Feeling lost in your degree?

In the first few years of my degree, I felt a little lost. It seemed that all of my peers had their whole engineering careers planned out – what company they wanted to work for, what research area they were interested in for grad school… and I’m just here because I like problem solving and things that move.

That’s totally okay! Some people come into engineering with a specific path, and others come to explore what engineering has to offer. You’re not alone if you don’t know exactly what you want to do after your degree. Know that people’s plans change too. In first year, I had friends who were very interested in a specific field, but after second year they were interested in something completely different.

I find there’s a lot of people who even question their decision to go into MECH or engineering in general. It can be easy to get this idea in your head of “this is what a Mechanical Engineer should do” and “this is what a Mechanical Engineer should be,” but that doesn’t exist. Mechanical engineering especially is very broad, and involves so many industries. You develop strong skills throughout your degree, including problem solving and determination. These are highly transferable skills, meaning its also possible to branch out after your degree.

If you’re looking to find a more specific direction in your degree, here’s what I can recommend:

  • Co-op: gaining work experience in industries you might be interested in is very valuable whether you end up liking the industry or not. If you’re really not sure where to go, it can be beneficial to do shorter co-op terms, and try out as many different career paths as possible.
  • Electives: take a good look at the elective courses offered at UBC, and take ones you think might be of interest to you. This will help you develop skills in an area of interest, and can also give you a better idea of specific fields you can pursue with that knowledge.
  • Talk to profs: ask any of your profs if they have a few minutes to talk about their field. They can give you insight into research prospects and often industry as well.
  • Informational interviews: I haven’t done this myself, but I’ve had friends who perform informational interviews with people in industry. If you’re on co-op, that is a good opportunity to ask to speak with other people in the company in different positions. I recommend looking for connections through family and friends as well, and potentially and industry partners you have through design teams and extracurriculars.

In general, I think taking the time to explore different fields in mechanical engineering can help you make the most of your time at UBC. If you don’t know what you want to do after school, don’t panic! There are many people who don’t know as well, and many people have come before you and figured it out 🙂

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