20 answers

When did you know what you really wanted to be?

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I think I want to be an engineer but im not completely sure. How will I know if ths job is right for me? #engineer

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20 answers

Hannah’s Answer

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Hi Ellie,

While some people know early on exactly what they want to be, most of us aren't so fortunate! My advice is to just try the things you think you may like - there's no other way to find out if something is a good fit for you! I don't mean you have to go to school to become an engineer before you can decide if it's right for you - there are plenty of ways to try out aspects related to an engineering career. This can include volunteering and talking to engineers and engineering students to find out what they like (and don't like) about their work!

The easiest way to get started on this process is to talk to yourself! Ask yourself some questions, including:

- What kind of engineer would you want to be? Do you want to work on solving environmental issues, work on building city infrastructures, or are you interested in computer engineering?

- Do you like to spend your time designing things?

- Do you like solving complex problems? When something doesn't work, do you get excited thinking about ways to improve it?

- Are you comfortable with the idea of learning new software and technology for your job?

These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself, but most of all just keep on the look-out for opportunities that expose you to the world of engineering! If you have a guidance or career counselor at your school, talk to them about ways you can explore this career path - they may have some assessment tools you can use to find out if it's a good fit for you!

For more information on the tasks engineers perform, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook - here's the link for Architecture and Engineering: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/home.htm
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Leonor’s Answer

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I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do until later. After I started working in fact. However, I did not at a very early age probably 12 or so that I wanted to travel internationally , that I wanted to live in another country at some point and that I wanted to do a job that was working internationally. So I graduated from University and then decided to do a masters and I went to Spain to help improve my language skills ( already spoke Spanish but not at a professional level) when I came back home, I looked for companies where I could get that opportunity and I landed at Dell technologies (which back then was Dell Computers) and began working in the Dell Latin America division which allowed me to travel all over Latin America which then allowed me to take other jobs at the company that allowed me to travel several other countries as I learned how to work in an international environment . It was much later that I determined that I was good at solving big complicated problems so I focused on Operations and that is what I do now. Best of luck! nb

Leonor recommends the following next steps:

  • Write down what you love to do and what you are good at
  • determine if what jobs you think you would be interested in or what sounds interesting to you
  • Go to company sites in the areas you are interested in and see what skills you need to have for those jobs then you can see if there is anything that matches what you love to do
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Mauro’s Answer

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Everybody is different. I have actually known I wanted to do computer science even before I had a computer. I had a blast for many years. Over time, you change. As of now, I have more questions about the path I want to follow than at the beginning of my career.

The most important is for you to realize no decision you make needs to last forever. You will have several opportunities to change your path. Choose something you enjoy and that you are good at. Seek a mentor that will help you see what is next for you and guide you along the way, and you will do just fine.
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Mackenzi’s Answer

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I did not know what I wanted to do until I was a senior in College. I figured it out when I was applying to jobs and found one I liked. I knew what I didn't want to do based on several internships I had.
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Sammy’s Answer

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This could be a lifelong question because everyone wants to be someone at a certain age. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. When my math getting better, I wanted to be an engineer. When I learned some management skills, I wanted to be a business administrator. The best answer is being yourself at all times. Do the things based on your knowledge/skillset, more importantly, do the things that you are most interested in.
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Sam’s Answer

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For many, this will vary based on the individual and their exposure/experiences. I would recommend that you not limit yourself and enjoy trying different things until you are certain of what you want to do; then pursue it accordingly. But don't beat yourself up if you find yourself changing frequently.

For me, I thought I knew what I wanted to do by 8th grade, after watching my cousin start her career aspirations. Then, as I started high school, I decided to change my career direction. As I was ready to graduate High School, I decided to change again, as I was starting college. After my 1st semester in college, I made another change, which ended up being a combination of what I wanted to do in high school and my last change, business management major with accounting minor.
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Sammy’s Answer

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This could be a lifelong question because everyone wants to be someone at a certain age. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. When my math getting better, I wanted to be an engineer. When I learned some management skills, I wanted to be a business administrator. The best answer is being yourself at all times. Do the things based on your knowledge/skillset, more importantly, do the things that you are most interested in.
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Nabila’s Answer

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Great question,
As Hannah said, some people know early, some discover later (like I did) and some will never know! You definitely need to make a list of things you like to do and don't like to do to better identify your career path. Then, once you have selected some potential work fields, I would advise you to connect with engineers from different backgrounds to more precisely define those jobs' missions/ work environment. Ask lots of questions about their daily work, how much they work, what they like most but also hate in their job, what are their perspectives with respect to their career growth, how they got their jobs.... This will help you shorten your "wish list". And if possible, work as an intern in laboratories/companies (during your studies, during your summers) to gain experience !
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Jeremiah’s Answer

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For me I found that a way to find what you want to do is asking yourself what skills you have and what you don't like and see how that narrows down your options. Look to get part time jobs or internships in that field to help you decide if that area is what you are interested in. For example if you are interested in researching and writing and you think lawyers do this and want to find out more see if you can do some part time work in a firm.
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Kimberly’s Answer

