Your first job might not be awesome.
Very early on in my engineering career, I was lucky enough to get a job as a Manufacturing Engineer at Magna. I was involved in all kinds of problem-solving; my team and I connected with multiple people to come up with solutions to problems in real-time. Not only that, but I also got to see the financial impact of my project work on the company, which I found very satisfying. Were there non-glamourous elements to my responsibilities? You bet – lots of them, actually.
Grunt work? Not a bad thing.
Regardless of how mundane or boring the tasks you’re given seem to be, remember this: now is the time for you to to be a sponge. It’s a time to break off a little (read: manageable, not insignificant) piece of a real-world problem and make it your own. It’s a time to earn your stripes, soak up all the training you can get. It’s time for enjoying all those fun and important firsts.
- first performance review
- first business trip
- first business cards
- first paycheque (how will you spend it?)
These firsts aren’t just fun milestones, they are valuable learning experiences!
Valuable learning experiences are precisely what these first years of your career are all about. You can make mistakes with relatively little consequence – it’s possible everyone expects you to anyway!
Watch those around you, and learn to build your skills. You’ve got a head full of fancy math that you’d love to use, but just as important (if not more), some other stuff you probably didn’t learn in engineering school: selling an idea, getting people to help you, reading between the lines of office politics, figuring out how to get things done, developing your network, and investing in those around you.
Really show up to work every day.
There are piles of advantages to bringing your full creative, awesome, invested, engaged self with you to work everyday. Not only will you get the right kind of attention and earn a reputation for being a great team player and high-impact worker, but you will soak up FAR more learning. Opportunities for advancement and extra training will seek you out, and you’ll be given chances to take on more responsibility. Then, that’s right, bye-bye grunt work!
Learning below the surface
If you keep your personal goals front and centre, it won’t matter how dreary or bland the meat of your job is. As you keep your eyes on the prize and bring your awesomeness to the table, you’ll be soaking up opportunities that prepare you for your next step. Think of it as training for the mind, the same way an athlete trains the body.
Bring the full weight of your skill, passion, and investment to every moment – especially the grunt moments – and you will find your way forward sooner than you think.