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How many of you hate your job or know how to find the career you really love?

  1. Sep 21, 2009 #1
    OK, guys I know that this is a unusual question, but I'm looking for input from some guys and gals who are already engineers.
    I am a mechanical engineering student and am currently in a co-op/intern position working in aerospace. I am pretty discouraged as I find the work I am doing incredibly boring and uninteresting. I understand that in a fashion you have to "pay your dues" upon entering the world of engineering before you can really get to the meat, but I am finding it hard to see a light at the end of this tunnel. From what I can see, most engineers end up spending their time filling out mundane (nearly meaningless) reports and making slight modifications to already established designs. The engineers I work for are consumed with piles of paperwork to designs and approve incidental repairs to miss drilled holes and dented panels and never really make any "ground breaking" use of their skills as engineers. It seems that these guys have accumulated years of knowledge and experience in order to push along paperwork to the next corporate level.
    If this was the world I am working to-wards I really need to find a new profession.
    I have always been fascinated with engineering and would be content to waist away hours watching extreme engineering on the History channel. I see potential in my field but don't know how I can avoid the ruts that would eventually end up with me hating my job/existence.
    As far as dreams go, I want to be involved with the cutting edge of the current growth in technology. I know that this isn't an easy task.
    I am fascinated the current building of a fusion reactor (ITER) in France and would like to be involved with its development one day.
    I want to help move along space exploration by private companies so that forward movement isn't stalled by penny counting government budgets.
    I want to help to lead the industry development instead of just pushing it along from a obscure cubicle advancing, mostly unnecessary, paper work with my degree backed signature.
    I guess I'm asking for advice in developing my career in a way that I can enjoy. Let me know what mistakes you've made (or avoided) that could bog me down somewhere I can't stand for twenty years.
    I'm not a genius, so I'm not going to be riding some pre-cut path to greatness stemming from a degree earned at MIT at the age of 16, but I am a "self-aware" individual who doesn't want to finally become an engineer and then go on to progress the dreams of a corporation at the expense of what little time I myself have to work with.

    Before I post I noticed that there was a bit of perceived "contempt" when I used the word corporate/corporation. I actually don't have anything against corporations....just the paperwork that they generate.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 21, 2009 #2
    After better navigating the website I found a better forum to post this question. If one of the moderators wants to move it I would be appreciative.
  4. Sep 21, 2009 #3


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    You always have to be asking yourself:

    1. Where do I want to be?
    2. What do I need to do to get there?
    3. What did I do this week to get closer to it?

    If you can't answer #3 by the end of the week, you wasted a week.

    For a lot of people there is a strong temptation to "coast" and never ask these questions. It's easy to do and the world is all too willing to take advantage of the energy of people that don't have direction to push the wind in their direction.

    Find the person you think you want to be like. Get to know them. At some point they were probably in your position. Ask them "What's the next step?"
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2009
  5. Sep 21, 2009 #4


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    What you describe is a necessary evil of any aerospace company. The paperwork that follows any part that can go on a flight vehicle is indeed pretty immense. But it is for a reason. Granted, it is hardly glamorous.

    There is a definite amount of dues you have to pay. There's no way around it. My first recommendation would be to suck it up and finish your co-op and school. Make sure you graduate. From there you can start working on steering your career.

    Understand one very important thing: A fresh from school engineer is rarely going to be involved in something "ground breaking" (or anything close to it). You need to get real experience, especially in the details particular to the company you work for. Once you get some experience under your belt you can further narrow down what you need to do to get where you really want to go.

    It sounds like, to me, that you want to be on the design side of things. If this is true, then you need to steer clear of production side positions (but don't forget you need knowledge of the production process). Understand that the more specific you are in what you want, the more opportunities you will lose and the available amount of jobs decreases.

    A couple of things to think about:

    1.) If you want to be put in some position that has more responsibility and possible "coolness", look to smaller companies for a job. Do not go to a huge company expecting to get anywhere immediately. Be warned though, with small companies comes drawbacks like lack of mentorship and trials-by-fire (trust me on this one, I lived through it myself).

    2) It's a great idea to find someone doing what you want to be and pick their brain.

    3) Use your review time with your boss to make sure they understand what it is you want. This is a tough game to play depending on office politics. However, your boss can be one of your best resources if the environment is right.
  6. Sep 21, 2009 #5
    I appreciate the input guys, thank you.
  7. Sep 21, 2009 #6
    How often did yall get that "I'm never going to get this degree feeling"?
    I can just imagine how surreal it will feal to take that diploma in hand.
    I've only had that feeling a few times in my life and I imagine that this will probably be one of those for sure. Did you feel excited about going on the a MS or Phd? Do you think it would be worth getting it all out of the way in one go?
  8. Sep 23, 2009 #7
    be a technician, all the glory of hands on, without the dangerous possibility of one day having to be a manager (or paying those high income tax payments)

    also, the best way to ruin something you love is to do it for a job
    do something that is satisfying, but save the good stuff for yourself

  9. Sep 23, 2009 #8
    I've kind of tried that route through the military. All being enlisted has taught me (apart from the military discipline) is to become an officer.
  10. Oct 9, 2009 #9
    honestly, take some time to yourself thinking and writing out what you're passionate about doing. poke and prod your idea from all angles, evaluating each pro and con as part of the larger picture of your ultimate goal (only you really know this). don't just look at the possibilities offered by http://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/Engineer-Salary-SRCH_KO0,8.htm" [Broken], but look to your passion so you won't end up being bored. each step you take towards your goal, whether it's boring or exciting, will end up being satisfying for you. good luck!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Oct 9, 2009 #10
    Thank you, I appreciate the advice
  12. Oct 9, 2009 #11


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    I worked in the aerospace business for 8 years (rocket launching industry/Cape Canaveral) and now in general industry for 13 years. What I found was that the relatively glamerous rocket launching industry severely limited the amount of freedom I had to do my own thing, and very limited also in what skills I could utilize. Industry on the other hand, isn't nearly as glamorous, but much more fullfilling because I'm able to make engineering decisions with fewer limitations and there is less specialization which leads to working in a broader range of areas (ex: stress analysis, heat transfer, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, etc...).

    I'm glad to be out of aerospace now. General industry is much more challenging IMHO.
  13. Oct 9, 2009 #12


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    I love my job. :biggrin: It's challenging and I have way to much fun - although it can get pretty stressful at times - particularly when there's a 'fire drill' and someone needs an answer right away, and big bucks are on the line.

    Even before I finished a BS degree, I knew I was going to go for an MS and PhD. I got the MS, but didn't finish the PhD, although I have the opportunity to do so.

    I'd figured on PhD as far back as high school, but I had unrealistic expectations of doing 3 PhDs in Math, Physics and Chemistry. Then I got to university and reality hit me square in the face - and upside the head. :biggrin:

    But I'm having fun - and getting paid well. :tongue2:
  14. Oct 9, 2009 #13


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    Pattonias, take stock of your interests and your work-ethic. I loved chemistry and loved the complexity and puzzles that came with being a process chemist in a brand-new pulp mill. Problem-solving in a production environment can be exciting. Unfortunately, I ended up getting thrown into long-term efficiency projects like heat and mass balances involving number crunching that I found mind-numbing. It was more fun when I joined the paper-machine production crew because I was right back into observation and troubleshooting at the most highly-leveraged part of the complex. After 10 years there, I started my own business, was recruited by a training company and worked for them for a while, and eventually went back on my own as a trouble-shooter/consultant. That was about the most fun I've ever had at work.
  15. Oct 9, 2009 #14
    What do you do and what's your PhD in?
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