but this is a good month to start your search.
Perhaps you could become a mentor? This might give you an opportunity to share your experience and give you an added interest in your work this year.
The Field Engineer has already been active in supporting members who wants to be Mentors or Mentees by putting people I touch.