Changing Careers 2 Years After College

Gene O'Fallon
Apr 17 · 4 min read

May 11th, 2019. My classmates and I stood in alphabetical order. There was a sense of disbelief in the air. Had we really made it? Was the day finally here?

After four years of physics, math and projects, we were waiting eagerly for graduation to begin. We all struggled and fought to get here, but we stood tall as each second brought us closer to receiving our engineering degrees. After all, the future was bright! Many of us had careers to begin. Some of us were soon to be married. I myself landed a job at a company that manufactures wind towers. My starting day was four days after graduation.

Everything was coming together! I had achieved my life-long dream of becoming a mechanical engineer. However, there was something I hadn’t yet realized. I didn’t enjoy much of mechanical engineering.

Within the first couple weeks of starting work I figured this out quickly. This was a huge shake up. A flurry of questions began to hang over me. Had I wasted my college years? Was I 35K in debt for a degree I already wanted nothing to do with? Have I made a huge mistake choosing mechanical engineering? This exciting new chapter quickly became disappointing. I lost contentment, which I let steal my joy.

Desperate to make something of all the work I invested into engineering I started going through all the subjects I learned in school:

  • Heat Transfer & Fluid Mechanics
  • Design of Mechanical Components
  • Differential Equations & Linear Algebra
  • Technical Writing
  • Computer Programming
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Dynamics
  • Manufacturing of Structural Composites
  • Electromechanical Systems

Mechanical engineering tends to give you a little understanding of a lot of different technical subjects. Going through this list, what was I ultimately searching for? I chose engineering because I wanted to solve problems that help people. I was doing that, so why wasn’t that enough? The answer was clear: I didn’t enjoy solving the problems I was working on. I lacked passion for fixing these problems. I searched through the subjects, looking for what I enjoyed the most. I thought about the many final projects I completed. I realized there was only one I truly enjoyed. There was only one where my desire for excellence far exceeded the arduous duty of completing assignments. It was my final project for software programming. Brick Breaker.

I was working as a manufacturing engineer. My main focus was improving the work processes of others. Was I crazy to want to switch towards software engineering? That is a pretty big departure from my current experience. Not just a new job, rather a career change.

This meant something more than quick training. I wasn’t desperate to switch jobs, rather to switch careers. I started researching. I stumbled across Launch School. The more I read about mastery-based learning, the more I wanted to jump in. Where am I now?

As I write this I am close to wrapping up Launch School’s RB101 Programming Foundations Course. I’ve already put in about 120 hours. I’m still working full time as a manufacturing engineer, but I’ve got a clearer mission now. Change my career to solve problems I enjoy that help people.

Two years after graduation, is it okay to make such a dramatic change? Some would say, “You’re still new! You’re switching too quickly. You should stick to what you already know.” I would say that person seeks comfort over contentment. Others would say, “You make good money, why would you give that up?” I would say that person views their career as a means to an end, not something to enjoy.

Find what brings you joy. Work towards doing more of that. We are at our best when our talents (what we are good at) intersect with our passion (what we care most about). Making sacrifices to get there will pay off in the long run.

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