Exploring Engineering Careers: Panel Discussion Recap
When it comes to choosing a major or navigating your career path in engineering, insights from those who've been in your shoes can be invaluable. The Center for Career & Professional Development hosted a virtual panel discussion that included undergraduate and graduate engineering students, as well as alumni, who discussed their experiences and offered tips for identifying industry interests, exploring academic majors, and learning about career pathways and possibilities within the industry.
If you couldn’t attend the live event, don’t worry! We’ve summarized the key takeaways to help you navigate your path in engineering with confidence:
Meet the Panelists
Key Takeaways: Engineering Careers Panel Discussion
Exploration is Key
Jonathan Anderson ('24 Civil Engineering) began his college journey unsure of which engineering discipline to pursue. He explored various introductory courses and engaged in conversations with professors to identify his interests. Jonathan said, "Don't be afraid to step into unfamiliar territory. Exploration is how you discover your true passion." He recommends taking a variety of introductory courses in different engineering disciplines, and to seek guidance from faculty members to learn more about individual disciplines, niche industries, and career options associated with different engineering majors. The Center for Career & Professional Development also provides a variety of resources and opportunities to assist students through the career exploration process:
HireLehigh Blog: 8 Steps for Exploring Majors & Careers
Handshake Resource Library: Explore Careers Tile
Handshake Events: Learn about Companies and Industries
HireLehigh YouTube Channel: Career Exploration Video
Additional articles available on HireLehigh.com:
Get Involved & Gain Experience
Lily Swider ('25 Mechanical Engineering) recommended joining engineering clubs and relevant student associations during your time at Lehigh. They discussed how getting involved in extracurriculars is an impactful way to explore your interests while also developing career competencies (like teamwork, problem solving, and interpersonal communication), gaining hands-on experience, and building a professional network!
Explore the long list of Lehigh student clubs and organizations on LINC (Lehigh Involvement Connection)
Connect with engineering faculty to inquire about research projects and opportunities to get involved
Check Handshake for work-study or on-campus jobs in academic departments or labs
Get involved and volunteer with the Community Service Office
Leverage the Lehigh Alumni Community
As an undergraduate student, Kwaku Oteng ('23 Chemical Engineering) connected with Lehigh alumni working in industry using the alumni tool on LinkedIn. Kwaku discussed how alumni helped him gain valuable insights into career options and industry trends, and he stressed that, "Alumni are your treasure trove of wisdom; don't hesitate to reach out."
The CCPD and the Alumni Relations department also offer a platform called Lehigh Connects, which can connect you to a growing network of alumni who have volunteered to support students with career exploration and professional development. On Lehigh Connects, you can send direct messages to alumni and seek guidance that can help you make informed and confident decisions about your future!
You can learn more about networking on LinkedIn and Lehigh Connects in this blog post: Networking Questions to Ask.
Lean Into Your Interests
"Your major is your canvas; paint it with the colors of your interests, " said senior Josie Krepps ('24 Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences). Once Josie identified her interests in renewable energy, she proactively tailored her major to include courses in sustainable engineering and technology. As you move forward, Josie recommends that you spend time exploring your interests and strengths, and intentionally pursue specialized courses or interdisciplinary programs that cater to your career goals.
Alumnae Hanako Ferro ('23 Materials Science) agreed and shared that she was able to participate in a research project that allowed her to connect her materials science major to her interests in environmentalism. She noted, "The beauty of engineering is in its intersections. Combining fields leads to innovative solutions." By seeking out faculty research projects and investigating her interests, Hanako was able to gain practical hands-on experience with creating sustainable packaging materials. Lehigh provides countless opportunities for students to pursue research projects, team collaborations, and high-impact learning experiences!
Stay Open to Change
After a year in her initial major as an undergraduate, Bonor Ayambem (now a Master's student in computer science at Lehigh) found her interests shifting towards computer science and decided to change majors in sophomore year. Bonor found value in consulting with her advisors and mentors before making her decision to transition programs, and said "Don't be afraid to pivot! Your interests evolve, and so should your career path." Explore and adapt as you learn more about your individual values, interests, passions, and strengths.
The Lehigh Career Portfolio is a great tool for students exploring career options. It outlines action steps and resources to assist you in developing the knowledge and skills needed throughout your career journey! Begin by referencing the Explore/Career Development page to inventory the areas you’d like to prioritize, and set exploration goals and track progress using the Individualized Career Plan page.
If you have questions about exploring majors and career pathways, stop into Career Lab and a member of the CCPD team will assist you. We are here to advise you and provide guidance along the way!
The valuable insights shared by our panel participants provide an illuminating roadmap for exploratory engineering students. As you navigate your own journey, remember these overarching principles that can shape your path in a meaningful way:
Embrace the spirit of exploration and curiosity as you make your academic and professional choices.
Joining clubs and associations is not just about building your resume. Hands-on involvement in extracurricular activities, faculty research projects, or on-campus interdisciplinary opportunities can shape your perspective and guide you forward.
Networking is a crucial element of career exploration. Leverage the resources and connections available to you as a Lehigh student. These connections can provide guidance and help you make informed decisions about your career path and the major that suits you best.
Your major in engineering is not a fixed choice, it's a flexible opportunity. Customize your educational journey to align with your interests. It's the intersection of your academic pursuits and your passions that often leads to innovative and fulfilling career choices.
Adaptability is a virtue in the ever-evolving world of engineering. Embrace the opportunity to pivot and evolve as your interests and aspirations develop.