Last week my friend invited me to the University of Toledo to listen to a panel of engineers give career advice for some of the UT Engineering students.
I have never had an interest in engineering, but I do love helping others with career advice, so I thought why not check out what current engineering leaders will say to the future engineering talent of America?
The panel consisted of four professionals, each one of them represented a different field of engineering chemical, electrical, civil and mechanical.
Overall the panelists gave great advice. Ya know the typical stuff students hear and disregard…
“Don’t focus on the money, Learn good spending habits, Do what you love, and Be prepared to work your way up the ladder.”
I am really glad these four individuals took time out of their lives to come and give back to the students, but after listening to the advice I began to realize how much all of the speakers seemed to represent and push students to maintain the status quo. (In case you didn’t know, I hate the status quo.)
Here are 3 takeaways from the panel.
#1. Whatever you do… listen to your boss.
“If you disagree with your boss, you can share your perspective, but in the end if you want to move up in a company, the boss is always right.
What if your boss is a sociopath? What if your boss actually knows less than you? What if delaying tough conversations around the reality of the current state of the business is good for group harmony, but bad for long-term business sustainability?
I agree, when you first start a job you probably know very little and should listen to your elders. In fact let me give a piece of advice. For the first month or so, don’t say much. BUT after a while if you realize you have bigger dreams, ideas, and talents than the company you are working for. Push for change or get out.
Listen to your boss, but for the sake of Enron, think for yourself.
#2 Company this, government that, work your way up… what if I want to start a company?
Another part of the panel I found very disturbing was there wasn’t a single word mentioned about entrepreneurship. They talked about infrastructure improvement and job creation, but it certainly wasn’t around new companies and innovative ideas. Everything was about how to work your way up a company. That was the model of success.
Teaching our generation to listen to the boss’s of large established bureaucracies is not going to push our nation forward in the direction that it needs to go. Let’s inspire the next generation to do more and believe more.
Sitting in with the top engineering talent at UT I was hoping for more of an inspiring call to action to improve the planet than to listen to your boss and find a good company. (note this is not only a problem in engineering schools, but also my experience with most undergraduate business schools)
#3 Give Back
This was one of my favorite parts of the panel. One of the panelists began speaking straight from the heart about how he spent the first half of his life trying to make as much money as possible and then he had a realization that he had spent most of his life taking from the world, instead of giving.
When he started I began thinking YES tell it brother, but then it quickly turned into ” hey this giving back stuff might be good for me, but it may not be for you.” repeatedly apologizing for his moral 180.
How about we cut the BS and make a stand that living IS tied to giving?
Just because our culture has done a good job at removing ourselves from our moral roots, doesn’t mean we have to apologize when we try to turn back towards giving, community and human decency. Countless studies show how much happier people are when they do altruistic acts and NOT when they make more money.
There’s already enough influence from our culture that says $ = , let’s not complicate things with this whole “giving changed my life, but you’re probably a heartless bastard”. Don’t take my word for it, check out Daniel Gilbert’s incredible TED Talk: Why are we happy?
But what do I know, I’m just another Gen. Y idealist.
C’mon engineers, we need you. Let’s change the world.