Having finished school and transitioned into industry some time ago, I have had a chance to look at some of my habits now and see what would have been beneficial when I was in school. Her are my top 3 things I wish I knew in engineering school:
I think, like a lot of people, I long considered meditation to be a kind of new age, head in the clouds type of activity. But I’ve learned how wrong I was.
I have since developed a daily meditation practice, using the Headspace app. I try and get 10 minutes of meditation each day, either in the morning or after work, before dinner. Far from being a head in the clouds activity, it has made me more calm, have more energy, have more clear thinking when problem solving, as well as some intangible benefits, like just plain feeling better about life.
If I had had this practice in school, I feel I would have been able to better consume the massive amount of information from classes more efficiently, be able to handle the stress of competing assignments and exams, and have more energy for the intake of information, participating in classes, and long study sessions.
Have a Structured Organization System
Working life is different from school life in that your priorities are rarely clearly defined. BUT, the expectation that you complete tasks on time are more overt. The system I’ve developed to set my priorities is based on the David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system, modified to suit my specific needs.
It doesn’t really matter what system you use, but you need to find one that works efficiently, with as little disruption to you as possible.
When I think back to how I organized my time in school, I see a hurricane of loose papers, forgotten tasks, multiple databases to store deliverables, research information, and just general disorganization. The irony is that, at the time, I thought I had everything under control, but I’m sure that my efficiency was far lower than it needed to be, and my GPA likely suffered as a result. If had a structured system then, the stress in my life would have been greatly reduced, and I’m sure the extra years refining the system would also be of use to me now.
At the very least, if I had used a central repository, such as Evernote (which I use constantly now, and could not live without), would have been invaluable.
NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!
I can’t stress this one enough. When I was in school, my main priority was absorbing as much knowledge from my courses and professors as possible. This is no doubt important in determine what direction you’d like your career to go. BUT, what I didn’t realize so much at the time is that your peers in engineering school are one of the best opportunities you’ll ever have to develop a network that can help you throughout your career.
They’ll be able to help you find your first job, they can help you get a better job down the road, your study group can be the founding members of a startup.
The reason that this is such a great opportunity is that you are, for the most part, in a confined group for an extended period of time. You’ll probably never spend four or five years working closely with a group of peers with similar interests and work ethic ever again in your career. These dedicated partners will be invaluable and you’ll likely never find a group equal to this down the line. This includes fellow students, as well as professors. Don’t underestimate the power of a recommendation from a well respected professor!
I didn’t take advantage of this as much as I should have, and it has been to my disadvantage, and a big regret.
I hope you liked this list and found it useful! Leave a comment, or tweet this out if you did 🙂