What should a civil engineer never do

I don't like anymore

In the course of my engineering studies I unfortunately had to realize that my interest in technology was increasingly lost. During an industrial internship, the suspicion grew that I would not be happy with the “classic technical” engineering profession in the long run.
Nevertheless, for various reasons I decided not to drop out of the course. In the foreground were certainly various fears, but above all the fear of the lack of chances that a university dropout in Germany faces again and again.

With a good diploma in my pocket, I gave it another chance and worked successfully as an engineer in project management for a year. Now I have recently been unemployed again and have gained the (somewhat uncomfortable) experience that my technical interest has meanwhile sunk to zero. Unfortunately, I also had to give up hope of being able to develop good managerial or sales talent and therefore see myself in a dead end.

I am of the opinion that in the long run I can only do a really good job if I have a certain interest in the work. That's why I've now collected some ideas and started to explore new technical territory by getting a taste of other professions through internships. To what extent this “journey” will really lead me away from the engineering profession, or whether it can show me new ways to use my hard-earned engineering degree in a “non-classical” engineering profession, I do not know.

I can already hear the (somehow comfortable) drawers opening in the HR minds: “It just squeezes. He still doesn't know what he wants. He doesn't set any goals. ”The discard pile threatens quickly…. How quickly do my chances on the job market decrease because I have been a) too long without a qualified job and b) technically too far removed from my engineering discipline? What would you say to me advise in my situation?


If you are doing something professional, it is legitimate to look for something better. If you have finally found that and you also know a way to get better, then trade.

But let's say you have a car. Well. And you don't like that anymore. Good as well. Then think about which vehicle you like better. Now plan the way to acquire it. Once you've found a way, go and buy a new car and give up your old one. Simple, isn't it?

But let's say you have a car, you don't like it - and as an immediate solution, leave it somewhere - and now you don't have a vehicle at all. Which in turn hits you to the core and almost ruins your life. But you don't know which other car to want, you just know: not the old one! Well? Bullshit!

Do that once with food. In the end you will starve to death - surrounded by something to eat that doesn't quite suit your taste. That would be nonsense too!

Fortunately, the question of the field of study cannot be compared with car or food decision problems at all. Or is it? Or maybe!

Let's start at the beginning, although you will of course be confronted with a lot of subjective considerations. Of course, you want to hear less about what you did wrong or what you failed to do, and more about what you should do now. But for me the protection of potential imitators has priority among the readers. So then:

It is just as "impossible" as irresponsible that you recognized somewhere in the middle of your studies that the technology would not suit you - but in the years that have certainly passed since then you still have not found out what is suitable for your interest.

In addition, you should have reached a somewhat advanced adulthood by now, when you should know what you would like to do, regardless of your previous history. Somebody decided that when you were 18 you would be ready to elect the Federal Chancellor (indirectly, I know), then when you were around 30 (estimated) you could be expected to know roughly where your professional journey is going should. And there is one more thing: you don't even know what that could be; if you only knew, the first step would be the process in which you would have to acquire the prerequisites for your dream job. Whether that would be a biology teacher, pool attendant or mayor - the preparations take years.

Since I also want to say something positive for once: I think it's good that you have successfully completed the subject you started in your studies. As long as you don't know what you want, abortions will only lead to chaos. In this way, however, you have at least some professional training.


Do you know what i believe? You have the wrong attitude to life, to work, to self-dependent nourishing yourself. You flirt with dreams, chase after diffuse ideals. They lack the sometimes beneficial pressure of having to provide for their own support or even that of a family in any case.

You have a job - before you know anything else, do it first. The engineering profession, which you have chosen yourself, is so varied, and also offers so many opportunities as a general academic basis, that some variants of it would also be reasonable for you. Apart from jobs that include the word “engineer”, with this training you could sell insurance, be a freelance writer, become a technical writer or football reporter, do an apprenticeship, take on master craftsman positions in shift work, marry a construction company or join the PDS . They could become employees in associations, become a fire chief (later) or participate as a personnel consultant in the selection of executives (also later) and give others wise advice (much later).

First of all, however, you should work in a disciplined, committed manner and without paying too much attention to your sensitivities. In any case, work. Otherwise one day you won't have much left besides a free artist. And maybe we make it a little too easy for some of our fellow human beings in our system.

People tend to infer others from themselves - so why not me too: In my past I have carried out so many different activities that there is no longer a consistent “common thread”. And - almost - everything was great fun. I learned filing, operated snow chain production machines, introduced a company suggestion scheme, wrote all personnel advertisements in a group and am now also a consultant. It seems to me that it is a question of attitude. It has little to do with technology or not.

Short answer:

With “no desire for anything”, there is not much sympathy to be won from the working population (of which the author feels himself to be part).

Question No .: 1298
Number of the VDI nachrichten edition: 44
Date of the VDI nachrichten edition: 1998-10-30

A contribution by:

  • Heiko Mell

    Heiko Mell is a career advisor, author and freelancer for VDI nachrichten. He is responsible for the career advice series within VDI nachrichten.