The holidays always bring about a special time for reflection for me. I’m never sure if that’s induced by the copious amounts of alcohol that’s consumed with friends and family in these few short months, or just the impending restarting that comes with a new year.
A few extra days to reflect and discuss my situations with others probably doesn’t help.
Most of my breakups have occurred around this time frame, I graduated college in December, and every time my search to find a new engineering job has started it’s been towards the end of the year.
Just three short years ago I seemed to have it all.
An amazing girlfriend at my side, new(ish) car, and a job that was paying me far more than those that I graduated with. Even with all of that, I wasn’t happy.
Not that I was depressed, I have been fortunate to not have to fight that dragon too often.
Rather I felt like my life wasn’t settled, I was restless and itched for a change. The paychecks had kept the feelings at bay for a while, but soon the desire for a new challenge was too large for me to ignore. It was time to take a serious look at my career prospects and figure out what I wanted.
It may sound like this was an easy decision to make, but it was one of the hardest things I’d ever have to do.
Several items pointed to my decision, but it took a keen eye and pointed conversation with several of my mentors before I figured out what exactly I needed.
After a while in any position, I think people can start to feel complacent.
I’d been working at this firm off and on for almost ***VERIFY YEARS*** years, and with many of these people for even longer at a company they had broken off from.
My job responsibilities had grown rapidly through my time with them.
Anytime I wanted to tackle something new, they were eager to allow me the opportunity. But there’s only so much growth one can achieve at a small company.
Despite doing the majority of the detailed design for the firm, I was still the only one of two electrical engineers. The other, my father, was a partner at the firm and had helped to start it years ago when we all worked for another local engineering company.
A flat structure has a lot of benefits, but there’s also a few pitfalls as well.
I’d been working at architecture and engineering firms since my junior year of high school. With a few years under my belt in CAD, I had my pick of almost anywhere in the city.
Some 12 years later, I was still doing most all of my own CAD work.
When you’re at the bottom of the ladder, no matter how high your responsibilities reach, it’s hard to see the path to the top rung.
If you feel stuck for a long time, you’re bound and determined to start slacking off.
For me, that meant spending more time checking Facebook than responding to my email inbox.
My dual computer screens were no longer reserved for work, one might have been but there was almost always reddit or twitter pulled up on the other.
Lunch hour started stretching to lunch hour and half.
It took me back to school a bit. That shadow of an annotation that followed me from class to class, year after year… “potential exceeds level of effort.”
I was a walking cliché.
Before I knew it, my frustration dominated almost all of my conversations.
Damnation spit forth from my lips as I boiled over with the feelings of not being appreciated for the work I was doing.
Anytime I would gather with friends or family, it wouldn’t take long before I steered the discussion to work. Not because I cared about what my friends were doing, rather I knew it would end with them asking me about my work.
And the complaints flowed.
As any good friend does, they’d feign interest. In reality, they’d heard this story before. They were as tired of it as I was my day job.
Or lack thereof.
I started to view ever conversation that I was left out of as a personal assault on myself. If there was a call with the client, even if it didn’t involve those systems I was working on I expected to be there.
A missed opportunity left me feeling betrayed.
My complaints transitioned from being reserved for those outside of my work, to my bosses. I let them know I wasn’t happy with not being included.
Irrationality had overtaken my mind.
Opening LinkedIn Emails
If you’ve been on LinkedIn for any extended period of town, you probably share my belief that it’s mostly a spam factory.
However, when you’ve tired of your job you stop viewing it as such.
There’s a hidden potential out there and it’s in this weak state that LinkedIn sucks you in, every Tuesday they send a list of prospective new employers. A handful of recruiters are constantly sending out a ton of InMail in hopes of lassoing in a few resumes.
On any normal week, those get immediately deleted prior to ever being looked at, but when you’ve got a bit of time to kill at a job you’re unhappy with…
Eventually my friends had run out of patience for my complaint and I needed a new audience.
I found this in those emails from LinkedIn. Once you’re down the network’s rabbit hole, you might as well check up on a few of your old classmates. Maybe your old bosses, see where they’re at now.
A few posts sparked my intrigue as this person appeared to like their job.
Time to shoot them a text and see if they’d be up for grabbing lunch later this week. It doesn’t matter if they work close, I can take a little extra time and come their way.
I’m not even sure I was nice enough to ask them how things were for them before delving into my tirade about my former employer, but I hope I was.
Regardless, as these conversations typically go, they offered to pass my resume around if I’d like.
I wasn’t sure I wanted that, so I held off, for the time being.
I promised myself that if I wasn’t given a raise of X percent then I’d be out of there.
If they were unwilling to give me what I wanted, then I would take more money to placate my discontent. Surely that would work for a while.
When the money came, it wasn’t enough.
I’d moved the line to a place that no matter what they offered me it wouldn’t meet my requirements.
Eventually I ended up being sent to a jobsite for an extended stint.
Likely it was to avoid my behavior in the office, but I saw it for the opportunity it was. More face time with the client, one of the few things that I enjoyed.
Some alone time in the hotel led me to a conclusion, what I really was after.
My father and his business partner had entered into an agreement almost 8 years prior and my father was ready for retirement.
Being the only other electrical in the office, I figured that I was the next in line.
The immature attitude that I had, disagreements, and less than productive work time didn’t show me to be ready for the position. I’d unfortunately set myself up for failure, but refused to see it.
The conversation happened, and I bet you can imagine how well it went.
Polishing Your Resume
When nothing is going your way, you feel the necessity to prove your worth. In my case, this meant getting someone else to make me an offer.
The first step in this battle involves cleaning up your resume.
In my case I had to completely trash my previous one and start over. The years that had gone by meant my entry resume no longer adequately represented what I could do, a complete revamp was in order.
I bought the books, watched live tear-downs, and read every blog on technical resumes I could find.
At the end I had a really sharp weapon to wage my war for better pay with. It was time to take my friend up on his offer to walk it behind enemy lines.
Two friends, two companies, equals two interviews.
At the time I still believed I was doing this to increase my pay at my current company, so I threw on my best suit and headed out to test the waters.
My interviews went well, I’d never before applied to these companies and easily wowed them.
I ended up with two offers, and had the ammunition that I needed to go back to the boss and reassess my raise.
One of my current bosses once mused with me about a former employee who tried to “blackmail” the company into paying him more.
His strategy mirrored mine above, and he got what he was looking for.
However, he was pretty sure that the company ended up making the money back by taking his “negotiation” into account when was up for bonuses and raises over the next several years.
I was too foolish to realize the mistakes I was making.
My negotiation crashed and burned almost as quickly as my request to becoming a partner. I was foolish and made a lot of mistakes… but that’s a story for another time.
The truth is, if you’re at the stage where you’re taking the steps listed above, it’s time to leave.
No matter of money or title boost will result in you being happy anymore. The best thing you can do for yourself and your company is to take one of the offers on the table and change engineering jobs.
In the end, that’s what I did.
And it was the best decision that was ever made for me.
I didn’t have a say in it, my path was set.