Am I Prepared for Work

I found the article, “It Takes More than a Major” to be a stressful read.  As a graduate student, when I look back at my undergraduate experience I know I wasn’t successfully prepared for the work force.  My undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering didn’t emphasize innovation, instead my studies focused specifically on mathematical computation of cookie cutter engineering problems.  Furthermore, I was rarely asked to prepare presentations or to compile reports, both of which are essential characteristics of successful engineers.  However, although I’ve grown in these areas as a graduate student, I’m often worried that innovation hasn’t been truly encouraged, nor am I confident that my graduate studies are closely related to real world work environments.

Here’s a list of things I’m sure will need improvements, but unfortunately I’m not confident I’m skilled to complete: a professional and eye catching resume (including compiling a portfolio), proficient writing, and CONFIDENCE in my ability to find unique (innovative) ways of resolving engineering related problems (e.g., creating theoretical models for predicting pavement deterioration).



9 thoughts on “Am I Prepared for Work”

  1. I completely understand your fear. I share a similar concern. I think that graduate work has better prepared me than undergraduate work, yet I also would love more confidence in the ability to create innovative solutions. I would love to explore internships, yet these are often not included in the “plan of study” to finish a PhD. Although we share a similar concern that our education may not be enough due to articles like the one you mentioned, I can only hope that our research and graduate experiences will bring us closer to the required skill set for the jobs we dream of!

  2. Ross, I totally understand your concern about whether education really prepared you for work. But I would ask a more broader question that we often fail to ask. Is our education preparing us for life? Is it teaching us how to face the ups and downs that life leads us to? Is it making us emotionally intelligent? Is is enabling us to raise voices against injustice and discrimination? Is it turning us into effective citizens? Is it empowering us to go against the institution that employs us if the later is indulging in an unethical practice? There are many more such questions in my mind but I guess you get the drift.

    I think the day education starts preparing one for life, only then it can be called education in the true sense of the term. Otherwise, it just remains a way to prepare one to become a more productive worker or employee. And as you said, your education (and probably many others’ including mine) did not even do that well.

  3. I think we should make an effort to separate university, and especially graduate school, from a process to prepare us for work. Of course, we all want to have a rewarding career, both in professional achievements as well as in our banking affairs. But we should try to find the joy in learning itself, in that spark that lits up our mind and our soul. Yes, romanticism alone won’t pay our mortgage, but a lot of today’s frustration in college graduates comes from the unrealistic expectations seeded in us (and nurtured by us) regarding job outcomes once in possession of our degrees. If we love what we study and do, we will certainly end up being better professionals, but fulfilling our passion for a subject should be enough to pursue our education.

    1. Good point Francisco. I think that difference between knowledge creation or learning and “technical” preparation is important. Sometimes they get confused.

  4. Great post. I definitely share your concern. It’s so ironic when I look back that many of the things that I see my friends who went from undergraduate to the working world doing are the exact opposite of what was emphasized in our education. Writing was downplayed and neglected as part of my bachelor’s education and of course it’s a huge part of what I do in grad school, but it’s also a huge part of what my friends who went into consulting do. I gave incredibly few presentations as part of my undergraduate and it’s been a huge challenge for me to become more comfortable speaking in front of a group in grad school and I know some of my consulting friends had similar struggles. I’m sure those problems are largely related to the fact that I studied engineering, but I would imagine the problem is more widespread than that.

  5. I also think that we need to be careful about the expectations we have for our education. I don’t think that it should necessarily be a university’s responsibility to get you prepared for every aspect of engineering, or even the majority of situations you will face. For a university to do this would take a lot more than 4 years and it still wouldn’t be as effective as on-the-job training.

    I think it is the universities responsibility to train students on how to get the information the need and “connect the dots” on their own. This skill is much more valuable than trying to prepare students for everything. You know, the whole, teach someone to fish thing.

  6. I know your fear and I once had the same fear too. Until I opened up to a Professor in my department that once worked in an engineering company before becoming an academic and what she told me was that, in the Engineering profession, every entry-level engineer has this same fear and that no one is going to expect you to know how the company works in details. General knowledge, gained from an undergraduate degree, is all that’s needed. They will work you through their standards when you become an employee. So my suggestion would be to talk to people already working in your field and ask them how they prepared themselves for the work environment.

  7. The title of your post brought me here. It is something I always ask myself and that pushes me to learn more. I think that will drive you too to keep improving.

  8. Thank you for your post. I like the point that you raised and I understand what you’re feeling. I think part of the problem is that students are not trained in a problem-based leaning way to teach them how to solve any problem that faces them, instead of just throwing facts at them.

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