Career change tips for students

​Transitioning from an engineering field after work experience, I have realized the traditional engineering workplace is not for me. In an effort to change this, I have decided to pursue a master’s degree in Interaction design. My pivot was not easy so here are some tips you can consider during your transition.
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Though I am currently pursuing a degree in design, the path has been one of discovery and self-reflection. It has been my pleasure to have explored multiple fields in the past several years. It is interesting to have thought I would have become a surgeon at one point in my life studying pre-medicine the first couple of years of my bachelors. During my academic career, I have explored the fields of biology, biomedical engineering, architecture, and industrial design before deciding to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree. I have been a person of many hats and hope to keep it that way for as long as I stay curious and adventurous while seeking knowledge.

All that being said, I want to share some tips and tricks on how I have navigated a new field of interest and how I make myself comfortable during my explorative phase: –

Be honest with yourself!
Be as honest with yourself as you possibly can be. It’ is about you and your passions when you pivot to new industries. This is quite important so try being as brutally honest as you can. Your genuine interest in a field will truly guide you with lesser effort. There will always be traces of self-doubt but honesty can bolster you and give you a place to stand when the environment around you is uncertain, new, and intimidating. The more honest you are with yourself in the beginning of your transitional journey, the sooner you will adapt to your new interests and find the innate curiosity to numb the importer syndrome that can sometimes halt your progress.

You are not alone.
Trust me when I say this – you are not alone in this. One thing I have learned early on about myself is that it is rare to have problems that are original and unique to me. There have been others who have faced the same issues as me and it’s all about seeking these people out. They have figured it out and so can you. Find these people through community meetups, online platforms (e.g., LinkedIn), talk to professors at your campus, other campuses, and so on. The amazing thing about these people is that they know the struggle and can relate to your journey. It can be to seek out advice or to share a storystory, so they are always willing to give your valuable insight. I have been fortunate enough to even schedule video calls halfway across the globe despite practically being strangers… and that is a beautiful thing.

Embrace failure.
During the phase where you are new to the field you are exploring, of course you are not the best version of you. You are still learning, and you will make mistakes. Get comfortable with being wrong and learning from your mistakes. There is so much you can learn from repetition so being wrong is not a bad thing. Get comfortable with making mistakes early on in your transition and be open to criticism and feedback. This can only help you grow and become a better professional later on. This attitude will also keep you coming back for more and allows you to explore your creativity. This does not just apply to design alone but also to any field that has a steep learning curve. I am still working on this myself but it is a muscle that needs to be used often. As a perfectionist, I find it hard to attempt new projects but I have gotten noticeably better about taking risks and making mistakes for more fruitful outcomes.

Do more than what is required.
When you are new to a field after your transition, you find yourself being a sponge. After you have been honest with yourself and know where your knowledge gaps are, let your curiosity drive you to explore your field. If you are in an academic setting such as myself, you can lean on the people around you and take advantage of the seemingly never ending well of knowledge. Your professors are easiest who can nurture you in this setting. They can provide you with more than you know what to do with. Last year before coming to Chalmers, I was able to grab coffee with a professor from my old university and talk to him about my transition. With his help, I was able to enroll in virtual conferences (a huge advantage during the pandemic), learn more about the future prospects in Interaction Design while nurturing the inner designer-me who is still learning. Keep in mind that most conferences during the pandemic have been recorded and you can find them online; dedicate some time to watch these at your own pace. Also, if you are currently in school such as myself, do the alternative assignments even if they are not required and ask for feedback. For example, if the final project has multiple prompts, pick your primary for the grade submission then pick your secondary for a personal project to receive feedback from peers and professors. This approach works great for me to accelerate my learning and I hope it does the same for you.

Have fun!
It is quite common that adults play less as they grow up. Societally speaking, we become less playful and conform to the “more mature” adult lifestyle where we think we do not have enough time to play and merely have fun. I should clarify that play in this context is work that does not directly correlate to productivity. Not everything you work on must have a proportional return such as a grade, monetary value (e.g., freelance work), etc. Try to work on projects because it can be fun and you want to experiment by thinking outside the box. Don no’t take the work that you do too seriously. Your transition could sometimes put you in a state of “do or die” or a perfectionist mentality with everything you work on has to be a polished execution of an idea. This was the case for me at least. This state of mind can be beneficial sometimes but also can be detrimental, takes away the enjoyable essence of working on projects that can make you happy for the sake of bringing them to fruition. I had to learn that not everything has to be a portfolio piece, nor does it need to have future value. Understanding this gave me more creative freedom to try new perspectives of design while capturing the joy of learning through experimentation and exploration. Understand what this mentality can do for you and how it can benefit you so you can make your work after your transition more sustainable, long lasting, and mainly gratifying.

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Page manager Published: Mon 04 Apr 2022.