5 ways to advance your CAD career

5 ways to advance your CAD career

Or: how to make the most out of your CAD and BIM skills

Where do you see your CAD career going? Do you hope to become a project manager, a design engineer or maybe even set up your own company? Whatever your goals, it can be useful to step back sometimes and think about how you will advance in your profession.

Whether you are a junior drafter or have a few years of experience under your belt, we've put together a list of five ways to advance your CAD career.

CAD careers are hugely rewarding and offer a wide range of possible paths to follow. Here are five tips to get ahead, whatever your dream career.

1. Set career goals

As with any journey, it is much easier to advance your CAD career if you know where you are going. Set some time aside to think about what you really want from your professional life. Would you like to work at a large aerospace company and become a leading expert in fuselage design? Would you like to end up managing teams? Do you like the idea of being a generalist, working across a range of projects?

Once you have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve, you can then start plotting your route to achieving those goals. You might find it useful to use the SMART method for goal planning. SMART is an acronym which stands for:

  • Specific – e.g. “I want to design next-generation car batteries”
  • Measurable – e.g. “I will achieve this by December 2020”
  • Achievable – e.g. “I can do this by attending a car battery design course”
  • Realistic – e.g. "I will be able to do this at a weekly evening class in the next three months”
  • Time-based – e.g. “I will start applying for jobs in January 2020”

Your career goals should be both short and long term - it is worth thinking about where you want to be in one to three years as well as five to ten years.

2. Learn non-technical skills

Every senior CAD engineer has good technical skills and knows CAD inside out. However, a decent technical knowledge is not enough to really advance in your career; there are plenty of skilled designers, but they don’t all progress.

The key to really advancing your career is to develop your non-technical skills. Perhaps most importantly, look at developing useful management methods - this is about leadership and knowing how to get the best from your teams. If you ever get the opportunity for management training with your company, definitely take it up.

There are other kinds of skills that are useful for climbing the CAD career ladder too. These include project management, where you will learn how to lead projects rather than just being a single contributor and therefore take more responsibility. Or take it a step further and get certified as a Project Management Professional. It can also be useful to work on your client-facing skills, learning how to listen to customers and ask the right questions. As you progress in your career these ‘soft’ skills can be just as valuable as your design know-how.

Insider tip: get trained and certified in Project Management. Here's a great blog on the prevailing Project Management certifications

3. Network, network, network

Many people find networking painful. Nonetheless the research is clear - networking seriously improves your career prospects. Getting out there and meeting people within your industry means you're more likely to meet your next boss at an event or meet up.

Websites like LinkedIn are, of course, a great place to start - make sure you connect with people across industry and join and contribute to groups which interest you. It is also really useful to join any associations or institutions which are related to your sector. Attending occasional events and making genuine relationships with people could mean you get remembered – and offered your dream job.

Insider Tip: sign up today and engage with one of these - large - LinkedIn Groups: 

 You should also consider getting a mentor - many companies offer their own mentoring scheme which can help you get tips and advice on how to progress from someone more experienced.

4. Develop a profile

A really useful way of improving your career prospects is to develop a public profile. This is about putting information out into the world about your interests and passions. By developing a profile within your own business and in public, you will receive interest from employers, recruiters and colleagues.

So what does this mean, practically speaking?

Say you had a passion for BIM. You might choose to write a fortnightly blog on the topic and host it on your website or publish it to LinkedIn. This could eventually lead to you being invited to speak on the topic at events, or be interviewed by CAD magazines. This increased profile would mean that your current employer will value you more (you would be doing a free marketing for them after all), and it could also mean that future employers will notice you and perceive you as a serious expert.

5. Continually learn and develop your skills

Whether you are just starting out in design or have many years of experience, the world of CAD is constantly evolving. It is invaluable to keep on learning new skills and further develop your expertise in different areas. Make use of any learning and development opportunities that your company provides, and try to gain qualifications relevant to your sector.

You should also take advantage of online CAD learning to develop new skills (designairspace’s cloud-based CAD platform provides great tools for doing so). This will impress your managers and give you a leg up in your career.

There are so many directions that your CAD career could take – and by putting a plan into action, you can achieve your goals and have a truly satisfying professional life.