What an eventful year 2020 has been! I went on a placement year, Parasite won best picture, a giant star went missing, and the Pentagon finally admitted to three UFO sightings. Unfortunately, the main event wasn't nearly as funny or worth rejoicing.
Hello everyone! I am Sohail, a third-year Aerospace Engineering student and I am here to discuss my career thinking and how my placement year amidst a pandemic shaped it.
An aviation company is definitely an interesting environment to experience the rise of any large news event, much less a global pandemic. From 9/11 and the 2010 ash cloud, through to SARS and the financial crash – nothing has come close to the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to the aviation market, some temporary and some permanent. The air traffic has reduced to pre-2000 numbers, essentially pushing back the industry two decades. Moreover, it might take more than ten years for the traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels. In such a turbulent time, pursuing an aerospace engineering degree and hoping everything will turn out fine after I graduate was unwise, and that made me rethink my whole career path.
By the end of March, I found myself logging into my work laptop from my dining table at home. Along with "working from home", I made sure that I invest some time every day to configure my career thinking. Fortunately, for one of my half-yearly team rotations at NATS, I was placed into a consulting team, which implemented improvement programmes on several NATS projects. That is when I realised how my engineering degree had laid an incredible foundation for me to step into almost any kind of career field. Of course, I was trained to learn core business consulting techniques, but it was very easy to grasp them, given my technical background at uni.
When I first began my first year at university, it was natural to me to pursue roles that directly reflected my qualifications and the degree I am enrolled on. On the face of it, it seemed totally logical, but at NATS, I really enjoyed learning more about Business Change and putting my knowledge to help deliver improvement projects. Thanks to my placement year, I now have a completely new outlook towards my career.
Technical consulting is what I believe is a perfect profession for me to bring my technical skills from the degree and combine them with my experiences from a consulting placement to help organisations improve their yield and productivity. There are several operational consulting companies like Newton and ATKINS, who work with companies from varied sectors like Healthcare, Manufacturing, Aerospace and Retail. This kind of opportunity is very inviting, and I am actively looking for summer placement in a similar field to cement my career decision.
Things are moving slowly, and we will often find ourselves with some extra time. This is the best time to think about our careers. I suggest we turn this pandemic to our advantage and not regret wasting this time in the future. Businesses are gradually returning to normal (economy-wise), but it also means that we will step into a fiercely competitive graduate market. To make ourselves more employable – we can learn a new skill, a new language, maybe coding? There are plenty of free resources out there on the internet, waiting to be harnessed. After some thinking, if you realise you are not cut out for a 9 to 5 corporate job, start working on the business idea you have had at the back of your head for months. Or if you don't have any, just brainstorm one with your mates! There are numerous competitions you can take part in, especially with Bath Entrepreneurs' new accelerator programme.
To conclude, I'd like to say - do not worry if you haven't mapped out your life and career. You don't NEED to! One thing this virus has reassured is that we humans are exceptionally adaptable and will always navigate through the toughest of times. All we can do is make ourselves a little bit better than we were yesterday.