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 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.
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.
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 - Are you sure about the fact that only those limited facts are exchanged? I'm currenlty "looking for my next opportunity", and have been asked to fill out a couple of applications that include a release statement that says the previous employer can give out pretty much everything. I'm not sure they have or even if they are asked, but that's what the release says.
Yes, I am positive that the larger (or more savvy) companies (500+) will not give out any more than name, title, and start/end date. But...if you sign a release, then there's no telling what they might try to find out, HOWEVER, not a single HR person or hiring personnel that I have known has ever ventured beyond the above, even with a "release" from the potential employer. The reason they do not give out more than these minimums is fear of discrimination law suits. If you don't beleive me, ask a good friend to call a former workplace, ask for HR, and then the friend can explain that they want to verify the employment history of a potential employee. Ask for title, start date, end date, and then try asking for whether the person is to be recommended for a such-and-such type role or say "was the end date voluntary" or something like that to see if they will say whether you were terminated, laid off, or whatever. The vast majority will not offer more than name, title, and start/end date. One of the better states for employees wrt employment protections is California. I have a close friend who hires and fires, does payroll, etc., and she says they stopped hiring people in CA because they have lost unemployment benefits claims for very stupid reasons....i.e., the employee was sacked for just cause....like not doing any work, not showing up at the workplace for 3 days without telling anyone because of a sore toe, arguing and throwing things at the customer, etc., and CA sided with the employee every time.
You the job-seeker have more cards than you realize. Bonne chance...
@ 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.
I think the many currently unemployed people would agree that lower pay is better than no pay, at least in an economy like this none.
With that said, it would still be a bitter pill, to use Alex's phrase, as well as highly insulting, for employers to expect that a seasoned mature worker, especially one as highly trained as an engineer, should expect this as a matter of course, or even as a matter of survival.
Why do they dump the resumes of the unemployed in the round file? Sheer laziness and lack of empathy for others.
Some HR avoid the unemployed because the market is so soft right now, they can afford to pick and choose. I talked with one recruiter back in 2009 who said he had 400 - 500 applicants for every position, and he whittled it down to 20 very qualified applicants before doing phone interviews first. He said it's just easier to start with someone who is already employed because it's assured that they were not terminated for cause. Take note that this is when the HR person is working with 400 -500 resumes coming from Monster or wherever...every one of those resumes is taken at face value and must be verified at some point. They skip a step and avoid all issues at the outset by avoiding the unemployed.
The best way to get a job is to know someone in the company already. Then that person can get your resume into the system as a referral. I highly recommend using Linkedin.com to develop and retain a strong network. One other way to use Linkedin is to find out who is leaving for another place....this is visible when a person puts a new title/company in Linkedin. That means that that spot is vacant at the old place they just left, right? You can also follow various companies that do what you specialize in and see what hiring they are doing.
Keep getting training. Keep honing your resume. Update it often on the job sites (they like fresh ones & will search for new resumes within the last 30 days; each update refreshes your resume even if you just add a space & save.) Find out where all your former co-workers are and what they are doing. Dont' be afraid to start your own company; risks are necessary...Trump and a few others went bankrupt with businesses and started over from scratch. You can, too. Just be smart about what you do legally. Also, you can tap your old 401K funds without penalty (now in an IRA if you are unemployed) by starting a company (can be done online, within any state), and then go to an Edward Jones or similar and ask to set up a solo 401K plan in your company. The IRA gets "rolled over" into your company's 401K, and then you can get a loan against it. Totally legal. The catch is that you must remain employeed by yourself/your company, because the 401K loan is due in total once a person leaves employment where the 401K is held.
It took me 3 years to get a job after getting laid off in 2008. I had never experienced this in a 20 year tech career. With little kids, I was limited in what I could do. Spouse worked, but not enough was coming in. Daycare for 3 kids was out of the question if I took a job at Home Depot. It's a nasty time out there, but keep in mind that "poverty level" in America still includes indoor plumbing. Meantime, try flexjobs.com, mechanicalturk.com, and other short term job banks. It's like being day labor, but for the IT crowd. Best Wishes.
Some parts of the country do seem to be having an upswing already, but in Michigan it is going to take more than "Happy words and thoughts" to turn things around. What I have found, at least for the present, is that there is indeed a fair amount of work in the service industry, if I can provide it at an engineering level instead of at an hourly labor level. Providing a rapid and accurate evaluation of a problem, followed by a quick and correct repair, is a way to make clients quite pleased to pay more, because they have their problem solved instead of just "played with".
There are some full time engineering jobs, primarily for those with embedded processor experience. In other words, programmers. If I wanted to be a programmer I would be a programmer. Instead, I want to be an engineer. There is indeed a BIG DIFFERENCE!!
Looking at only the currently employed will only eliminate those who have not been fired yet.
In my book, refusing to consider the unemployed is discrimination. It is not as bad as racial discrimination, but it comes in second to it. It really would be interesting to have some HR policy person on that platform under the spotlight explain the reasons while the media cameras were rolling, and congress was listening.
Do I sound like I may be holding a bit of grudge against those people? Do you think that I choose to be unemployed? Do you think that I wanted to be out of work for 38 months? Do you see any reason to think that this policy should go unchallenged?
Now that this great country has made it illegal to discriminate by race, which most folks can't change, and against a whole lot of choices that people can make, how about making it il;egal to discriminate against folks for being out of a job, which, most of us in that group did not choose.
So, still, jobs are a big concern. And, no, I don't want a part time job selling "Fries with that, Sir?"
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