When we’re engineering students we’re so busy studying and trying to get good grades that we might not think about how life after graduation will be. People make it sound like graduating and getting a degree is the end goal. Let me tell you loud and clear that graduating is just the beginning. I’ve had my engineering degree for over six years now and here’s 5 things I wish someone had told me before I entered the real world.

1. It’ll be confusing at the beginning.

A career in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) doesn’t necessarily have an identified path. It’s not like medicine where you know exactly what you can do with your degree. The first couple of years after you graduate from university is all about exploring different jobs and companies until you figure out what it is you want to do. This can take you one year or it can take you 10 years.

What’s important is to develop useful skills while you’re exploring and to expand your professional network. The more you experience and explore, the easier it’ll be for you to find that thing you’re really good at and enjoy doing.

2. You wont’ know much after you graduate.

Please don’t expect to know the job right after you graduate. The school system is not designed to prepare you for work. The companies hiring you know this too. What they expect is for you to be driven and eager to learn what they have to teach you. Sometimes in your interviews your character can say a lot more about you than your transcript.

3. You can be an entrepreneur as well.

Don’t box yourself with a title. If you studied engineering, you can be an engineer and an entrepreneur. You can have technical skills in your field and amazing financial and business skills. You don’t have to leave engineering and enter the business world. You really can have the best of both worlds, you just have to find your niche in the big world of STEM.

4. You’re not an engineer just because you have the degree.

I know graduating from engineering is a huge accomplishment. You should be very proud of yourself for getting an engineering degree. But at the same time, there’s so much to learn on the job. You’ll become a better engineer the more you work on real life projects.

5. It gets better after 5 years.

From experience, I think if you work five years straight in the same profession, that’s when you really start to feel comfortable. Of course this is a general number, but the point is to expect discomfort and confusion early on in your career, and to keep pushing to reach your goals and succeed.

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