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Job - what to do?
Old 05-29-2008, 12:16 PM   #1
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Job - what to do?

Hi all,

OK, I'm finally to the point in my life where I'm looking at my current job and whether to stay or not. I'd appreciate your thoughts.


Brief life history

I earned a BS in Computer Science in 1993 and moved back to Idaho where I grew up to be near my and my wife's families. I worked for a major local bank for a year in their computer operations support area, then worked for a large technology company for 11 years. In those 11 years I became a highly ranked (top 20%) engineer, received a US Patent, and stock option grants for about the last five years I was there. I took a nice severance package they offered in the fall of 2005 with the idea of getting an MBA and switching career directions. About that time my wife began the process of divorcing me. I was voluntarily unemployed for about four months into the spring of 2006. Since then I've worked at three different contract engineering jobs, the last of which I've been at for about a year and a half now. The divorce was final in the fall of 2006. I completed my MBA in the fall of 2007, graduating with Beta Kappa Sigma honors and receiving the departmental scholarship.


My current job

I am a firmware/software test lead for a small technology company which develops products for the large technology company that I worked for for 11 years.


Pluses

+ They're very flexible whenever I need to take time off from work due to my kids - if they're sick, or if I decide to attend a school function.

+ They're also very flexible if I ask to take time off from work for vacation.

+ I get paid reasonably well (mid-high five figures).

+ The job is located in the town where I live.

+ Most of my fellow engineers are good to work with.


Minuses

- I am very burned out from this kind of job. I have been doing this same kind of work on the same kind of products for 13 years now. As alluded to above in the "History" section, I have had thoughts and desires to change career paths for a number of years now.

- I am a contract employee, not a permanent employee. This is sort of an emotional point for me in that after being kicked out of my home family via the divorce, I really would like to belong to a work family via being a permanent employee. The company where I work seems to be content to have me be a contract engineer for the indefinite future (which is related to the first point under "Other" below).

- Somewhat as a consequence of the previous point, I feel like I have no power. I am supposed to be improving the quality of the products I work on (this has been the feedback from our client), and yet when I suggest improvements or changes they are often not well received or are simply ignored. I recognize it's hard being a change agent and I don't really relish that type of work.

- They could care less that I have an MBA now. They've basically had me doing this job because of my bachelor's degree and prior work experience. I feel like if I spent the two years to get the degree that I should use it somehow.

- I'm on a team of two; I really dislike the other person on the team (I've been told by a manager that I'm far from alone in not liking this other person) and I don't really respect my manager.


Other

? Basically I'm not happy in this job but I wonder how much of the problem is me and how much is the job. Ever since getting interested in FIRE and having that four months off and being relatively close to FIRE (well, about 7 more years to go, but that would be about age 46), I would say that I have had trouble with my attitude. I have somewhat of an entitlement mentality -- I should get paid a lot for not very much work, and they should be happy about it. I dislike it when work gets in the way of me surfing the net. Now I'm in a sort of negative spiral where I'm not passionate about my job so they're not thrilled with my performance which I respond to by trying even less hard, etc.

? I would love to find a job that is more interesting (something in business rather than technology) *and* pays better than what I'm paid now *and* is located in my town *and* is flexible with me and my kids' schedules. Am I asking for too much?

? Several things hold me back from looking to find another job. I don't believe I can find a job in a different field without taking a large pay cut. If the problem is me and not the job, then changing jobs won't fix my angst. I am not good at career building type stuff (resumes, interviews, networking, career planning) -- in particular, I don't know how to identify or figure out what kind of job in the business field I would like.


I'd be glad to clarify or answer any questions about any of the above.

2Cor521
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Old 05-29-2008, 12:23 PM   #2
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2Cor,

Sounds like a difficult transition time for you. I don't have much to offer by way of advice, but "I wonder how much of the problem is me and how much is the job" is probably not worth wasting energy on. It's all relative -- you might be a perfect fit elsewhere being the same old you; your employer's culture may have drifted over time; you may have changed interests and priorities.

The point is that you no longer feel it's a good fit. Bravo. Now comes the hard part of doing something about it. I wouldn't worry about allocating the blame. There is no blame.

Best of luck in your next chapter.
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Old 05-29-2008, 12:30 PM   #3
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Hi! From what you are saying, you are 39 and really feeling burnt out on your present job.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SecondCor521 View Post
Several things hold me back from looking to find another job. I don't believe I can find a job in a different field without taking a large pay cut.
It's always best to look for a new job while you are still employed. Just ignore any that don't pay enough (and YOU are the one to decide what is enough pay).