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I was pretty sure I knew what I wanted to be while I was in high school but then that changed when I was in college and then that changed again once I got into the workforce taking an internship outside of my area of interest at a company where I still work today 30 years later! So never worry about not knowing and even when you think you have it figured out, that may very well change! The fun part is the journey to figure it out. Take lots of different classes, even ones outside of your comfort zone because you never know what will click with you. Engineering is a great area and has a lot of breadth of what you can do. Explore growing areas of industry adjacent to that also as you hone your interests. At some point something will click and you will find you are more passionate about that over other things. Areas of focus would suggest that are very worth while in pursuing to be successful in your future are Cyber Security, Robotics, IOT Internet of Things, mobility, etc. Its good to not just learn to contribute to building but also innovation and invention.
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Marianne’s Answer

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I started out in college wanting to be a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). I got straight As in my classes but at the start of my second year I realized I would be bored to death in this job. I switched my major to Marketing. It is an area I love and all of the financial course work served me well. In the Marketing area you are always doing financials and projections, i.e. how much market share do you think you will get, what is your anticipated revenue stream, what is your cost of goods, etc.

Many years later I ended up taking a college course called Career and Life Planning. Through the discovery work, I found out that I had gotten into a career field that was a perfect match for me. This was, however, more by luck than anything else. I wished I had found this class when I was still in high school. Some things I would highly recommend are:

- Identify what your likes and dislikes are. For example, if you want to be a pharmacist and you dislike math and chemistry, it is probably not the career for you. Remember you will be working for a good many years. Find something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning. You don't want to do something for 40 or 50 years and dread having to go to work every day.
- Identify what your strengths and weaknesses are and then think about the jobs that utilize your strengths.
- If you can find a Career and Life Planning workshop. Take it, it is well work the time you invest. The one I took had tools such as: Choice Point Brain Dominance Profile, Edwards Personal Preference Schedule, The Self-Directed Search, A Guide to Educational and Vocational Planning by John L. Holland, PhD, Kuder Occupational Interest Survey Report Form, Strong Vocational Interest Blank, and Work Values Inventory by Donald E. Super. Out of these assessments I began to see patterns of occupations that fit me, my values, my interests, my strengths.
- I would then develop a list of (5-10) occupations you are interested in. I think someone mentioned using the Occupational Outlook Handbook. I highly recommend using this as well. It is published by the U.S. Government and is generally available from the reference materials at most libraries. It gives a good idea of what the job is, what you need to perform the job, what the expected pay range is, and most importantly what the outlook for jobs in that field are which will allow you to see if they are increasing or declining.
- I would also encourage you not to overlook jobs in the trades. Not everyone is suited for the college path. I know too many students who come out of college with a huge financial debt and a degree in a field with little opportunity and then can't find a job. There is a shortage of qualified trades people, car mechanics, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, welders. There have been numerous articles especially on the shortage of welders and some welding jobs can pay in the $100K annual range.
- Once you have your list together, then I would seek people in those fields. Go interview them, see if you can shadow them, to find out if this is something you could see yourself doing.

...and if you are still uncertain what you want to do but definitely know you will be going to college, take your general course work first. Get the math, English and other requirements out of the way which will buy you some time to figure out your major.
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Vatsala’s Answer

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When I was in college, I really did not have much choice given the financial conditions of my family to pursue what I really wanted to. I took up careers, which suited the needs of my situation, however I made sure to excel in whatever I was doing. It’s important to work hard and excel and to feel good about anything we choose to do. Each of our priorities are different about career and to balance life, so its important to answer all our unanswered questions and have clarity in what we really want to do. I always believe that our choices we make is our life !
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Sergio’s Answer

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Hello Ellie,

I love your question! A lot of young individuals struggle with this so I am glad you have a direction on what you want to be. If you are unsure that this is the right career for you you can go on Youtube videos and type in things like "A day in the life of an engineer" and you will find some worthy videos. If possible, try to get connected with professionals that do this that you may know. I also recommend making a LinkedIN account and connecting with professionals via messages and seek advice. Early in college make sure to join engineering clubs and attend workshops along with visit colleges with the club.

All these tips should really give you a feel if this is the right career choice for you!
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Drew’s Answer

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Hannah's answer is good, especially the recommendation about the Occupational Outlook Handbook. I am a 72 year old licensed Professional Engineer in private practice and really enjoy the profession.

Engineers solve problems. Engineering school teaches analytical skills and how to use available information, and when there are gaps in data to make reasonable assumptions to arrive at a solution. It is an experience based profession. Individuals who, by reason of his or her special knowledge of the mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences and the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design, acquired by engineering education and engineering experience, is qualified to practice engineering as hereinafter defined and has been licensed by the board as a professional engineer. The board may designate a professional engineer, on the basis of education, experience, and examination as being licensed in a specific discipline or branch of engineering signifying the area in which the engineer has demonstrated competence.

One of the advantages of being an engineer is the opportunity to vertically and horizontally; vertical growth is continual development of skill in a field, horizontal development is using the engineering foundation to expand into other fields. I studied environmental engineering and expanded into industrial hygiene, safety engineering, and forensic engineering now I am studying mechanical engineering. An interesting aside is that the undergraduate field that is most accepted into Medical Schools is engineering.

