Three Career Questions to ask yourself regularly

Here are three questions to ask yourself when contemplating your current, or a new, career situation:

Are you global, or are you local?

Do you like checking in with the same crowd every morning, in the same office, preferably close to home? Does your brain get excited by travel, meeting new people with different experiences and perspectives? Do the same faces and the office banter cheer you up, or get you down? Does what’s happening on the other side of the world fascinate you or bore you?

This is the global versus local question, and it’s not really my question. I chanced upon it on Derek Siver’s blog. He’s a well-travelled entrepreneur, who settled in Singapore a few years ago, and decided that he really ought to try and put down some roots and get to know the locals. Within a short time, he was frustrtrated and dissatisfied. He realised that what was going on next door just didn’t interest him as much as what was going on in the next country.

If your present work situation forces you to travel and set up new partnerships in a distant continent, when you’re dying to get to know the people in the office . . . . . . you’re global when you should be working local.

Somewhat related is: Are you old, or are you new?

In previous posts, I’ve often drawn on my experience in launching the A380. A colleague of mine had spent her entire career to that point on the Airbus A320 family of aircraft. I, conversely, had worked on two different aircraft families, and about to start on my third. She asked me if I hadn’t found that frustrating.

I reflected. It was about a year after the A380’s first flight. And her question made me realise that my enthusiasm for working on the A380 had begun to wane as soon as I’d seen the aircraft fly.

It’s not as if there’s no work to do after first flight. Just ask a flight test crew member or a certification specialist. (Or anyone who has worked on the Boeing 787!) It can be hellish getting an aircraft certified. And the continuing product development and in-service support goes on for decades. None of it is easy or straightforward.

But I didn’t feel passionately about doing it. I’m interested in getting a new product into the air. Thereafter, I’m happy to leave the work to others. My colleague, on the other hand, relished getting to know one aircraft (or aircraft family), and only one, and being an expert on it.

Find out which way you are wired, and make your career decisions accordingly.

Are you brain, or are you brawn?

Despite the stereotype, there are many brands of geek. And not all of them like being glued to a computer screen.

I know someone who is just getting his aerospace career off the ground. He’s found himself in a role where he’s in front of a screen all day, every day, cranking out reports. He longs to get his hands on a real aircraft, real parts, real metal. He thinks with his hands. And he’s going nuts.

Fortunately, it’s only a short-term placement, and he’s got his final year of studies to do. So the hell is temporary.

But I can relate to the anguish. I’m reasonably tolerant of desk work, but I have nevertheless often wished I had more opportunity to see a real aircraft up close, either airworthy or in parts. No amount of CAD images, no matter how holographic, can replace the inspiration you get from dancing with a real plane.

Unfortunately, the modern trend is towards desk work, and much of isn’t brain-intensive either.

Know what kind of work fuels your engine. And if you aren’t doing it now, don’t settle. If no one will give you such work, create your own.

A well-known large aerospace company (which shall remain unnamed – I don’t think they’d sue me for publicly maligning them, but I’m taking no chances) once encouraged their young recruits to Obey Your Passion.

That’s good advice.

Sadly, I’ve heard plenty of evidence to suggest that what they really meant was: Obey Your Passion, as long as it’s What We Assign You.

One thought on “Three Career Questions to ask yourself regularly”

  1. I haven’t checked in for a while but now I have managed to catch up with reading your blog.

    This is quite an interesting question. Especially the global vs. local aspect of it. According to my experience companies tend to assume, that if you are an engineer, your wife/husband is either a ‘stay at home’ type or someone who is not attached to a particular company. Such as a dentist, a teacher, a social worker, etc. Therefore they assume that it is perfectly ok to throw you over to the other part of the word and supply school for your kids and some kind of a work for your spouse.

    However, these things become complicated once your wife – such as mine – pursues an engineering career as well. In my case she has a PhD in chemical engineering and has a job at BASF which is something for her as if I was working for NASA sending rovers to Mars. She has already been told that it is highly encouraged – almost expected – to spend some time abroad during her career… (We are talking about quite remote locations in Texas, China or Brazil.) And here I am working on my PhD, longing for an aerospace career and ending up with 3 major questions: location, location, location…

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