Quote:
Originally Posted by SecondCor521 View Post
If the problem is me and not the job, then changing jobs won't fix my angst.
True, but a little variety might ease it for a year or two. Besides, I can relate to the desire for some permanence and to me, at least, that's not just a whim or a touch of angst.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SecondCor521 View Post
I am not good at career building type stuff (resumes, interviews, networking, career planning) -- in particular, I don't know how to identify or figure out what kind of job in the business field I would like.
Time to make acquiring these skills your hobby/preoccupation. You are a bright guy and you can do it if you devote enough of your time and energy to it. And why not? Even if you don't end up getting a new job, just taking big, positive steps in working towards that end might help with the discontent.

I vote "Go for it!" but to keep your present contract in place you have found another job. (Of course, if your contract ends I suggest you take another until you have found something more ideal.)
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Old 05-29-2008, 12:32 PM   #4
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Cor, I think the problem is likely the job and you are stuck in a crappy situation.

Were I in your shoes, I would start looking. But first I would seek out a career counselor (possibly at your business school?) to get some help figuring out what you should be looking for and how to do it.
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Old 05-29-2008, 01:12 PM   #5
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2Cor,
Having worked in business for 35 years, I have to be honest and say I don't think you will find much more satisfaction in this career path. I worked a number of places, including two banks, state government and three federal government agencies. I had the same experience as you in that when I earned my CPA and Master's, my employers' view of me didn't change much. Generally, except in highly specialized fields, most employers put more weight on experience and the ability to get up to speed quickly. My educational background did help me switch jobs, but like you, seemed to make little or no difference in my current job.

I would proceed carefully and slowly. It sounds like you have a decent job now and you do like a number of things about it. This can buy you the time to really look hard for that place where you can shine and enjoy your work and co-workers. Just remember you know all the negatives of you current job. Once the honeymoon is over in a new job, it is likely there will be negatives there too. I'm not saying you shouldn't look to change - just take advantage of the fact you are in a pretty good place and take your time.

Best of luck and keep us posted.
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Old 05-29-2008, 01:23 PM   #6
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What does your girlfriend think about all this?
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Old 05-29-2008, 01:24 PM   #7
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Funny how it seems like a lot of these "I hate my job posts" (including mine) are from people working in the computer industry.

I don't think that looking for a "family" surrogate in your job is a particularly good idea. Maybe it'd work for you and I'm just cynical, but companies aren't loyal to you. Believe me, I know how it feels to be considered a second class citizen by being a consultant, but I don't think you should expect much out of being an employee.

I know the angst you are going through, since I'm going through it myself. The easy suggestion is to get a new job. That's what I'd suggest to myself if I weren't me. The reality is harder, especially if you've got a nagging feeling you'd be dropping down in pay too much.

Good luck, I'll be interested in hearing how you go about this.
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Old 05-29-2008, 01:33 PM   #8
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What does your girlfriend think about all this?
I don't have a girlfriend. The last day I had a girlfriend was December 24, 1990. (I proposed to my ex on Christmas Day, 1990.)

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Old 05-29-2008, 01:38 PM   #9
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Don't get discouraged, but stay realistic. 39 years old is considered rather elderly in the IT world. Soon you'll be elderly in an empl*yment sense.
Could you use your MBA to get into a management position somewhere?

For an accurate overall look at the IT world, read this guy
Economic News

and also read Norm Matloff's articles.

This is a good idea for anyone involved in the computer realm.
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Old 05-29-2008, 01:42 PM   #10
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I don't think that looking for a "family" surrogate in your job is a particularly good idea. Maybe it'd work for you and I'm just cynical, but companies aren't loyal to you.
This is true, at least in my case. Once I lowered my expectations about my co-workers and looked to family and volunteer work for caring relationships, I was actually much more content at work.
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Old 05-29-2008, 02:01 PM   #11
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2Cor, bless your heart. I don't have a whole lot to add, except my sympathy. I spent the last 3 years getting through the CFP program knowing that it would not change my basic position at the firm where I work at all. I am now working on my long-ago-abandoned bachelors with the same outcome expected. It is depressing, but how real life works.

Just because we all tend to pick out the parts of a post that we're most tuned-to, I'd think a lot about that flexibility when it comes to your kid's activities. That is a pretty big deal, I'd say. Not to say you can't get that elsewhere, but it might be harder to find. And you are restless, understandably so.

