Well the last two weeks have been a whirlwind. Between finishing my first summer class, starting my second and helping America blow out her birthday candles I barely know what day it is anymore. I spent four days at my family’s cabin up north over the Fourth and (gasp!) skipped the first (and probably last) class of my engineering student career to hang out with the family on Friday rather than making a four hour round trip down state and back up to attend my class on the fifth. My family was regaled for several hours with the details of my class-skipping anxiety, but I think they pulled through it okay and were happy to have me along for the boating, floating, sunning and beer-drinking fun.
I’ve spent an ample amount of time lately thinking about my plans for the future. I want to write all about it, but I need to get things a bit more ironed out first. One aspect I can talk about is my search for a local internship next summer. I’ve been chewing on the decision between a local vs. long distance internship for some time. I’d like to be able to go wherever my heart desires and my interests lead and just eat the cost of paying rent in two locations for four months. And that remained a real possibility until recently. As it stands now, however, I will probably have to take a class on campus for the first half of next summer and will need to find a position close enough to travel to and from campus in the middle of the work day.
I haven’t entirely decided how I feel about this. Part of me is disappointed that I won’t be able explore a new city or take a job at a big-name company that will look impressive on my resume. On the other hand, there are no guarantees that an internship at a big-name company will provide me with a better experience or a higher level of hands-on learning than a small local engineering firm. In fact, being at a smaller company may afford me a more hands-on experience and a better understanding of the day-to-day workings of the company. In the end, a recognizable company is probably less valuable on a resume than a solid list of skills and competencies gained from a diverse experience, wherever that may be.
I’m nervous and excited to get out and see what engineers actually do all day. Engineering is one of those strange fields in which it’s very difficult to understand the day-to-day work until you actually begin the job. My dad was a chemical engineer for my entire childhood and I never had any idea what he did all day. He took me on a plant tour a few years ago before he retired so I could get a little peek into the world of engineering. It was very interesting, but still didn’t offer a complete day-in-the-life experience.
So this internship is kind of the moment of truth. Will I love it? Will I hate it? There are so many different types of engineering jobs that it’s hard to know from one experience whether or not it’s a good fit. I’ve talked to many people about how different their experiences have been at different types of companies, different sized companies, companies with different specialties. I think the most important piece will be not whether or not I “like engineering,” but rather finding a place within the huge world of engineering that I enjoy.
Will I find my place in a local engineering firm next summer? Maybe. I hope the experience is positive. At the very least, I hope I’ll start to learn what I do best and where I need to improve. I’m most excited about finally having something to fill that blank expanse on my resume no longer occupied by the details of my ten years of graphic design experience. Then maybe when LinkedIn sends me an email listing companies that are “looking for people like me,” it will contain some engineering firms instead of all these graphic design studios.