Engineering Can Wait

31 Mar

Even though I have 2 degrees from Boston University and live 15 minutes from campus, I’m not a big BU alumni. Maybe it’s because there wasn’t a big fraternity scene or football tailgating parties. For me, it was the city of Boston itself that’s the attraction. Since BU is 1 mile long and a block wide, the campus really becomes the city itself. So I’ve ignored BU attempts at bringing me back.


The one sport BU is good at is hockey and they’ve been ranked #1 most of this year and are going to the Frozen Four next week. Watching hockey on HD with the boys is almost as good as watching the games live so I’ve been caught up in the BU spirit. And then BU got me at a weak moment and I said, “Yes” to attending a BU Engineering industry night last week.

I’m back on campus, walking thru the student union and knowing that I can’t even pass for a grad student getting their PhD. Obviously not a professor, maybe the parent of one of these kids. Go into the dining room where they’re hosting the event and take a big breath.

The room is full of engineering seniors wanting to mingle with alumni and ask what’s it’s like in the real world. No speeches, just a quick intro and then mingle the crowd so that the kids could ask us questions one-on-one. I told the crowd, “I don’t know why BU ENG asked me to attend as I got out of engineering and into sales within 2 years of graduating BU.” Of all the other alumni, only 1 other wasn’t still in engineering and he was a patent attorney. I figured I’d be left alone for the next 2 hours, scorned for going to the dark side of sales.

Instead, I was mobbed. And I really enjoyed talking with them and was glad I attended. Why? Because I can remember being in their place and knowing I had spent so many hours studying to be an engineer, hours that my English and Business major friends were spending in the bars downtown. I can remember that eager but tight feeling of, “I have to get a Engineering job right now” without realizing that working for the next 40 years is what’s ahead of me. After all, I thought 30 year olds were due Social Security benefits when I was graduating BU. Just no concept of 4 years of school vs 40 years of working.

What these kids wanted to hear from me that it’s OK not to do the expected and get the obligatory engineering job right away. So I told them it’s OK. Be a (gasp) sales person. Join the Peace Corp, get a teaching job, be a bartender or ski instructor, travel the world if you can. Take some time to discover what you love to do. That job will be waiting when you’re ready.


3 Responses to “Engineering Can Wait”

  1. The RainMaker Maker April 8, 2009 at 8:55 pm #

    When my son graduated from college with a BSME, he took a position as a consultant with Accenture. We used to talk about his work and I remember asking him why his company hired him if they did not intend for him to do engineering. His response was, “Getting the ME degree taught me how to think in an organized manner.”

    Great post!

  2. Poilisab April 10, 2009 at 9:39 pm #

    great site this terrific to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

  3. Mark Chapin May 6, 2009 at 9:00 am #

    I think it is great that you told these kids the truth. The fact is, and it is easy to see in retrospect, that college is more about learning to be an independent person and help make the step from adolescent to adult. If all you are interested in is becoming a engineer (or whatever) and get the first job you can, then perhaps you are better suited for a trade school. If you are interested in becoming a professional with a career track and the tools to navigate the WORLD, then you graduate college with a tool box that expands beyond your specialty.

    It is great that the students you spoke with can understand that there are no certainties in the world. Anything can change, and does. Jobs, careers, marriages, and even life itself are temporary and constantly in flux, but that is a lesson that you can only learn years out of school. Hopefully college will help prepare these students for that reality.

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