Employment of "older" or more seasoned employees is always an issue, regardless of what industry you're in. It's clear, however, that despite the poor jobs outlook of recent years, engineering posts have held on better than most segments.
I would think that the 40+ crowd (myself included) that keeps themselves current on the latest engineering technologies and work place advances, both technical and business process-wise, has just as good a shot--or perhaps better--as being seen as an asset given their wealth of domain expertise. Embracing some of the emerging engineering concepts around mechatronics and systems engineering also can't hurt cementing your place in the organization, especially if the younger crowd is getting versed in this discipline as part of their early education and training.
Since when is 40 considered old. As I recall in the past, the age when this was claimed was more like 50-55.
I'm sure it occurs however, there are ways to fight it. One, keep your skills current. Two, stay in shape. Carrying around 50 extra pounds makes an employer see medical costs occurring. Three, accept the fact that, depending upon the economy, you may have to take a paycut. After all, you are competing with everyone else in the market and in some cases, its much cheaper and makes more sense to go with the young person at 60k than the seasoned engineer at 85k. Just because you used to make "X" dollars does not mean that you never have to take a step backward. In fact, I would argue, an engineer's peak earnings years should be between 35-50. After that, why would an employer pay as much when your on the downward slope in so many ways. Personally, I plan to work till about age 70, no matter what the pay is.
I'm curious, did anyone actually mention if younger, not-so-experienced engineers are getting the jobs that are available because they are willing to work for less money than a seasoned, more mature engineer? You see this is many industries; I wonder if it's crossing over into engineering.
I think there are definitely ways to mitigate the "stigma" (or, more properly, negative exposure) of being over 40. Philipp10 (surely not a reference to his age) rightly points to projecting health and vigor as one route. However, the idea that one should expect to take a pay cut as a matter of course as one gets older is a bitter pill to swallow. Indeed, it's so far beyond the pale that employers lay off workers before offering pay cuts.
I agree with phillip10,especially with regard to the willingness to stay current and accept a salary cut. I know several engineers who won't accept a paycut in this economy, and more than half of them are out of work. No, it doesn't seem fair to take a cut when you're more experienced, but three-quarters of your old salary is better than no salary at all.
I'm not avocating taking a paycut willingly or with your present employer but, if you lose a job in an economy such as this, does it make sense to sit home or take 15% less pay.
I graduated from college in 1984 and the economy wasn't so great and frankly, either were some of my grades in college. I got mu first job after about 3 months searching. Years later when I moved on to my second job (and a big raise), I asked my first employer why they had chosen me. The told me "because you were the lowest bidder". True story.
Both Philipp10 and Chuck have provided me with a reality check. True, in tough times, a smaller check is better than no check at all. My quibble was with what I thought was a philosophical suggestion from an earlier poster that ALL older engineers should expect their earning power to decline on the downside of 40. Hey, with doctors -- a profession which has banded together to the advantage of its individual practitioners, unlike us engineers -- experience is valued and you get more as you get older.
For the past few years I have found the published salary surveys to be VREY DEPRESSING. Either they include areas of the country vastly different from this corner of MIchigan, or possibly engineers who are fantastic stars, or possibly a bit of "inflation" in the numbers.
In this part of the world we have companies that have cut engineering staff, and we have agencies listing all kinds of fantastic positions, and lots of them. Upon digging a good bit deeper, however, it would become clear that some company has one opening and that 93 different "wannabe" agencies are hoping to find a candidate who has 7 years of experience with the new tools released six months ago. There were a lot of those job postings for quite a while, there are fewer of them now. There are some listings that seem to be "rock video" shows, which have a whole lot of flash, but don't convey a lot of information about the job, which is often located in a suburb of WEst NoPlace, and not many details available.
The very most cruel listings wind up being those that list jobs that one would be a great fit for, but talking with the agent, and really asking "why" a lot of times, you find that the client will not talk to any unemployed engineers. Tthey say "Unemployed Engineers NEeD NOT APPLY". I have run into this a whole lot of times, and never been able to get any explanation about "why".
I would like to see a senate hearing where they would get the HR boss responsible for that policy up on a platform, in front of the press, and demand an explanation. IT would be good to find out why we are no longer wanted. Perhaps some of the unemployed would find a way to undo whatever damage being out of work has done.
Wouldn't it be clever if HR's habit of denying access to the currently unemployed could be met by an equally unethical yet legal "employment service" for the unemployed: shell companies set up for the sole purpose of ensuring "verification of employment," but legally correct.
Currently all HR can get with a phone call is: verification of employment, current title, and start date. They cannot and do not themselves give more than this. When the company you are interviewing with likes you and checks your background, they call to check the above facts. Any company responding to that call has legal obligations to NOT talk about their current salary, whether the employee comes recommended, is married, their age, has children, is pregnant, or whatever else they would like to know to ensure the most slavishly dedicated lives-at-work future employee.
Therefore, find a friend to start a small business (can be done online, within any state, for less than $300 in most states) to literally hire you for $1 a year, with the same title and responsibilities that you had at the last job, if you like. Then, you are legally EMPLOYED, and when the new company's HR calls them, they state that you are currently employed, your title, and start date. They can reasonably decline any further information, because any HR person knows that to state further could invite a lawsuit. They cannot and do not check with social security for your total employment history, in case you are wondering. Sign an NDA with your friend so that you cannot discuss details of the "projects" you are wroking on. :^) Legal. Ethical? Maybe not, but HR is not behaving ethically, either, if they demand to interview only the currently employed. The best way to get a job, of course, is to avoid HR altogether by knowing someone who knows the hiring manager and can get your resume to them directly.
IMO, if a company cannot figure out via interviews that you fit, then whether or not you are currently employed is because HR doesn't know what they are doing or are too lazy to do a thorough job interviewing.Then again, do you really want to be in a company whose culture tolerates HR personnel that behave unethically in the first place?
@ Winsome: You have described a very interesting concept that I need to give a good bit of thought to. Those folks could work at a consulting firm, although it would probably be better to have a production division as well. OF course, instead of the classical payment of one dollar for the rights to any of their inventions while employed, I would allow them to purchase the rights to any of their inventions, instead of their belonging to the company. That one time purchase would support the cost of their being my employees.
This whole concept is quite interesting.
The question that I still would like to have answered is why do the HR people choose to exclude the unemployed. I know that in the past I have adjusted my activities, changed my "style", and added to my education by taking additional courses, to meet an employers requirements. I am certain that others would be willing to change parts of their lifestyle to accomadate an employers requirments.
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