Engineers and others, what else can I do with my (work) life?

I’ve been working as an engineer at a medium sized, multinational government contractor for about five years. I’ve been growing increasingly dissatisfied with my job, and I’m worried that if I don’t do something soon I’m going to wake up one morning twenty years from now and wonder where the hell my life went. I’m about 30 now, and I’m trying to be proactive about my professional happiness.

I have a bachelors and a masters degree from a top tier university and my performance at my current job thus far has been excellent. I’m good at what I do, I’m just losing motivation and personal satisfaction. What other jobs can I do with my education? I’m not looking to completely abandon the engineering field necessarily, but I do need a change of pace and a new outlook.

To the engineers out there, have any of you found unique, creative, or otherwise non-traditional ways to apply your education and skills?

What kind of Engineer are you? Whatever it is, I have found anyone with the drive and ambition to complete a masters in any Engineering and the ability to function to excellent standards, is pretty much able to do whatever they like.

Is the problem the projects you are on? I am very picky about what projects I sign up to complete.

My husband worked as a mechanical engineer in industry for a lot of years. They he went to work for gov’t contractors. He wants to go back into industry, but it’s really not an option where we live. Anyway, I might suggest you look into joining private industry - you’ll find it to be very different from contracting, faster paced, challenging, and potentially rewarding. Or you’ll hate it.

I’ve been a government engineer for almost 24 years, doing both design and analysis. I have enjoyed it all, although I much prefer design work. I’ve worked as both a mechanical engineer and an aerospace structural engineer - my degree is aero.

Just one engineer’s point of view.

Sounds like you are getting your midlife crisis a little early. Might I suggest buying a used convertible? Much cheaper than buying new.

I’ve been an engineer (CS and EE) for nearly 30 years, and I’m very happy. I did it by doing things outside my company. Are there technical conferences in your area? If so, try to get funding to go to one, and make sure to return with a detailed trip report so it will be considered worth it. You’ll very likely come back with some new ideas. If you talk to people at other companies in your area, you’ll get even more new ideas. (Plus, it is great networking, just in case.)

I like to write, so I’ve done tons of papers. But even if you don’t, it is sometimes good to be the person who sees what everyone else is doing and brings it into your company. It might inspire you to start something new, or do something in a new way, which is a lot of fun.

Some people seem to have no problem doing basically the same job the same way for decades on end. I’m not that way, and it sounds like you aren’t either. Think of something new and exciting to do, research it, and sell it. If this appeals to you, and you can make it happen, you’ll never be bored at work.

I am a professional engineer with similar qualifications to the OP, although working in a different industry.

I left my permanent employer at 30 to work on a contract basis in 1990. Since then I have been lucky/unlucky to work across the world. The longest I have worked anywhere has been 3 years.

I have worked in some truly fantastic places (lke SE Asia) and terrible places (Niger Delta). Without doubt this has changed me completely.

Become an expat and never look back is my advice.

Here’s a recent, sorta-related thread.

If you’d like to travel, perhaps you might consider donating some of your time to Engineers Without Borders. That looks like a good change of pace. :slight_smile:

I’d first work at why you are dissatified. What did you like about it before that you don’t get now? Do you need more variety or a change of pace? More challenge? Would you be happy in a different environment or does engineering just not excite you at all?

I graduated with a BSEE degree, but realized that I didn’t want to be an engineer, so I went into sales and marketing in a technical field. I just like a lot of human contact along with technical side, so this type of job has worked out really well. The enineers I sell to really appreciate being able to talk someone who can understand the field.