As a student, life is simple. For all you students reading this - don’t freak out, simple does not mean easy, it just means straightforward. As a student you have one main goal and that is to graduate. Everything you work for during your time at school is to get you closer to that goal. But then it happens, you graduate. Now what?! For the last 5 years you’ve worked your butt off, gone to class, studied for exams, written papers, worked in lab groups with people you might not have liked...and now it’s over! So what is next?
After I graduated, it took me awhile to get over not having a place I was “going.” Wake up each day, go to work and repeat the next day. Where was the end of this and where was it taking me? I still haven’t quite figured that out. But here is what I do know:
Going through the co-op program gave me confidence by constantly having to sell myself to the next employer, being thrown into new environments with new challenges, meeting new people and proving that I wasn’t just a student and that I could accomplish something worthwhile in my 4 month placement. All of this taught me one thing - that I can do anything I want. If I had the urge to work for a big company I would do it. If I had the urge to travel I would do it. If I wanted to work in healthcare I would do it. The great thing is, if you truly believe that you can do anything, then you can!
So to keep myself from getting into the 9 to 5 rut that can easily happen once you start working full time, I made a list of my dream job characteristics. The key being that I didn’t know (and still don’t) what my dream job is, but I definitely know the things that would be true about it. Every 6 months I compare my current job against my dream job characteristics. If it’s not measuring up, I move on to something better! Using this method I have had 3 jobs since I graduated and so far my current job is measuring up! I started as a Consultant working for an IT Consulting firm. From there I moved to a Senior Consultant role at a Management Consulting firm. That job was 100% travel, on a plane Sunday to Friday every week for 2 years. It was exhausting! From there I moved to where I am now, working as a Senior Project Engineer at St. Michael’s Hospital.
My last words of advice are that once you graduate, don’t let yourself settle on a job because you think it’s the best you can get. The “best” job is going to be different for every person and the key is for you to be happy. Realize that not everyone graduates from a Waterloo Engineering Co-op Program and that you have accomplished something to be proud of! My journey is not over yet and I’m not quite sure where I will end up. What I do know, is that whatever I decide to do next, I will have no troubles doing it!