For first generation university graduates, searching for and starting a job can be daunting. With limited networks and connections in professional careers, it can be difficult to access advice that sets you up for success. That’s why Dell Young Leaders alum like Danaly – who graduated with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering and is currently a business analyst within technology and financial services – shares her advice on how current students can connect their degree to their graduate career.
How did you make the decision to move away from a traditional engineering career path?
I love engineering, and I loved my undergrad degree, but I didn’t think working as an engineer was the right fit for me. In the first year of university, I was made aware that there are a lot of different careers if you study engineering, and that a lot of engineers move into more corporate spaces. Small doubts came in when I first started going to chemical plants and seeing what it was actually like to work as an engineer. During the second half of my university journey, I started doing a lot of workshops that exposed me to different types of environments. I realized I really prefer working in an office environment, rather than a plant. I also realized I like working in a digital and technological space, and that the core concepts of engineering could be applied to IT as well, such as streamlining and optimizing processes. Ultimately, I found the world of digital interruption really exciting and wanted to be a part of it.
What advice do you have for students looking to pursue a different career than what they studied?
Changing careers is always going to be a tough and somewhat difficult decision to make. You may ask yourself what the point of your undergraduate degree was if you’re just going to pursue something else. For me personally, I felt like there was so much more to my degree than just engineering. I don’t think studying engineering and working in an IT environment is a waste of my degree, but part of broadening my skills and adapting to a changing world. If you’re looking to pursue a different career from what you studied, do your research, keep yourself informed, and talk to people. These things can help you make a well-informed decision.
How did you connect what you learnt in engineering to this new environment?
Although the content of what I studied is not related to the work I do now, there are a lot of things I picked up while studying such as time management, problem solving, working in a team, and interpersonal and communication skills. The project work that I did in university and the various work experiences helped me become more detail-oriented and organized, and this made aspects of my work much easier for me. During undergrad I was also exposed to different types of software, and this made it easier to learn the different types of applications and software I use at work.
What was your biggest challenge when you started work?
When I first started working, it was very difficult. I was around a lot of people who had completed other degrees and I was just one engineer among others with Computer Science and IT degrees. A lot of people threw around IT jargon that I was obviously unfamiliar with coming from an engineering background and it made some doubt creep in if this was the right space for me.
How did you overcome this challenge?
Coming straight out of university you’re still in that learning phase. You’re like a sponge. Every time colleagues said something I was unfamiliar with I would jot it down. If I had time then, I would quickly search for it and make a few notes. If it was bigger concepts, I would go home in the evenings and read up about it. I also did online courses and two coding courses that were extra training for myself. Just learn as much as you can, read up about things. If you don’t understand anything, the internet is there. There are so many courses and a lot of resources. Just spend as much time reading about what you’re doing.
What advice do you have to upcoming graduates applying for jobs?
Apply for as many opportunities and positions as you can to broaden your options. Another important thing as you’re looking for jobs, and even when you start working, is to not be too hard on yourself. Juggling academic work, applying for jobs, going for interviews and preparing for interviews can be stressful and time-consuming. It’s important to give yourself a break, stay positive, and always know that you are not alone in this process.
What advice do you have for graduates transitioning to the world of work, especially if it’s in a sector that is different from what they studied?
Transitioning to the working world can be disorientating and a little nerve-wracking. Remember that a company is not going to hire someone that they don’t see potential in. That transition period is always going to be difficult because there’s so much you don’t know initially, but you will learn. Speak to the people around you, because that helped me a lot. My line manager is a chemical engineer as well and that helped me so much. During our first meeting he told me what to read up about and shared the things he did when he first started working. If you are going to go into a career different from what you studied (or even if you studied the same thing), find someone that you can talk to, someone that relates to you. Ask questions, be adaptable, and be strong.
The Career Insights Series is designed to help graduate job seekers. Dell Young Leaders alumni share insights on their career path, highlight a day in the life at their employer, and provide guidance to students on how to stand out to employers and prepare for the world of work.