Studying Engineering without Passion: You Are Not Alone

Studying Engineering without Passion: You Are Not Alone

We’ve all heard of the superstar engineers, the dreamers who make the world a better place. As inspirational as that sounds, this persona does not fit majority of real-life engineers. Many engineers chose their career for reasons besides passion and that’s okay.


Confessions of a not-so-passionate engineer

Shedding the passionate engineer trope

Society has gobbled up the idealized persona of engineers that we see in media. Think Tony Stark from Iron Man or Scotty from Star Trek. They’re smart, passionate, and most importantly, can always work up a miracle to save the day.

This engineer character trope has been overused to the point that some people assume all engineering students are this sci-fi fantasy persona!

Let’s be real, passion isn’t everything. Most people choose to become engineers for one of the following reasons:

  • passion
  • job security
  • job market
  • money
  • family and social pressures
  • respect
  • confidence with STEM subjects
  • didn’t know what else to do

Admittedly some reasons are better than others, but the one that everyone loves to bring up is passion.

Don’t let yourself be carried away by the engineer trope. Passion makes engineering more enjoyable, but is not a necessity.

How do I know if engineering is for me?

If you don’t feel that throbbing passion for engineering, don’t freak out. It could still be the right choice for you, but how do you know?

The most important question to ask yourself, “Is there is anything else you would rather be doing?”

While you think about that, consider the following:

  • You can hold off school and wait until the right passion comes around
  • University education isn’t necessary for success
  • Dentists and lawyers make a ton of money and are well respected occupations
  • Job market and job security may seem stable, but can change when you least expect it
  • Engineering level math and sciences are quite different from what you experienced in high school
  • Advice from older friends and family may have applied to their generation but are likely outdated now

If your mind is still set on engineering, then engineering is likely the right choice for you. If something does come to mind, then you need to evaluate the factors and take into consideration what matters more to you.

Dealing with impostor syndrome

If you choose to study engineering without that throbbing passion, the feeling of being a fake engineer may start gnawing at you. You may begin to doubt yourself and wonder if you really have what it takes to be an engineer. Societal expectations combined with other factors can eventually develop into impostor syndrome.

It’s important to remind yourself that many engineering students are in the same boat as you. We’re just the quiet majority because nobody wants to admit that they don’t dream about being Iron Man. We’ve all been conditioned since a young age to “follow your passion”. To say that we aren’t chasing our dreams almost feels like a taboo.

Playing the part of the passionate engineer

Young adults who don’t feel passionate towards any career often consider conventionally successful and job-market-friendly fields. Engineering falls into that category. Thus many students choose to pursue an engineering degree, even if they wouldn’t call it their passion.

Understandably, nobody wants to hear about a worker who isn’t that passionate about their career. This is especially true for engineering. It’s not very inspirational or romantic.

However, during critical moments such as a job interview or elevator pitch, it’s important to have a passionate story ready. Common HR interview questions like, “Tell me about yourself” or “Why did you apply for this job?”, typically look for responses that indicate interest and passion. While you shouldn’t lie and say you’re the most passionate engineer in the world, it’s important to at least appear interested in the work.

Leaving doors open for potential passions

If you seriously considered a career in engineering despite having no passion for it, it shows two crucial points:

  • the reasons that drew your interest in the first place are very important to you
  • you can tolerate a career in engineering

If one day, one of these points don’t ring true anymore, then perhaps it’s time to change fields.

The great thing about engineering is its flexibility. Engineering degrees may seem like a narrow and technical career direction. But if you look beyond the math and calculations, it’s just coming up with solutions to problems. Problem solving and resourcefulness are skills that are needed in every field.

University is a great place to build connections and explore different area of interest. That’s why many engineers eventually branch off into medicine, law, business. If you discover your passion along the way and change your career direction, an engineering background will likely still be helpful.

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