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School Has Started - Are You Ready For What's Next?

Paul Olesen


School Has Started - Are You Ready For What's Next?


Recently I have had a few of the younger forum members send me messages thanking me for sharing my personal story, technical advice, and being so open in my blog. A few of these folks have shared with me how they are struggling a little bit right now in university, whether it be with difficult classes, professors that aren’t open to supporting unique projects, or their expectations are just not being met. I figured if these folks reached out to me, there must be a few other young people in the community with some of the same thoughts on their mind. Since it wasn’t too long ago when I was dealing with similar situations, I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my advice regarding attending a university and landing the dream job you want afterwards. And what better time to address some of these issues than at the start of a new school year?

Your Senior Year of High School and “Deciding” on Your Future

I remember my senior year of high school well. My life mostly revolved around sports and I certainly didn’t pay enough attention to what I was going to do after I graduated. My parents made it clear that I would be attending college, however I had no idea what I would go for because I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. College football was truly the only option I figured I could pursue. Unfortunately that dream quickly disappeared after I tore my ACL in a pickup basketball game right at the dawn of my collegiate career.

In my opinion doing well academically and participating in extracurricular activities is essential to giving oneself the best chance of getting into a specific university you have your eyes on. If you’re unsure of what you want, at least keep the door open for future opportunities. The academic side of school I used to strongly dislike. The classes were boring and I thought that I would never utilize the things I was learning, however in the back of my head I knew that if I didn’t do the best job I could I would be closing some future doors prematurely. All young adult woes aside, I knew deep down that nothing would suck worse than missing out on an opportunity because I didn’t do as well as I could have.

Figuring out what to do after high school is tricky. Some know right away and some it takes quite a bit longer to figure out. Taking your time isn’t something to be frowned upon though I believe. It took exactly two motorcycles alongside two years of studying pre-requisites to become a dentist before I realized that all I ever honestly thought or cared about was motorcycles. Even after this realization it took me another entire year of life experiences and research before I could figure out what my next step might be. I checked out programs to become a mechanic, I checked out machining programs, and I even went back to college for a week to do a general mechanical engineering degree. At the end of that frustrating week I took to Google and finally found what I actually wanted out my professional life, a degree specifically for motorcycle and powertrain engineering. My future became instantly clear and I knew exactly what I wanted to be doing.

The reason I am sharing this journey with you is so it can be understood just how long it can take to figure out what you want out of life. While it might be nice to have some magical switch flip towards the end of high school and instantly know what you want to do, this often isn’t the reality. With the cost of tuition on the rise, my advice to anyone considering university right after high school would be to get as much exposure pertaining to the thing you think might want to do before you make that final decision. Whether it be job shadowing, working a relative job, or interviewing someone in the field you’re interested in - these are all good actions to take before saying “yes”. If you’re very uncertain of what you want take a few general courses, spare your wallet a full tuition, and get a feel for the things. Nowadays it might be more beneficial to take some time after high school and work in a field you’re interested in, explore a bit, and gain new life experiences before committing a serious amount of time and money to a degree.

Getting the Most Out of University and Landing a Job You Actually Want

Once you’re on a chosen career path, either academically or in the workplace, do not expect the road to the top to get easier. There has never been a time in history where more people are coming into the workforce with degrees and credentials. This has caused the competition for jobs to be fierce. The harsh truth is just because you might end up with a degree doesn’t mean you will end up with a job immediately after you graduate.

In order to land your dream job or get on the path to attaining your dream job, you will have to DO more than your peers. This could mean anything from joining a student led project/organization (think Formula SAE), working on a unique project yourself, interning/volunteering in a relative field or a combination of all of these things. It always helps to work on things you’re interested in, the things you are passionate about. Once I finally got started on the education I truly cared about, it was pretty easy to be enthusiastic about working on projects outside of the required coursework. As a motorcycle guy I wasn’t interested in cars so participating in the student run Formula SAE program was not a very good option for me. I knew I had to create my own projects that would push me, challenge me, force me to grow and make mistakes on my own.

For the first two years of university I worked on something purely because I wanted to, because I knew I would learn a lot from it, and I knew it was unique and would set me apart. That first year I designed my own racing motorcycle and proceeded to build it over the course of my school breaks. My second year I wanted to learn more about fuel injection and tuning, so I implemented a fuel injection system on to my racing motorcycle’s two-stroke engine. Finally, in the third year I got to work on designing a two-stroke engine for my racing motorcycle, and as a bonus I got graded on it as it was my final year project. I strongly believe that because of these additional efforts I made outside of my work in the university, I was able to attain the dream jobs I desired after graduating. So take action, work on something because you love it, because it peaks your curiosity, and do it for yourself. You might just find that these efforts outside of school are the projects that turn heads in the industry.

The Networking Side

While choosing a career in a field you’ll enjoy, working hard, and making yourself stand out are all essential - I feel the practice of networking is equally as vital. In high school I was extremely shy and in college and had to work hard at being more outspoken. By pushing myself to speak my mind, ask questions, and start conversations I was able to make some amazing connections.

In all my experiences good things happen when you start interacting with people who share similar goals, hobbies, careers, or other things. Often times these interactions occur randomly and you never know at the time what a conversation may lead to. I can fully attribute getting my first job to networking. I grew up in a small town and my dad was the local dentist. One of his patients was a Bonneville racer, Tom Anderson. Tom attended the speed trials every year. He introduced the two of us and I was given the opportunity to go out to Bonneville and help out as a mechanic for his racing team. Tom was an excellent networker. He had the gift of gab and seemed to be friends with everyone in the pits. Towards the end of the week George Smith from S & S Cycle came to the event and Tom introduced me to him. I was a bit nervous but ended up asking Mr. Smith if there were any opportunities to intern at S & S and he kindly gave me his card and asked me to get in touch with him after the races. Shortly after I emailed Mr. Smith, went to S & S for an interview, and got my first job there for the summer just before starting my final year of university. Had I not gone out and connected with Tom and Mr. Smith I think the chances of getting an internship at S & S would have been much slimmer. It always helps for people to put a face with a name and I encourage all of you to work on growing your network throughout your academic careers and into your professional lives.

I hope you’ve found my advice on academics, jobs, and networking to be beneficial and wish everyone in school or just starting their career the best of luck with your future!

Moto Mind - Empowering and Educating Riders from Garage to Trail

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