Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

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Ponderosa
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Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by Ponderosa » Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:18 pm

Greetings. Today I come for help dealing with a major life challenge that has been really been a daily struggle. Perhaps some of you may have advice, as we all share the goal of generating an income outside of work.

I am a relatively new to the career world, after getting a Master's degree in Physics. I took an engineering gig because I didn't see myself working towards a Ph.D. to find myself with uncertain job prospects and a string of post-docs. The feeling was magnified by not enjoying my particular line of research I participated in.

In any case I learned how to do my job pretty well in short order. The management likes me and I'm recognized for getting complex tasks done efficiently. However starting about a year ago the lack of technical projects in my position has led me to being quite un-stimulated at work. Most of my day to day activities revolves around managing projects and pushing massive amounts of paperwork. These complaints are echoed through senior engineers and a majority of them look beaten. Most days I "white knuckle" through the working hours and leave with a head full of anger. I will mention I am overcoming some long standing personal issues and as I recover and I find it harder and harder to check out everyday and go through the motions.

I try to convince myself that the decent pay and benefits are worth it. The town I live in is overall quite enjoyable. Most of the people are friendly although the management is becoming fierce with their demands on the underlings. The autonomy is nice and I rarely work more than 45-50 hrs a week. With that said, the environment can be stressful because most of my colleagues easily put in 50-60 hr weeks that are seldom rewarded even by a thank you.

I really would like to leave and find something interesting, but to find something equally paying it would require uprooting my wife and I and moving to another city. If it wasn't for the salary and fears of the unknown (which is probably relatively average for an engineer) I'd cut my losses and move on. I also fear losing a couple months of extraordinary savings towards ER. There's tons of options for one in my position, but I've narrowed it down to a few. Please feel free to add your thoughts!

1. Stay at job and learn to deal with it. This can be risky as it may hinder my progress I've made as of late.

2. Stay at company and transfer teams. I tried this about 6 months ago and generally it is not well received to hop much sooner than that. I might piss off my current boss and not be able to move anyway.

3. Find a new job. I am currently looking, but no hints yet. There are several prospects that are promising. They require cross-country moves, but I am willing to move anywhere in the US.

4. Change careers. Maybe engineering isn't for me. I have no idea what I'd do as I'd be starting out at ground zero. I certainly like the pay and savings rate I can accomplish in my current line of work.

NPV
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by NPV » Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:57 am

Ponderosa wrote:
Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:18 pm
3. Find a new job. I am currently looking, but no hints yet. There are several prospects that are promising. They require cross-country moves, but I am willing to move anywhere in the US.
Sounds like that is the most reasonable way to go - stay at your current jobs and build a portfolio of new job opportunities. Interview the employers as much as they interview you and try to get a sense for whether the new opportunity is better for your web of goals (e.g., more technically challenging and less managerially challenging). There is probably a lot of places that want engineers to focus on actually solving hard technical problems - project managers and paper pushers are cheaper and more abundant.

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akratic
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by akratic » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:43 am

Personally I would leave. You have too much power as a competent engineer to need to stay in a mediocre situation. Plus if you have the energy for it, learning the ropes at a new job is fun and builds your resume.

Are you absolutely certain, however, that there are zero comparable jobs in or near your current town? I find that part hard to believe. Maybe work backwards from a list of the biggest employers in your town, then find the jobs page on their websites, etc.

Ponderosa
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by Ponderosa » Mon Mar 05, 2018 3:58 pm

akratic wrote:
Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:43 am
Personally I would leave. You have too much power as a competent engineer to need to stay in a mediocre situation. Plus if you have the energy for it, learning the ropes at a new job is fun and builds your resume.

Are you absolutely certain, however, that there are zero comparable jobs in or near your current town? I find that part hard to believe. Maybe work backwards from a list of the biggest employers in your town, then find the jobs page on their websites, etc.
Unfortunately it is the main technical employer of the area. There is not much opportunity in this isolated area. Commuting to another city is out of the question as I would be looking at a 2.5+ hr drive each way.

Has anyone tried commuting these frustrations to a trusted manager? I haven't had much experience doing this but perhaps there is a chance they could help me find a position within the organization that is more fitting. I am somewhat skeptical of this as an option though as I believe there is many in my position there looking for a more technical and challenging role. The worst case is they would look for a reason to get rid of me which robs me of my position of strength while looking for other jobs.

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Chris
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by Chris » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:57 pm

I'm not sure what sort of engineering work you do, but is working from home feasible for you?

Based on what you've written, it sounds like you could tolerate only a couple more years at your current company. If your accumulation phase will be more than that -- and your current employer is the only game in town -- uprooting yourself and your wife is gong to come sooner or later.

Ponderosa
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by Ponderosa » Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:16 pm

Chris wrote:
Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:57 pm
I'm not sure what sort of engineering work you do, but is working from home feasible for you?

