Engineering job vs. Regular job

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    Hello, I am a senior Civil and Environmental student. Sounds great right? Well even though I am almost done, I am doubting my career path. This is my second time I am doing so and it is stressing me out. I worked at a grocery store for 3 years and had 2 “legit” engineering internships and could only keep them for 1.1 years combined. This really stresses me out because although I have the capacity to work in an engineering environment, I quit both jobs because I disliked them. Sometimes I feel like working at a gorcery store or at Walmart would have been better, as weird as that sounds. I kind of always liked chemistry so I considered changing majors but I havent because I have a research project/job dealing with chemicals and wastewater treatment, which I am really excited for. Also I am really tired of school and people have told me that I could get similar jobs to chemists since I worked in a lab and used chemicals. But when the research ends (1 year) what will happen? Im scared to work at an engineering firm again, fearing I wont like the job… I like environmental stuff but i just dont know what the future holds. If the environmental firm doesnt work out what will I do? I also was offered to work at an environmental water analysis lab but the impression that i got from it was that it was crappy. And all i would do as an “analyst” is read instructions off a paper… to me that doesnt seem very fulfilling. A monkey could do that. So i havent replied to the employer, who messaged me two weeks ago. I like research because it tackles a practical problem and I like the unknown in science, so that is why I keep on going with this major. And since im an undergraduate student I dont have the pressures of writing a thesis… which is awesome. I dunno if I would do a masters though. Probably not.

    Thank you for hearing me out!


    Sometimes a regular job sounds better, since there is less pressure. But with less responsibilty comes lesser pay. I would be content in getting $20 an hr.. Right now I wanna do research, but I just dont know what the future holds


    1. Incorporate your PASSION into whatever you ultimately decide to do.

    Your passion will lead you to be the best at what you do.
    When you are passionate about something, you care and innovate much more than you would at a job that you find less fulfilling.

    2. Accepting your employment title and everything that comes with it is a CHOICE.

    Every job comes with the basic repetitive tasks that need to be done on a daily basis to keep the company going. Accepting that
    can make your career move a bit easier. The question you should be asking yourself when looking for internships,
    temporary, or permanent employment…is “What part of the job duties description do I LOVE to do?”. “How will what I do make this
    job worthwhile?” If you find yourself at an impasse, it is not worth your time and resources and the employers time and resources.

    3. Analyze your OPPORTUNITIES in a positive light.

    You can build your “dream job” by seeing your opportunities in a positive view. Find out what the company’s mission statement is,
    learn about what the company does for your community / global community. Get involved with and support departmental projects.
    When you are in that type of mindset, opportunities for applying what you know and love will be more readily available.

    Good luck and never give up on your passion!


    This question resonated with me because I am a manufacturing quality engineer. I too felt at times as you do. When I was in school, I questioned my career choice, had jobs where I was unhappy and dissatisfied, so what I did is explored other careers. After working as an engineer for about 15 years, I took a 10 year break. I tried teaching, computer network support and a few other things, such as pizza delivery. I found that none of those other things were as satisfying as engineering. Yes, it involves doing repetitive, mundane tasks, but those helped me gain knowledge, enabling me to hone skills like discipline and commitment. All the other jobs I’ve done have lots of repetitive mundane tasks as well.

    I finally went back to engineering, and discovered that I do belong here. I prefer making things, or being a part of a team that makes things. I’d rather work with things, products and processes, than with people. I can lead projects, I can solve problems, I cooperatively work on teams and even can build teams to work on problems I cannot solve all by myself. I can see the big picture, and not focus on all the mundane tasks that are necessary for me to do my job. I guess I have found my passion. And when I realized this, all the petty tasks I have to do didn’t bother me anymore. I am paid to produce results, thus I am not free to merely accomplish task that I like, but to do what needs to be done. And, it took a lot of experience to get to where I am today, some of which was not all that fun.

