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Career Instability...the new normal?

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Career Instability...the new normal?

Old 11-20-2020, 12:10 PM
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Default Career Instability...the new normal?

Iím looking for some perspective on this.

I started my career as a mechanical engineer right out of school in 2012.

Job #1 (7+ years)
I spent 7 years at the first gig (and thought for a short time that I could be a lifer there) but the company was on a steady decline from pretty much the moment I started there. I survived multiple (2-3) large scale layoffs (in my opinion partly due to work ethic/ flexibility/leadership skills/ etc and partly due to the fact that their was no one in front or behind me to take my place). I also weathered the storm
when the company was sold. Eventually I left because I was tired of working for a company that was constantly shrinking and under financial pressure. It was not a fun working environment nor did I see a path for the company to actually improve their situation in the next 2-4 years.

Job #2 (7 months, ending in March 2019)
I then jumped over to a younger company in a more lively market and also switched from working as a mech eng/proj eng to working as a full time project manager. I made it 7 months into the new gig before the chaos and instability lead me to make another move. I did survive another rounds of layoffs here. The bottom had fallen out of the market for the product they sold, they were (from
what I could tell) heavily leveraged, and were actively pausing or shelving the capital expansion projects I was working on as I walked out the door. My wife was also pregnant with our first child, and I was really looking for some stability.

Job #3 (March 2019, 9 months and counting)
I went to work at an established Engg Proc Construction (EPC) firm. Both Job #2 and Job #3 were landed with the help of reaching out to folks in my professional network. My thinking was that this EPC has multiple clients, so this should help smooth out the ebb and flow of capital project work. Of course Covid hits, oil prices tank (hurting many of our clients), and the rest of our clients are very skittish to heavily invest in capital intensive projects (I typically support projects ranging from $1mil to $200mil). My current status is that Iím gainfully employed, but the company is actively laying off staff. My workload will run dry January 1st unless some new work comes to fruition.

I used to think (maybe naively) that if I worked hard, I would always have a job in my field. But Iíve seen both good and bad employees let go. I hypothesize that I could have gotten laid off at Job #1 or #2 if I stayed around long enough. Now Iím potentially on the doorstep of my first lay off while I have a newborn during a pandemic.

Is this the new normal?

Old 11-20-2020, 12:12 PM
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Not only the stability aspect, if you don't hop around it crushes your salary long term in nearly all cases.
Old 11-20-2020, 12:14 PM
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Try and get on with a Utility.
Old 11-20-2020, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by MillenialMechie View Post
Iím looking for some perspective on this.

I started my career as a mechanical engineer right out of school in 2012.

Job #1 (7+ years)
I spent 7 years at the first gig (and thought for a short time that I could be a lifer there) but the company was on a steady decline from pretty much the moment I started there. I survived multiple (2-3) large scale layoffs (in my opinion partly due to work ethic/ flexibility/leadership skills/ etc and partly due to the fact that their was no one in front or behind me to take my place). I also weathered the storm
when the company was sold. Eventually I left because I was tired of working for a company that was constantly shrinking and under financial pressure. It was not a fun working environment nor did I see a path for the company to actually improve their situation in the next 2-4 years.

Job #2 (7 months, ending in March 2019)
I then jumped over to a younger company in a more lively market and also switched from working as a mech eng/proj eng to working as a full time project manager. I made it 7 months into the new gig before the chaos and instability lead me to make another move. I did survive another rounds of layoffs here. The bottom had fallen out of the market for the product they sold, they were (from
what I could tell) heavily leveraged, and were actively pausing or shelving the capital expansion projects I was working on as I walked out the door. My wife was also pregnant with our first child, and I was really looking for some stability.

Job #3 (March 2019, 9 months and counting)
I went to work at an established Engg Proc Construction (EPC) firm. Both Job #2 and Job #3 were landed with the help of reaching out to folks in my professional network. My thinking was that this EPC has multiple clients, so this should help smooth out the ebb and flow of capital project work. Of course Covid hits, oil prices tank (hurting many of our clients), and the rest of our clients are very skittish to heavily invest in capital intensive projects (I typically support projects ranging from $1mil to $200mil). My current status is that Iím gainfully employed, but the company is actively laying off staff. My workload will run dry January 1st unless some new work comes to fruition.

I used to think (maybe naively) that if I worked hard, I would always have a job in my field. But Iíve seen both good and bad employees let go. I hypothesize that I could have gotten laid off at Job #1 or #2 if I stayed around long enough. Now Iím potentially on the doorstep of my first lay off while I have a newborn during a pandemic.

