The Responsibility Is Yours
Essential to the nature of both science and engineering is that they are both changing constantly. We can see that clearly by comparing what we see around us today with what we would have seen just a few years ago. We would not have seen a major new scientific field, like biotechnology; a major new engineering technique, like computer-aided design; a major new communication mechanism, like the Internet, or major new ways in which science and engineering can contribute to societal needs, like environmental engineering.
But change has its sobering consequences. For example, you might choose to enter a field that is "hot" today, only to find out that it is not so hot tomorrow. Life-long employment in any occupation has largely become a thing of the past. Even well-known tenure-track professors are being forced into early retirement; major industries are closing down their central research facilities.
What do those trends mean for you? Most importantly, they mean that any career you enter will be characterized by
continual change and you will spend your career adapting to that change. In Self-Renewal, John Gardner writes:
If we indoctrinate the young person in an elaborate set of fixed beliefs, we are ensuring his [or her] early obsolescence. The alternative is to develop skills, attitudes, habits of mind and the kinds of knowledge and understanding that will be the instruments of continuous change and growth . . . . Then we will have fashioned a system that provides for its own continuous renewal (1995).
What can you do to avoid obsolescence? You can acquire the life-long habit of watching for new fields to explore, new techniques to learn and use, and new societal needs to which you can contribute.
In the end, the responsibility of making your career successful is yours. The profiles you have seen throughout this guide provide excellent testimony to the fact that you can find interesting and valuable things to do, no matter where you begin. A successful career does not just happen; it has to be created. And you are the one to create it.
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