ing but instead uses your science or engineering background to make your contribution to society in a different way? Where would you like to be in 5 years? In 20 years? Can you imagine getting there from where you are today?

If you are like most students, it is highly unlikely that you will find specific answers to career questions before graduating. But it is never too soon to find out as much as you can about yourself and the career you envision, alternatives to that career, and how best to match your own personality and desires with the shape of possible careers in science and engineering.

Planning a Career

Of course, there is a limit to how carefully students can—or should—try to plan for an unknowable future. You might have gained the impression that careers proceed in a more or less straight line that begins with an undergraduate degree and leads directly to the position you anticipated. But most career paths are neither straight nor predictable—nor, in the end, would people want them to be. Careers can have as many sudden turns and new directions as life itself. Even your earliest steps along this path will probably be guided by accidents of timing and opportunity as much as by intention. You will go to a particular school or take a particular position because of a conversation with a friend or adviser or a random bit of news. Or someone on a university admissions committee is attracted by a particular detail in your application. Or a postdoctoral position opens on the same day that you happen to call a friend in the same department. The more you have thought about your career, the better able you will be to take advantage of such unplanned events.

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