Is this the new normal?
I've worked for a printing company for the last 30 years and make a nice living. One of the reasons we have survived is we were always able to reinvent ourselves, add products etc....We have also always stayed current with machinery and software. While companies around us were closing we were thriving.
Old 11-20-2020, 12:24 PM
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My own perspective is that the days of loyalty both from and to corporate entities are long gone. This is only going to get worse frankly as companies are now forcing the Rubik's cube balance of employee identities (minorities, females, etc.) into each level of their organization. When I started working it was more common for people to have worked at the same company all of their lives after age thirty. Nowadays it is rare -, easy come, easy go for employers and employees. I do believe there is more continuity to be found at small or privately owned firms.
Old 11-20-2020, 12:37 PM
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It's the new normal, companies are always cutting good people it seems. I've been laid off twice in mass layoffs. Once was a Friday and they axed 3000 people. Managers get cut often. The 4 managers above me (all white males with 20+ years were all cut) and we report to a different department now with all female managers. I work with a Guy that's been here 41 years and he say the trick is to not get promoted if you want to keep your job. I think they constantly shuffle managers in to reach diversity targets and it has nothing to do with longevity or hard work.
Old 11-20-2020, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by lencho30 View Post
Try and get on with a Utility.
Not as stable as it used to be- deregulation has changed that forever. Add to it the injection of renewables ( wind mostly ) that is required but not economical, and a stable thriving industry is turned on its head.

As one poster above noted, do not be afraid to re-invent yourself. I quit a utility twenty years ago and started a company, guess who my first client was? Enron. Made a lot of money there, but when they tanked, it tanked the whole industry for several years. Only the bare minimum of cash was available to operating companies, as their expansionist financial plans ( that were failing) were sucking up every dime of free cash. The Enron debacle dried up the credit markets. We survived by being lean and efficiently managing. I didn't take a paycheck for almost two years. It sure felt good to start paying myself again.

Don't look at a layoff as a failure, its a chance to get a fresh start on something new, a chance to leave previous mistakes behind. Only quitters quit, you'll rarely meet a winner that hasn't lost a few rounds, but they never quit.
Old 11-20-2020, 01:52 PM
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Once you reach a threshold where it is cheap enough to train a young replacement, you are then expendable.
I work as a system test engineer and our German manager made the comment in front of us that he can get testers for half of what we cost.
He is a real champ when it comes to raising morale.

And if in your 50's and laid off, good luck unless you want out of college wages.
Old 11-20-2020, 01:55 PM
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Allow me to quote a department director at a major financial institution... "If you don't like it, I have a stack of resumes on my desk "this high" who would be happy to do it for half the salary."
Old 11-20-2020, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by MikeeBooshay View Post
Not as stable as it used to be- deregulation has changed that forever. Add to it the injection of renewables ( wind mostly ) that is required but not economical, and a stable thriving industry is turned on its head.

As one poster above noted, do not be afraid to re-invent yourself. I quit a utility twenty years ago and started a company, guess who my first client was? Enron. Made a lot of money there, but when they tanked, it tanked the whole industry for several years. Only the bare minimum of cash was available to operating companies, as their expansionist financial plans ( that were failing) were sucking up every dime of free cash. The Enron debacle dried up the credit markets. We survived by being lean and efficiently managing. I didn't take a paycheck for almost two years. It sure felt good to start paying myself again.

Don't look at a layoff as a failure, its a chance to get a fresh start on something new, a chance to leave previous mistakes behind. Only quitters quit, you'll rarely meet a winner that hasn't lost a few rounds, but they never quit.
De-regulation did ruin some things. Former Enron employee as well at a simple cycle in MS. Got on with a regulated Utility and have felt much safer the past 18 years
Old 11-20-2020, 02:00 PM
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A.D.D. increase in people?
People moving all the time?
Divorcing, and re-inventing their lives?

I dunno. I'm almost 55. Like some above said..the days of loyalty to a company have kind of disappeared. Our parents typically worked at 1x place for their whole career, good benefits, retiring with a nice pension.
These days...a large percentage of people jump jobs all the time. Rare to see someone put their entire life/career into one place.
Old 11-20-2020, 03:00 PM
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I work in engineering as a designer and have for almost 25 years. I regularly cull the last page off my resume when I hit too many jobs on it. you wanna pay raise, you move.
I worked for a very large well known co, before the one I am at now.

upper exec walks into a conference room, looks around and says "if I asked you to, who would be willing to relocate right now" I raised my hand as did a few others. he looked around and said those of you without your hand up, are dead weight. you have to be flexible and willing to change.

now days the co I work at is incredibly stable and will prob be my last stop. had a meeting here and they asked "does anyone know a person who has left this co after being here 12 years" no has.
There are still co's that appreciate loyalty but they are usually smaller, tougher to get into, and depending on their field they may not be as stable as large co's that can weather a storm.

