The question of my ideal job just out of school is a bit of a funny one to me as I have already begun a career in my field of interest. So maybe I'll switch this up a bit and tell you about what I envisioned, what I am currently doing, and where I would like to be.
While in school, with not much knowledge of the actual field I was getting into, I has some interesting ideas about what I would be doing as a designer. I was being taught how to create machines and objects with a large emphasis on function. I wanted to make mechanical things work; engines, wheels, computing, consumer products, etc. I wanted to work with a team of creative people to bash our minds together to develop products and take them from an idea to a computer model to a physical object. Although now I'm finding that this ideal job is much harder to come by than previously thought.
About four years back I completed my AA degree in Mechanical Design, and as luck would have it, I became an employee at The Boeing Company as a Technical Designer thanks to Boeing's relationship with LWTC. This job was right up my alley and for a first job fresh out of school, and I thought this had to be my ideal job. After all, I would be working on some of the most advanced passenger aircraft in the world, what could be more fun?!
After the obligatory training and orientation, I was placed into an engineering group that provides production support to the 777 airplane in it's final position on the assembly line. Essentially I am a firefighter of engineering problems.
Think of building an airplane as you would custom build a car online, and then multiply the options and configurations by one-thousand! There is such a multitude of parts that need to come together, in such different configurations, some that have never been used before, that you will always find parts that do not want to work together. Things from the plastic covers on the floor that protect wiring to whole galley's (airplane kitchen) that simply will not fit in place; if there is an issue inside the airplane, it is my job to fix it and make sure that the airplane is delivered to the customer on time and complete.
I enjoy my job, especially for a first job and in a time where any job that can be found fresh out of school is a good job. I am not chained to a cubicle drawing lines or processing documents, I spend almost 50% of my day crawling around the inside of an airplane investigating issues, researching these parts and issues, and ultimately deciding and implementing the ideal solution.
It is a fun job, as my time is divided between my desk and climbing around an airplane, but over the past few years I have realized that no, this is not my ideal job. There is far too much politics and too much a disconnect between the management ave everyone else, professional working relationships are scant, and all too often I feel like I am just a warm body to churn out work until I become cold.
I have a great job that has afforded me opportunities that I could not be more thankful for. I work hard so that I can support a comfortable lifestyle for myself. But in the end, I will spend the majority of our life working, so why not at least enjoy you work? I mean really enjoy your job.
So what is ideal? What is my dream job that will leave me perpetually happy? By now I like to think that I know, or that I at least have a damn good idea. This is what my dream looks like.
I want to be a product/industrial designer. Most product design firms are relatively small with <200 employees, only a handful of which being the actual designers. This type of job would fit my personality perfectly because it allows for a dynamic group creative process where designers who all have different styles and specializations, but all of equal value, bounce ideas off of each other like a racquetball court! They get to have their hands all over the process and the product every step of the way from proof of concept to drafting the design, to beta testing. A completely hands on, creative environment that encourages teamwork and respects the creative process of an individual. If your desk needs to be decorated like an airplane cockpit to activate the spigot of creativity, then by all means, start building.
One thing that is not certain in regards to this field though, is pay. These types of designers seem to make anywhere from $50K+, but can you really put a price on waking up every morning with a smile on your way to work?
Here's a little video to give you an idea. Its old, I know, but IDEO is a hugely successful firm that takes great pride in their work and their work environment.
Sources: All information is derived from industry experience and the knowledge gained therein.