My advice is what others said--look around and see if something jumps out at you. A caveat, from my sailing days--once you start looking for a new job (or a sailboat), you tend to find one. And it makes the one you have, that much harder to stomach.
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Old 05-29-2008, 02:35 PM   #12
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I've know quite a few computer professionals who got an MBA and still ended up being an engineer. The ones that made a change became project managers. The pay for a PM is typically higher than the engineers, but they do a lot of planning work and talk a lot. Some engineers just can't bring themselves to transition into that role even after an MBA. In those cases the MBA is really wasted time and money. Anyway, I think you seem talented enough to do anything you want. The thing is figuring out what kind of work you enjoy. For me I think being an engineer suits my laid back personality, and I'd really hate to manage people.
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Old 05-29-2008, 02:50 PM   #13
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Another path to consider is moving out of product development and into IT. Maybe a switch from hardcore firmware work to something just supporting a business function would be a nice change. The main career path there might be project manager or architect. Another option could be looking to move into middle management... not always exciting, but managing a development group might be more lucrative than anything else you could quickly switch to with your MBA.

I'd strongly caution against looking to your employer to be part of your support network. Companies (and groups within companies) vary with how they treat both contractors and employees (everyone is equal in our group, but other groups do things a little different). When unemployment is just an outsourcing agreement away, it'd behoove you to not put too much stake in being part of the family.

I feel for you. My first contract programming job was 15 years ago (I was 15). I really hope I can stick it out to ER at 45... but I've burned out at least once and feel I'm heading that way again. Stay engaged with your kids and volunteer to help with things that are bigger than you; only way to stay grounded.
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Old 05-29-2008, 02:55 PM   #14
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2cor.....I am in the same boat....I ended up having a bit of a breakdown at work....don't let it get that far.
I have been working with a life coach and it is really helping.
It is hard for me to work without having a passion for it......that is one of the most difficult things to do.....the rest gets a lot easier when you decide to do something about it.
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Old 05-29-2008, 03:27 PM   #15
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Quote:
? I would love to find a job that is more interesting (something in business rather than technology) *and* pays better than what I'm paid now *and* is located in my town *and* is flexible with me and my kids' schedules. Am I asking for too much?
A: possibly, but you'll never know if you don't go looking
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Old 05-29-2008, 03:35 PM   #16
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LOL... thinking back on my short career so far. I've had a couple breakdowns already. But it wasn't that bad. I don't know if IT is any better than being a programmer. If you ever worked as an engineer you'd know IT is almost always the most abused/hated group.
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Old 05-29-2008, 03:40 PM   #17
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Sorry, when I talk about IT, I mean moving to IT for a business... not a technology company. That's probably the easiest shot at something that pays close to, or more than, the current job. Then again, I only know the Minneapolis job market... YMMV based on market conditions, etc.
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Old 05-29-2008, 03:48 PM   #18
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I don't have a girlfriend. The last day I had a girlfriend was December 24, 1990. (I proposed to my ex on Christmas Day, 1990.)

2Cor521
Quote:
Originally Posted by purron
This is true, at least in my case. Once I lowered my expectations about my co-workers and looked to family and volunteer work for caring relationships, I was actually much more content at work.
Is there a connection between no girlfriend and contentness at work?
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Old 05-29-2008, 03:52 PM   #19
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My 2-cents worth after skimming your thread:

1) Perhaps you are not in the best part of the country for your job specialty. Can you move? Or is the sharing of parenting preventing you from moving? When I was working in Silicon Valley there were generally lots of job opportunities and lots of tech people to network with. Out in other towns it gets more constraining.

2) Perhaps you need a love life? You are still pretty young and there are a lot of nice women out there. If you have time for activities consider joining something like a birding group, hiking group, church activities, whatever else might be a healthy and interesting outlet.

3) Agree with another poster that you should seek out some counseling. Don't just limit this to job counseling though. You need to be able to talk to someone one-on-one and the internet is no substitute for this.

Hope some of what we are suggesting here helps!
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Old 05-29-2008, 04:29 PM   #20
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I completed my MBA in the fall of 2007, graduating with Beta Kappa Sigma honors and receiving the departmental scholarship.
Dude.

--You've got upwards of 30 more years of work ahead of you.
--You have excelled at every job you ever put your mind to.
--You graduated with high honors in the middle of huge emotional turmoil.
--You've got an ideal combination of technical and business experience / training.

IMHO, and FWIW... quit overthinking this!! Or more precisely, start thinking like the WINNER that you are. You've worked hard and deserve more than a boring, dead-end gig.

The world is your OYSTER, guy -- quit worrying and go TAKE what you want.
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