    I may not have had this insight at the beginning of my career if I had not had doubts and fears, so they did serve a purpose. Don’t be afraid to try out other things. I know that I didn’t really know what I would like to do until I did. And remember, you always have choice. Choosing a specific major or career does not obligate you to do work in a certain field for the rest of your life. Besides, we always give our interns the most distasteful tasks that we ourselves don’t want to do, but need to be done. 🙂

    Good Luck!


    I can do anything if I put my mind to it… I know I can. The repetitive tasks were related to the water analysis lab job that I was offered. I dunno why but I still dont want to take the job, even though its about chemistry, which I claim I like. The major thing is I feel like Ive lost my sense of identity… like in middle school it was all about orchestra and playing the cello, and in high school it was all about being dedicated to school and getting into a good college and also 3 yrs of chem. I didnt choose orchestra because I wanted to keep me playing as a hobby. I switched to math my junior year and said I wanted to be a math teacher. That didnt work out. When I came back to engineering I decided I would do environmental and nothing else. After my internship, I really doubted myself since it was water treatment and I didnt really like it, even though it involved chemicals. In the job you were either a ‘sales engineer’ who sold chemicals or a technician who fixed the equipment and did routine water tests and boring inspections. The internships Ive had exposed me to real engineering stuff though. And I kind of chose engineering because most of my friends were also doing it and I liked math and it seemed like a stable career that paid well. I realize now that money isnt everything. I have started my senior year now in civil and environmental engineering and the only reason Im continuing is because I will do research and that is something that I have always wanted to do. After that who knows…


    I considered changing majors but Im so done with school that I just want to finish. I worked too hard in engineering, I have busted my ass off. I just hope it wasnt for nothing…

    Alexey Sunly

    Military has some interesting opportunities for civil engineers, you could look into that, but I am not a big fan of the military lifestyle. I doubt you will like it either. Here is the thing you are not realizing, your engineering degree gave you some awesome skills. You really do not have to work as an engineer just because you have that degree. What you need to do is to think about something that really really makes things fun for you. Maybe girls, or fitness, or design, or medicine, or even environment protection, and look for work related to that particular subject. Just search for job titles in that industry (like photography, or fashion, or non profit environmental protection groups) that sounds interesting to you, and identify which skills they are looking for and which you already have. Once you know which skills you need to develop, you can look for other positions that can help you to develop them while utilizing those skills you already have 🙂

    • This reply was modified 10 years, 10 months ago by Alexey Sunly.
    • This reply was modified 10 years, 10 months ago by Alexey Sunly.

    Hey Alexy,

    Apparently a lot of engineering students end up graduating from engineering school and not pursuing a career in engineering and that is ok. My brother is an environmental engineer and he seems to like it. But it definitely helped that he had that internship with his old boss in a small company.

    Bottom line is you gotta do what feels right for you. It’s ok to try stuff out and if it doesn’t resonate with you, try something else. Truthfully, no one really knows what is going to happen in the future. There is no shame in wanting to work in a grocery store or Walmart. I’ve been in nursing for a few years, and I welcome the idea of working at a retail store.

    I really like what Alexey has said to you. Go out and explore! 🙂

    Good luck!



    Thank you guys! Im just getting really lazy and I guess my confidence isnt as high as it was. Im tired of school too. I was considering a move to chemistry but I didnt do it.. so I dont know. I just had a chemical engineering job that I didnt like. I guess Im just going to do the research here in the lab and see where that takes me. I dont know why I dont want to work in that environmental lab though… ideally it would be a good place to work at but i just dont know why I refuse to work there. I guess because my professor told me it would be a lot of repetitive testing and it would get boring. And I kind of agree with her. Actually I do agree with her. Before having a job was just that, having a job. I was happy to have one, and I didnt mind what I did. As soon as I started to dislike my engineering jobs is when I started to have this notion of you have to like what you do… Im just being negative about everything. My plan is to graduate, take the summer off and see what happens from there. I just dont like having this anxious pain in my chest of not knowing what to do. Or else this wouldnt be such a big deal! Thank you guys though!

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