Drew recommends the following next steps:

  • Explore student membership in the National Society of Professional Engieers. It's free if you qualify.
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Mike’s Answer

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Ellie,
I was lucky in that I realized I wanted to be an Engineer as I went into high school. But, I did come to a crossroads in my college career where I almost went into video editing. I don't regret continuing on with my chosen career path, but am glad I considered a change when I did.
Always know it's never too late to take a different path. Some people know at 14 what they want to do. Others figure it out at 24. Some at 40 still don't know. As long as you are willing to continuously learn and are willing to take on new tasks you can have a long and fulfilling life.
Don't get caught up in the "I have to know by the time I'm in high school" thought process that is out there. College is expensive so I wouldn't say you can continually change your mind there, but a lot of times your undergraduate degree gets you the first job and then from there on it's up to you how to proceed. Many people get graduate degrees, certifications, or just learn valuable skills they can apply to what they want to do.

Best of luck!
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Vibush’s Answer

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While some of us have a clear idea about what we want to do very early on in our life, most of us out there may not know what we want to do yet. The important thing to keep in mind is to understand what you like and what you enjoy doing. At the end of the day you want to do something that you enjoy or love so try and find out what you are passionate about. Here are some key points you can keep in mind to help you out:

What do you like/love to do?

What career options are available for your interests?

Talk to people. Talking to people helps broaden your knowledge as well improve your social network.
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Mike’s Answer

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Ellie,
I was lucky in that I realized I wanted to be an Engineer as I went into high school. But, I did come to a crossroads in my college career where I almost went into video editing. I don't regret continuing on with my chosen career path, but am glad I considered a change when I did.
Always know it's never too late to take a different path. Some people know at 14 what they want to do. Others figure it out at 24. Some at 40 still don't know. As long as you are willing to continuously learn and are willing to take on new tasks you can have a long and fulfilling life.
Don't get caught up in the "I have to know by the time I'm in high school" thought process that is out there. College is expensive so I wouldn't say you can continually change your mind there, but a lot of times your undergraduate degree gets you the first job and then from there on it's up to you how to proceed. Many people get graduate degrees, certifications, or just learn valuable skills they can apply to what they want to do.

Best of luck!
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Jill’s Answer

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This is a great question. I admire people who know exactly what they want to do from a very young age. When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to go to trade school and start my own service business. After seven years in the business and getting married, I found myself wanting to do something different. It was a huge life transition that was scary and exciting at the same time. Fast forward 25 years and what I've learned is that the skills that are naturally inherent to me are the skills that have made me successful in every role in my career journey. Figure out what your inborn skills and strengths are and explore careers that will allow you to harness them to be successful... and happy.
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Drew’s Answer

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Hannah's answer is good, especially the recommendation about the Occupational Outlook Handbook. I am a 72 year old licensed Professional Engineer in private practice and really enjoy the profession.

Engineers solve problems. Engineering school teaches analytical skills and how to use available information, and when there are gaps in data to make reasonable assumptions to arrive at a solution. It is an experience based profession. Individuals who, by reason of his or her special knowledge of the mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences and the principles and methods of engineering analysis and design, acquired by engineering education and engineering experience, is qualified to practice engineering as hereinafter defined and has been licensed by the board as a professional engineer. The board may designate a professional engineer, on the basis of education, experience, and examination as being licensed in a specific discipline or branch of engineering signifying the area in which the engineer has demonstrated competence.

One of the advantages of being an engineer is the opportunity to vertically and horizontally; vertical growth is continual development of skill in a field, horizontal development is using the engineering foundation to expand into other fields. I studied environmental engineering and expanded into industrial hygiene, safety engineering, and forensic engineering now I am studying mechanical engineering. An interesting aside is that the undergraduate field that is most accepted into Medical Schools is engineering.

Drew recommends the following next steps:

  • Explore student membership in the National Society of Professional Engieers. It's free if you qualify.
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Sylvia’s Answer

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Hi Ellie,

It's perfectly OK to have a plan going into college (I wanted to be an accountant--got an accounting degree) or to discover it later (first two jobs were not accounting related but I was able to work in different jobs in different organizations within my company). Coming out of high school--you may have strengths that drive those certain interests. If you're not sure what they are--take a few free personality tests online to better understand yourself. Continue to hone your strengths in college or trade school while keeping an open mind to new areas of interests. Listen, learn and ask questions; actively pursue knowledge from people who work in different professions. Talk to your parents, relatives and friend's parents to understand what they do--the pros and cons--and learn about the companies they work for. There are job fields out there you may have no idea about, that could be your future calling! Determine what's important to you (what do you value)--earning potential, leadership potential, making an impact, helping others, a combination of these. Match your strengths and values with jobs and find mentors in the field (ASK people to mentor you--the worse they can say is no; keep asking until someone says Yes!) The important thing is to take action and be proactive. Don't wait for opportunities to arise. Create the opportunities. And always have a Plan A, B and C (there are plenty more letters in the alphabet so don't give up.) Be flexible and understand plans may change based on key learning's--in and out of the classroom. Best of luck!
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