Why I Left Engineering
Societal norms are funny things.
Often the first topic of conversation when meeting someone is, “What do you do for a living?”. Why do we care so much about what someone does to make money? Because that information is used in our society to create a rank and file by which we can gauge our worth against other people.
If someone replies with “I’m a garbage man”, we put them at the bottom of the totem pole. If someone replies with “I’m a rocket scientist”, we put them at the top.
What does a profession tell us about a person’s worth, other than give us a clue about how much money they make? Is a rocket scientist inherently more respectable than a garbage man?
Questions like these have been at the forefront of my mind ever since I decided to quit engineering and become a Realtor. While family and close friends were very supportive of my decision, some people’s response was, “What? Really??”. Although it wasn’t an inquisitive “really”, it was a judgmental “really” with a hint of condescension. The implication being that I was giving up a highly respected profession for one that isn't.
The point they were missing was that rather than chase the respect of others, I decided to respect myself. What could be less respectful to one’s self than to continue down an unfulfilling path with only a paycheck and healthcare benefits to provide gratification?
Engineering brought me many rewards in my life: transferable skills like perseverance, problem solving, and thoroughness; financial advantages like qualifying to buy the condo we live in, saving for retirement, and being entirely self-sufficient; societal novelties like status, respect, and impressed looks when I told people I was a mechanical engineer.
Those niceties were just that: nice. But engineering left me wanting in one major category: happiness.
People often say that we should do something we love for a living, though I’m not sure I completely agree. I would add, “…as long as your financial goals can be met.”
If you are fortunate enough to genuinely love your profession, and that profession can also provide the income you desire/require, you’ve got a leg up on the competition. Otherwise, it is paramount to find aspects of your profession that keep you happy, or change professions to find that happiness.
Real estate has allowed me to indulge my entrepreneurial spirit and to single handedly control my professional future. An added bonus is the potential for earning more money than in a profession where income is directly proportional to hours worked.
I didn’t leave engineering for the chance to be the next star of Million Dollar Listing. I left engineering for the chance to be an entrepreneur and dictate my path forward. And by that measure, I’ve already come out on top.
Should you change careers? It’s your call. Either way, I’m proud to be a career change “survivor” who is proof that your happiness is in your own hands. Challenge the norm, think for yourself, and dedicate yourself.
I’m right there with you…