Old 11-20-2020, 03:24 PM
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Just be glad your not in your early to mid 50's. So many professionals have been let go with degrees that cannot reinvent themselves. No other skills to offer.

This is a burgeoning trend.

Costs way more for health insurance once you get to the 5th decade of life. Companies want young cheap talent.
Old 11-20-2020, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by magua View Post
Just be glad your not in your early to mid 50's. So many professionals have been let go with degrees that cannot reinvent themselves. No other skills to offer.

This is a burgeoning trend.

Costs way more for health insurance once you get to the 5th decade of life. Companies want young cheap talent.
I'm 52. I'm in IT and have been at this current gig for a career long--10 years. I know I'll be canned here, probably before I hit 55. Then what? There's no way I'll be able to get another IT gig at 55; I've essentially been pushed out of the job market. It's a frightening proposition, and something I think about all the time.
Old 11-20-2020, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Joe View Post
I'm 52. I'm in IT and have been at this current gig for a career long--10 years. I know I'll be canned here, probably before I hit 55. Then what? There's no way I'll be able to get another IT gig at 55; I've essentially been pushed out of the job market. It's a frightening proposition, and something I think about all the time.
I here yah. I made it to 60 at which time I retired. When I was in my early 50's I watched guys/gals walked out who were just a bit older than I who were good performers, some who were exceptional.

I made up my mind to save at a rampant pace and get to debt free. It made walking out that door this last June really easy.
Old 11-20-2020, 03:48 PM
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Yea. Itís the new norm. I work in tech and by the time youíre in your 50ís youíre screwed.
Old 11-20-2020, 04:00 PM
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There is no allegiance. I tell my children to change jobs every 2-3years. In the end you will make more money than staying with the same company. Even if you are promoted they will low ball you on the raise. It will not be at market.

Old 11-20-2020, 04:26 PM
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I graduated from architecture school way back in 1985 - the tail end of an economic boom so was able to find employment fairly easily. Changed jobs for higher pay 3 times in 4 years or so. But during my school years and early employment years I saw how unstable the architectural field was. Many small companies working on a shoe string and the relatively few large firms thought nothing of dropping people as soon as things slowed down. I remember thinking back then that since it's so unstable anyway, and I was earning peanuts ($7/hour as a 5 year arch graduate, then on to a whopping $7.50 once I got my license) why not try going out on my own. To start I kept my 'real' job and moonlit doing condominium documents which was big in the 80's/early 90's. I also started drafting for other architectural companies as a consultant. They were happy to have a 1099 consultant fee rather than an employee needing benefits. After 3-4 years of doing this I had made enough contacts that I was able to get enough side gigs to leave the security of my 'real' job. After 30 years on my own I don't regret that decision. Sure, there have been ups and downs but on the whole it has made sense to be able to control my own destiny. Perhaps you could look at this sort of option.
Old 11-20-2020, 05:09 PM
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The people I have seen do well at this, spent a bunch of time at a "parent" corporation, and then when they got cut, the parent company's subcontractors would snap them up because they knew the ins and outs of what the parent company wanted.

So yes, I think it's pretty common now, but if you target the right main employer, you can survive layoffs late in your career.
Old 11-20-2020, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by mymojo View Post
I graduated from architecture school way back in 1985 - the tail end of an economic boom so was able to find employment fairly easily. Changed jobs for higher pay 3 times in 4 years or so. But during my school years and early employment years I saw how unstable the architectural field was. Many small companies working on a shoe string and the relatively few large firms thought nothing of dropping people as soon as things slowed down. I remember thinking back then that since it's so unstable anyway, and I was earning peanuts ($7/hour as a 5 year arch graduate, then on to a whopping $7.50 once I got my license) why not try going out on my own. To start I kept my 'real' job and moonlit doing condominium documents which was big in the 80's/early 90's. I also started drafting for other architectural companies as a consultant. They were happy to have a 1099 consultant fee rather than an employee needing benefits. After 3-4 years of doing this I had made enough contacts that I was able to get enough side gigs to leave the security of my 'real' job. After 30 years on my own I don't regret that decision. Sure, there have been ups and downs but on the whole it has made sense to be able to control my own destiny. Perhaps you could look at this sort of option.
Whelp, this thread has offered validation which is not very uplifting, but this advice aligns with my current thinking. Iím tired of feeling like my fate is at the hands of those above me, and that I have limited control over my career/employment. This only further encourages me to go into business for myself. I just need to figure out exactly what that business will be.


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