How early-career engineers come to understand who they are--inside and outside of work
What is it about?
Early-career engineers in the United States undergo an abrupt transition between their environments in engineering programs and in engineering workplaces. How does this abrupt change affect their thinking related to their identities? In this study, we interviewed seven individuals before they graduated with bachelor degrees in engineering and then again after they had been working for two to three months. We found that in their transition into the workplace, they tended to solidify their concepts of who they were as engineers. However, in relation to who they were outside the workplace, they desired to explore identities and figure out who they were beyond being engineers. Additionally, the four women participants experienced a particular tension between their roles within their own families and the demands of their careers.
Why is it important?
Understanding how engineers come to think of themselves has critical implications for how engineers are supported in both education and in the workplace. Previous research has tended to examine how engineering students and engineers think about their identities within the profession but gives little examination of how these individuals understand who they are outside of their profession. By studying the engineer as a whole person with multiple forms of identity, this study helps to understand how we can not only support the competence of engineering students and engineers but also how we can support their overall human development and psychological well-being.
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