Making mistakes is one of the best things you can do for yourself if you want to feel fulfilled in your career. Bare with me, I'll explain.
Picture this: you're a recent engineering graduate. You're very proud of yourself for getting that degree you've worked so hard for. You have your iron ring on your pinkie (for my fellow Canadian engineering graduates). You landed an interview and got a job. You're not 100% sure what you'll have to do at the job, but you're just happy you have a position that's going to pay you. So far, so good.
You start your job and you do exactly as they ask you to. You don't ask question. You go with the flow. You go with the system, exactly like you did back in university. Make copies? ok. Take meeting minutes? Sure. They'll teach you and train you. And you will go along with it.
A year goes by and you have your first performance review. It goes well. You're a great employee. You do as they ask. You work well with others. They don't mention a salary increase but give you positive feedback. Well done. Gold sticker. You leave the room.
But then you feel something. You feel empty. You feel unaccomplished. You don't feel satisfied. Is this it? Is this how my life will be for the rest of my career? I guess so. So you continue on, for years and years. Working, doing a good job, paying the bills, but not feeling fulfilled.
Unfortunately, this is the truth for many recent graduates. I've realized one of the best ways to avoid this from happening is by making mistakes. I'll explain what I mean in the 5 points below. I promise you if you grasp this concept and apply it, you'll see your career will get better.
1. Put your hand up and answer the question, even if you know it's the wrong answer.
You know exactly what I'm talking about. That moment the professor asks the class a question but you're terrified of putting your hand up because the answer might be wrong. I'm telling you to still put your hand up. Get rid of the fear of feeling "embarrassed" in front of the class. Get rid of that feeling of anxiety to answer a question in front of people. Trust me when I say this feeling will stay with you throughout your life. Then you won't be afraid of voicing your opinion in the meeting. If you don't join a conversation because you're too scared of making a mistake, you're not moving forward.
2. Ask "can I join"?
This one time when I was working for WSP, an engineering consulting firm, I saw all my team members in a meeting room. No-one invited me to join in. So I gathered up all the courage I had and knocked on the door. I asked "can I join?" My boss looked at me and said "no, it doesn't concern you". Felt a bit embarrassed. (ok no I felt really embarrassed). Thought I made the biggest mistake ever. But then after the meeting he came up to me and said "this meeting was about a project you're not involved in, but if you like come join the next one, it's for an upcoming project". And I was on that project for the next 2 years! Looked great on my resume.
My point is, even if they don't ask you to be a part of something, go ahead and ask them yourself. The worst that could happen is a "no you cannot join". Maybe a few times it will be a mistake to ask. But what if one time it's not a mistake and it lands you something great?
3. Take on that project that you think you can't do.
This is a good one. This might happen to many of you. Sometimes an opportunity comes for you to do something that's greater than your skillset at the time. Take it. Take it without hesitation. I'm telling you from now, you WILL make mistakes. You'll have to ask so many questions from google and your coworkers. But that one difficult thing and the mistakes that come with it will put you 5 steps ahead.
4. Try as many jobs and project as you can.
I cannot emphasize how important this is, especially early on in your career. It's most likely that you won't know what you like and what you're good at. The only way to find out is by trying different things. Yes, it's more risky. Yes, you'll make more mistakes. But at one point you'll see, not only did you learn more, but you also found that thing you really like to do.
5. Get comfortable talking about money.
Last but not least, the big ticket item. Money. No matter how sweaty your palms get, how squeaky your voice gets, and how fast your heart beats, ask for what you deserve or invest in what you believe. You might make some mistakes with your money, but learning how to manage your money and asking for what you deserve is priceless.
So to summarize, to avoid the system from controlling your career path (like university did), you need to be able to initiate putting yourself in different situations, even if they make you uncomfortable, and even if it means you'll make a mistake.
The only way to not be scared of making mistakes is to make enough mistakes to teach you how to handle the mistake.
If you need more tips for engineering students, click here to read my guide: