This subject is especially relevant to high-schoolers as they are quickly approaching some major changes in their life, some major decisions that will have very real and serious ramifications for years to come, possibly for the rest of their lives. What do I do after high-school? Should I go to college? What school should I attend? What career do I want to pursue? Should I get married?
In this vein, a friend recently wrote me to ask how I had decided on pursuing (and eventually completing) my degree in Engineering. I would like to share my response, as I think it contains some good advise (if I do say so myself), specifically about picking a career, but also how to deal with life questions generally.
I got into engineering for two reasons:
- I liked technical drawings. I always enjoyed looking at technical drawings and I figured I would probably enjoy creating them too. It turns out that I was right, and that had I natural talent for it (I was far-and-away the top student in every technical drawing class I ever took).
- I wanted a career that would provide a comfortable income and relative job security. Engineering does both. Engineers are paid well and there is always a demand for them.
While I started with technical drawing classes, which I continued to love, I found that I also enjoyed most of the other engineering classes I that began taking (advanced math, physics, dynamics, testing, technical writing, problem solving, etc.). My enjoyment of the material I was studying and the potential for a solid, respectable career, confirmed the wisdom of the choice for me. That’s pretty much it.
Apart from that, let me give you some advice. I don’t have a very high view of going to college simply for the sake of getting a degree. I know too many people who have spent a great deal of time and money getting degrees in things like theater or “liberal arts” and upon graduating have no career prospects. Three years after completing their education they are working at Safeway, a decent job, but not what most people want to do for the rest of their life.
In my opinion, college is a tool to provide one with the resources that one needs to get started in the career of his choice. Think hard about what you want to do after college, and then take classes and get a degree that will help you achieve that goal. Maybe the career you want to have in 15 years doesn’t require a college education (there are plenty of great options that don’t), if your ideal career doesn’t require college then the 4+ years and all the money you will spend there are wasted. Start working toward what you want right now instead of waiting years and wasting money that could be better used in achieving your specific goals.If you don't know what you want to do right now, then go out and experience real life for a while. Get a job, work, and see what it really takes to get by in real life. A year or two of doing this and most young people will discover what they would like to do with themselves. I cannot tell you how valuable this is! Until you know what you really want to do you'll just float in University limbo, or worse, spend a lot of time and money getting a degree you have no use for and setting yourself back four, or five, or six years.
My point is this: Decide what you want to be doing in 15 years, both in your working life and in your domestic life. Think hard about what you need to do to achieve those goals and make realistic plans. If you have an idea about a specific career, seek out people who work in that field and ask for their advise about what to do, most people like helping.
Once you have a plan, buckle down and get to work. Nothing worth having is going to be easy; I worked for nearly seven years in college before graduating, and even then I had difficulty finding a stable job. It’s taken me almost 4 years since graduating to get into a career I enjoy, want to continue in, and will provide my family with a decent living.I hope that helps. It’s the best advice I can give you right now.