Monday, February 27, 2012

Musings for the Future

I'm still buried in thesis edits, though I'm getting close to the end.  (For now anyway.)  I took a break one afternoon last week to go to a panel discussion for women in engineering about how to get ahead professionally.

I've been thinking a lot lately about where I want to go with my career.  I have a variety of options.  I'll be working for a very large engineering firm when I gradate in May.  If I stay there for my whole career, it's likely that I will do engineering calculations 95% of the time for my whole career.  There's a chance of moving up higher in the company and doing something more general like project management or something more corporation oriented with a high level executive position, but I don't know how likely that would be.  I could stay there long enough to get a couple of licenses and switch over to a smaller firm where I could have a leadership role but still perform the engineering work that has gotten me into the field.  I could ultimately decide to start my own firm by myself or with a colleague or two.  If I decide I miss academia, I could go back and get a PhD so I can teach and/or do research.  At various times, all of these sound quite appealing.

There were two big ideas that I took away from the panel discussion today.  One was to keep all avenues open, because you never know which way you will decide to take your career later on.  If you pigeon-hole yourself too early you may find it very difficult to change course later.  The other idea was that your relationships matter.  I've known that for a while, but getting specific suggestions for how to get involved with the right professional organizations, how to build meaningful relationships, and how to find mentors was extremely helpful.  Since I'll be moving to a brand new area when I graduate, the professional and academic contacts I have here won't be as relevant and certainly won't be as accessible as I will want.  I need to start thinking now about how to go about making those contacts inside and outside of the company I'll be working for without the framework provided by my university.  I'm thinking I should start looking into those professional organizations now, and also finding members of my alumni association in my future home, so that I can be as prepared as possible for this transition.

There's something about hearing successful people talk and give advice that makes me feel like I can do anything if I just make the right choices along the way.  Right now I feel like the world is mine for the taking, if I can just get myself through graduation.  My posting is likely to remain sporadic until then.  I have priorities, and blogging comes after both school and career.

7 comments:

  1. Most universities have an awesome career center that is never taken advantage of by students and alumni. I actually found my current position through the job board of my alma mater's career center!

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  2. I think these are some great tips PPP. Even though I've only been out of grad school for 2.5 years, I never thought that my work history would look like it does at this point. I needed a job so I took the first one offered in my area, even though my skills were a bit thin on the subject, and now I'm in a completely different industry, though slightly related to my undergraduate degree! Keep your avenues open and learn lots of translatable skills that will work no matter what type of job you do (like writing) and you'll have plenty of options.

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  3. My suggestion would be to think about what you want to learn the coming the years and what you want to experience the coming years and to let that lead your decisions. During your career you can always change. Everything you learn the coming years, you have in your pocket. The more you learn and the more good contacts you make, the more avenues will open themselves during your career. Just enjoy it.

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  4. I agree with the first poster, that you should take advantage of your school's career center - I didn't, and I regret it EVERY DAY (well, especially lately). But don't worry too much about your professional future - I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but like Van Beek said, you can always change course. I'm 29 (well, for another month!) and am on my second career and contemplating a total about face! I think I read somewhere the average American adult will change jobs a dozen times these days - meaning nothing is set in stone!

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  5. I've made full use of my school's career center. That's how I landed an internship that led to a job offer a year before graduation during a bad job market.

    I think not worrying about the future is the wrong tactic. I'm specifically not planning to lock myself into anything, but by keeping my eyes open to what possibilities are out there and who I can learn from I can only help myself.

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  6. As a dancer I was traveling the world for free. I was eating for free. I was doing a lot for free. If you can believe it I wasn't happy. I went from making 100k a year to living off of what I had made. There were some very very dark moments but had I not done what I did I wouldn't have met my beautiful wife and had 2 great kids. Today I am a photographer and although I made more money in dance my business has grown very nicely in the last 2 years. I took a chance. Many people called me nuts for doing so but I followed my heart. :)

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  7. There really are no right or wrong choices. They are just choices. Go with your heart and make an intelligent decision but try not to get hung up on right or wrong.

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