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To the Graduating Engineering Students Who Feel Like They Don’t Know Anything

Disclaimer: This is rehashed from an article I wrote in June 2016 for GineersNow. Some parts are added or edited for clarity.

After having to study engineering for four or more years, it still doesn’t seem like you have actually learned anything to become an engineer. There is that part of you that is not convinced that you are already equipped with enough knowledge to go out there after your final year. Is this feeling familiar to you? Well, you are not the only one.

It has become common for engineering seniors to feel the struggle of keeping the pieces together. If on the process you lost some pieces, indeed you cannot make the puzzle complete. But that’s only what you think.

Engineering professionals argue (around Reddit, at least) that it’s pretty normal to feel this way.

Graduating students tend to evaluate their status in their career right before they leave the university, and feeling bad about the self-assessment is not unusual – they know because they have been there. Seldom do they use every bit of knowledge they have acquired, because in the real world, engineering is different.

You won’t be using much of the math you learned; a much more important factor is your ability to understand, think critically and create. The technical knowledge learned will be there when there is a need on the job, they guarantee, for your engineering course is merely a foundation of basic and advanced concepts. Not all will be applied so you don’t need to feel you know everything about engineering as you graduate.

Just because you can’t speak on the spot of the knowledge in your engineering course doesn’t mean you already lost the principles and concepts. They will appear when you are already faced with the problem that requires such – that information just sits at the back of your mind, in stealth mode.

When you start to work as an engineer, you will acquire the experience, and that is where the important knowledge begins: in applying what you have learned through your work or projects.

Being an engineer is not about knowing things, it’s about being able to figure things out. You claim to not know everything right now, and that’s good. It only means you own up to your own ignorance, rather than faking it. Socrates strongly supports that when he once said this paradox, “The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing.”

And that is how learning begins.   

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