Recently I worked with a frustrated design engineer who had been with the same company for fifteen years and felt unappreciated. When his company elected to move their operations fifteen miles further north of the current location, he made a determination to look at other career opportunities. The company move doubled his daily commute. It also helped ease the pangs of disloyalty he felt considering a departure after spending so many years in one place.
We discussed his challenges and circumstances, goals and frustrations to create a list of needs and desires to be considered in a new company and position. Obviously, this was not a casual decision, made after a disagreement with the boss. The decision came after years of doing the same things and not being offered new challenges. Now, it is a red flag for most recruiters to work with an individual with so many years at a company. Their reasons for making a job change must be carefully examined. Gravity tends to keep most of us in our chair. Change is uncomfortable. Those who resist the call to seek outside opportunities are people who either prize loyalty over “greener pastures” or are suitably challenged and rewarded.
After a series of many conversations, several interviews and due diligence, this person was made an offer. He declined the offer, for minor reasons, having to do less with the position and opportunity than with the interview process itself. Fear of change? Gravity? Time will tell whether his decision was a good one. What have not changed are the original motivations for the move. What does constitute a valid reason for change? What should motivate you to consider a new position or new company? Let’s examine the job change question.
Granted, the goal of every career person is to find an employer who recognizes, values and grows its employees. Engineers in particular are career minded. More than any other employee, engineers tend to find a company and specialization and stay. While turnover in the general technical population is just under four years, the tenure for engineers is 6 and a half. I am not encouraging anyone to move for the sake of change. Headhunters like me are always seeking the outstanding client who provides unique and sincere growth and long-term development opportunities. Those companies who don’t, provide us with the experienced talent to meet our client’s needs.
But what is the “tipping point” for a frustrated engineer? Beyond the layoffs, downsizing and outsourcing in the marketplace, when should an individual consider a move from a stable company? I am interested in hearing your views as I present a few of my own to consider.
Let me begin by saying that one should always keep an eye on their company status. The outside marketplace is a fickle world where mergers and acquisitions, technology changes and management practices will affect your career in spite of all your best efforts. Stay abreast of your company’s competition and its place in the product or services marketplace. More than a few engineers in the “buggy whip” industry may be caught napping when the marketplace moves away from your company’s products or services.
The next question to consider is the world inside your company with its changing cast of characters and hierarchies. New management always brings change. With it comes new opportunities and often those new opportunities do not include you. Be aware of your place in the company’s growth and marketing strategies. Pay attention to the shifting dynamics of promotions and demotions, those moving up and those moving out, especially those who affect the bottom line. Changes in the executive suite do not always affect the engineering ranks, but be aware of how these changes may affect product and service priorities and focus. Such management changes often mean a shift in the types of projects and services that you are involved with. Assume that changes will take place. Don’t be caught blindsided by a shift in management focus.
Finally, consider your world, your day-to-day challenges. Are you being recognized for your value and worth? Are you an integral part of the company’s key products, R & D activities and priorities? Are you on the “A team” when it comes to the bread and butter products and services, or are you the chief engineer on the latest buggy whip? Are you being offered opportunities for growth, education, development and management? Keep an eye on changes in the company that affect you, your projects and your development. If the money is being spent elsewhere, it may be time to update that resume and inventory your career. It may be time to take that recruiter call. Often, the only way up is out.
Email me with your thoughts at jack.o’firstname.lastname@example.org.