Transitioning to a New Career in a New Place

We all go through transitions in our lives. We’ve all been through several to get to where we are today. The one thing I've noticed that's consistent about all transitions is that they always look better when we’re looking back at them. 
As a senior in high school I was super excited to leave my small town and moved to Penn State. All I wanted was to be a Penn State college student, but recently I’ve looked back to something that I wrote during my first drive to Penn State, “I want to say that I'm excited and can't wait and counting down every second, but in all honesty, I'm scared.” Now being a graduate of Penn State, and now looking back on that senior in high school, why was I scared? 
Throughout college, I've accomplished so much, and I've learned so much, and I've had a great experience. During that transition to college, I got a lot of tips and tricks, which then helped to make my transition from college to my real job across the country in Texas much easier. I’m going to talk about three things that I thought were really helpful in this latest transition to my real career. 
First, own your career and make sure you're doing it for yourself. When it came to picking a job my senior year of college I was thinking, “Okay, what do I want to do?” My professors wanted me to do one thing. My parents wanted me to do another thing. What I decided to do was make a reflection sheet with the things in my career that mattered most to me.

One was considering a company's brand recognition as well as its brand reputation. It's important to recognize that really large, well-known companies aren't for everybody, and that just because everyone wants to work there, doesn't mean you should work there too. I also wanted a company that cared about their brand, and that was committed to safety, quality, and giving back to the community.
The second thing that mattered most to me was to be part of a development program that included mentoring and coaching through my early career. And finally, the most important consideration for my new career was lifestyle. I wanted to kind of stay in one place. I didn't want to be moving every six months. I also didn't want to have a job that was going to require me to work 80 hours a week. 
After I had made my list, I was able to make the decision to work for Owens Corning and be part of their manufacturing leadership. You may not have heard of Owens Corning before, but they invented fiberglass, and now they're in a lot of different industries. I am in their roofing division and make shingles in Dallas, Texas. I had never heard about Owens Corning before a career fair, but after that I fell in love with the company. 
Network and find your comfort zone. I had picked a job that I was excited about, a shingle manufacturer in Dallas, Texas, but I knew nobody in Dallas, Texas. So that’s when networking came in, trying to reach out to people to feel comfortable moving from Pennsylvania to Dallas, Texas. First, I reached out to the engineering sorority I was part of at Penn State, Phi Sigma Rho and connected with people. I also got involved with the Penn State Alumni Association, the North Texas chapter, asking for tips and advice.

Another group that I was a part of at Penn State was Engineering Ambassadors, which has alumni all over the country. As ASME members or mechanical engineers, we also have the opportunity to connect with others through FutureME, which is a community specifically designed for those that are graduating college and moving to their new career path.
Once you find a network at a great company and you're confident you’re able to handle the transition, the last tip is to make sure you're asking a ton of questions.  Despite always being told “there is no such thing as a dumb question,” we all feel a little nervous inside asking certain questions. The question that I was most nervous about asking was, “what do I wear to work?” 
You might think, “Mechanical engineers wear khakis and a polo,” but for me that was a really important question. There are pretty intense safety requirements at my plant, so I have to wear special steel-toed shoes, long-sleeve cotton shirts, and hard hats. If I hadn't asked that question and I showed up in business casual on my first day, I wouldn't have been able to do my job.
Mechanical engineers are needed all over the country. No matter where you are, we're going to need a mechanical engineer. And no matter where you're from, you're likely going to have to go somewhere else for the right fit. But, with a network that you can ask for help, you can ease your transitions from college to your career life, wherever it may be.

Cayla Castells graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in December of 2017. She began the Manufacturing Leadership Program with Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt in March of 2017.

ASME FutureME Blog Series: Transitions was derived from the Mini-Talks program at 2018 ASME E-Fest West and East, which covered different perspectives and best practices on transitioning from school to work. 

Watch a new video series on career development.