Based on what you've written, it sounds like you could tolerate only a couple more years at your current company. If your accumulation phase will be more than that -- and your current employer is the only game in town -- uprooting yourself and your wife is gong to come sooner or later.
I could swing probably half or more of my work from home. Most people don't do this - as they are concerned with keeping up with appearances. I've worked from home a few times and its always a big increase in happiness for me that day/week. My current boss is seems rather lax about things like this. As long as the work is done she just really doesn't care.

We are about ~7-10 yrs away from the end date if we are looking at it from accumulation standpoint. We have discussed cutting that by a few years by maintaining part time jobs to avoid drawing down the accounts. Obviously this situation can change with how the economy goes and if we decide to move to a lower cost of living area. In any case, its a ways out.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by SavingWithBabies » Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:47 pm

I'd go for #3 too. You mention not wanting to relocate your wife. Do you just mean unnecessarily or is there something holding you to your current location besides inertia? My wife and I have felt the pull of family now that we have kids although I think we might take care of one set or both set in their old age and I'm starting to think we should pick where we want to live and have them come to us. Where we want to be, or really can be, depends a lot on FI/ERE and how my side business goes over the next 5 years.

I moved across the country for a job and I was really happy I did. I had a lot of great experiences, saw a different part of the country, etc.

Ponderosa
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by Ponderosa » Mon Mar 05, 2018 7:37 pm

SavingWithBabies wrote:
Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:47 pm
I'd go for #3 too. You mention not wanting to relocate your wife. Do you just mean unnecessarily or is there something holding you to your current location besides inertia? My wife and I have felt the pull of family now that we have kids although I think we might take care of one set or both set in their old age and I'm starting to think we should pick where we want to live and have them come to us. Where we want to be, or really can be, depends a lot on FI/ERE and how my side business goes over the next 5 years.

I moved across the country for a job and I was really happy I did. I had a lot of great experiences, saw a different part of the country, etc.
The two main attractions to our current location is a combination of inertia, wife liking her job for the most part, and the outdoor opportunities. We don't have a strong community here yet so that won't be missed.

Wife if definitely willing to move if we need to. We moved cross country several years ago to get here, so that in and of itself does not bother us too much.

Smashter
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by Smashter » Fri Mar 09, 2018 9:02 am

Tyler Cowen argues that the status quo bias is a much bigger problem than people realize. On a podcast, he went as far as postulating that if you've gotten to the point where you are seriously considering a big change, you should probably just make the change.

That's a scary proposition for risk-averse people, but an interesting one to consider nonetheless.

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalr ... -coin.html

Ponderosa
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by Ponderosa » Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:30 pm

Smashter wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 9:02 am
Tyler Cowen argues that the status quo bias is a much bigger problem than people realize. On a podcast, he went as far as postulating that if you've gotten to the point where you are seriously considering a big change, you should probably just make the change.

That's a scary proposition for risk-averse people, but an interesting one to consider nonetheless.

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalr ... -coin.html
This is quite fascinating, and its helpful in building the confidence to make the leap.

*Deep Breath* - I am ready to move on. However I am having issues deciding where to move forward. There is so many opportunities out there and at this point I could even try for a career change. I am new to the working world and experimentation may be a good thing. I feel somewhat cynical about engineering at the moment, although maybe this isn't a typical experience as an engineer.

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BRUTE
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by BRUTE » Sat Mar 10, 2018 6:01 pm

brute observes:

1)Ponderosa is itching to move on
2)Ponderosa is undecided between various good options

this sounds like any of the options will be fine, since they seem to be roughly of equivalent value. thus brute advises Ponderosa to just make the jump to any of them, since it may not matter much which one is picked.

JamesR
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by JamesR » Sun Mar 11, 2018 7:49 am

Try reading "So good they can't ignore you" by Cal Newport.

In summary: happiness comes from control/power in your job. So double down on your strongest/in-demand skills, rather than considering a career change. Focus on getting a job that needs your strengths, where the highest demand for you is. As an engineer you should be in control and shouldn't need to put up with a poor situation. Move on to greener fields.

Ponderosa
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Re: Early Career Advice: Stick it out or find something new

Post by Ponderosa » Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:14 pm

I've been hard at work to find something new. Interestingly enough an opportunity just popped up at my current company. Its significantly more scientific and technically oriented and the environment appears to be quieter and more suited to my introverted personality.

I'm mentally hesitating because I'll have to upset a few people in my immediate vicinity to make the change (ahm current boss). I may not even get it, which would make my current situation even more uncomfortable because I may have to deal with a boss that knows I want to leave. Based on my conversations with the new team it seems like I have a high probability of getting it.

I know its short term discomfort for long term growth and happiness.

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