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Confused Mech Engineer - what to do for the rest of my life?

  1. Dec 25, 2013 #1
    Hi all,
    I think this is a self help question, but I still need some advice.
    I am a Post Graduate Mechanical Engineer and started a job from past 6 months. Initially I enjoyed Engineering because I liked to be with passionate people and building some things. In addition I enjoyed learning technical subjects too. Recently I completed my masters and here I am working for a multinational - a Mechanical Engineering Design job. It is engineering analysis of gas turbine components.
    But the problem is here: When I look at experienced people in my company (team) i see that may be two years down the line my job may become a routine, monotonous analysis job. I am fearful that I may not be able to grow and learn new things - mostly technical as I did when I built new things with my friends. Neither am I sure about what I want to do in life or want in life. I am not even sure that I will continue this job because of the above mentioned reason. Sometimes I think may be I would be an entrepreneur - not sure exactly that I want it. Sometimes I think it's better I'd do PhD. Other times I think may be after some time, I may start an engineering analysis consultancy.
    Too many options and confusion.
    So I am now confused as to what I would like to do for the rest of my life.
    Advice of any kind to overcome this confusion is appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 25, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    First thing is get a hobby that encompasses your passions. Work is not academia so don't expect to always learn new things unless you pursue them yourself. These team members that seem stuck in their jobs have decided that that's okay. Perhaps they are raising families and need the stability of a job that's easy to do and pays well enough.

    I've worked as a programmer and moved from project to project in search of new cutting edge technology but not so cutting edge that I get cut. I try to learn new things on my own in areas of my own interest and sometimes I can apply it to my job and make it more interesting.
  4. Dec 25, 2013 #3


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    FWIW I was in a similar situation to you, in a similar, company about 30 years ago. I'm stiill there, and I'm not bored yet!

    Don't worry about it too much, if you have only been there 6 months. It will take longer than that to find out what the really important issues and problems are relating to your products. In the long term, they are the "interesting" things to work on, but you need to show you can do the routine stuff accurately and reliably first.

    You should have some type of annual appraisal with your manager(s). That's a good time to talk about where you want your career plans to go within the company.

    If you are any good, you won't stay in one technical department for ever. You might be moving to something "completely different" every two or three years, to get the breadth of experience to see the big picture. Find out where the internal job vacancies are advertised, and keep an eye on the list. (But applying for a move after only 6 months is probably too quick, unless you feel you are really in the wrong place right now, and it would be better to talk to your managers about that first).

    There are at least two reasons why some people stay doing the same apparently routine job for years, or even decades. One is that they don't have the talent to do anything else. Another is that they don't have the ambition to do anything else - that job pays the rent, but they get their satisfaction in life elsewhere. That is probably a good thing, because not everybody can be a senior project leader or manager - you can't run a project without the "boots on the ground" who actually get the work done! But if you do have the ambition (and talent) for more than that, it's in the company's interest to satisfy those ambitions just as much as it's in your interest, because if they don't, eventually you will leave, and they get no more payback from their investment in you.
  5. Dec 25, 2013 #4


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    Another thought is that maybe their work is not as routine as you think. If you've only been there 6 months, you may not understand all of the subtleties of what needs to be done. When I was in electrical engineering, each project was in a sense a repeat of the previous one, but in fact each one had new challenges and needed new skills.
  6. Dec 26, 2013 #5
    Thanks for sharing your views guys. I think 6 months is a really short period to get to know what is actually going on and to decide what I want. I think I need to stop rushing.
    Another point which AlephZero has mentioned is to cover the breadth of the job. Another question pops in my mind related to this - Whether to become an expert (in my case, say Aeromechanics analysis expert) or to cover as much as breadth to gain new experiences over a period of time. What will be more useful or beneficial?
  7. Dec 26, 2013 #6
    Welcome to the real world, you will spend the next 40 years like this. I have job burnout from doing the same thing for decades.

    My suggestion is to do many things in other parts of your life and not make it boring - travel, extra curriculars, etc. Be prepared to change employers and careers if necessary.

    As soon as you get a job, start planning your next - you have to totally proactive in this. Have your resume up to date, make sure you have good referees, plan your training/education well in advance. What are the requirements for the next job you aspire to - look at job sites & job descriptions - what skills will you need?. Execute a plan for where you want to be in 5/10/20 years.

    Start a savings and financial plan NOW.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2013
  8. Dec 26, 2013 #7
    You can't know the feelings of accomplishment you can get from just six months worth of job experience. Are you going to become the center of everything and make stuff happen overnight? No. To do that you need to learn how to negotiate with and organize people. You may think you know this, but trust me, you don't.

    You need patience. You need perseverance. You need to pay attention to what is going on around you. If you're bored, it's either because your employer isn't letting people do anything of significance (in which case, go find another place to work), or because you don't understand what the job really is.

    Do the grunt work. Learn it really well. You may think you know it, but I guarantee you'll find a few subtle twists. As you get good at it, show interest in other areas, and people will be happy to share.

    We need people to do grunt work. Some people don't mind drone work. Clearly you do, and that's Okay. But you have to know the routine first before you can innovate.

    Again, patience, perseverance, and attention to detail. Give it a year, keep your ear to the ground. Look for other employers. Talk to people in professional societies. They often know who is hiring and the like. If, after that, you still don't like it, take your skills elsewhere. But give it a good try first. I know people who change jobs so frequently that I would never even consider hiring them. I hate seeing experience walk out of the door...
  9. Jan 8, 2014 #8
    Thanks everyone!!
  10. Jan 30, 2014 #9
    May I point out that some people start their own companies because they are not satisfied with their current job. For some, being one's own boss and using one's skills to guide a company to success is a great new challenge.
  11. Feb 20, 2014 #10
    Six months is not a lot of time. You may be still having first impressions which may be misleading. Good Luck
  12. Mar 29, 2014 #11
    Thanks for your replies. I'm stuck to the same problem. Got into Academic field as there were no requirements for Mechanical in Industries due to recession. And now its been almost 2 years i'm in this field but it itches to teach the same thing and surrounded with the same stuff. I read many research papers, different technical books related to my field but no advantage as my practical knowledge is very low. I am desperately looking for job in industry to grab practical knowledge but still no reply from them. And hence decided to start my own business related to VAWT which i am very much interested. But failed as i found many problems when i started manufacturing. So i'm confused what should i do. I almost invested what i earned from academic. Any suggestions for my situation?
  13. Mar 29, 2014 #12
    For what it's worth, every job has monotonous aspects to it. Doesn't matter whether your Bill Gates or flipping burgers for a living. Only the salary compensation is really different.

    What I do to try and take the monotony out of the job is try and make a game out of it to see how I can do it better or more efficient each time. I try and take advantage of automation as much as I can. I also have these elaborate design methodologies that I slowly build and improve upon every time I get the chance to. In the back of my mind I always think about someday being able to maybe copyrighting the design methodology and selling it to other companies who might find it useful.

    Another thing to do is to try and document the work your doing now in as much detail as possible. It might not seem important or too laborious to be worth the effort but the payout down the road will be very advantageous:

    1) you can use it as a solid reference for when you encounter similar problems in the future
    2) you can use it to build a resume/portfolio for showing examples of your work to employers and to clients
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