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Career Flexibility a thing of the Past

  1. Aug 14, 2012 #1
    I am just throwing this out there to fish for opinions

    Engineering is often advertised as a broad profession offering many opportunities. With tight labor markets where there is an over supply of job seekers is this no longer a true statement. I ask because workers must be responsive to the tides in industry. As some sectors cool off it is beneficial to migrate to hotter areas.

    The problem is companies are demanding very specific skills. Its rare that you see a blanket 5 10 20 yr experience requirement without a caveat for something specific like 5 yrs 2 phase deep sea flow in pipes modeling or something.

    Are people basically forced into being labeled as specific type of engineer?

    Does one have to "start from the bottom" to migrate to a different field within the discipline?

    Is it possible to stay an generalist and not be reduced to a project manager?

    Thanks in advance for comments ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2012 #2
    Here's what I think happened: As a side effect of anti-discrimination laws of all sorts, companies were required to document exactly what certifications and experience was required to do a job. The days when someone could look you in the eye, discuss a few technical subjects and then subjectively declare you fit for the job are gone. This is not such a bad thing. It definitely helps to level the playing field for everyone.

    However, a side effect of this effort is that it pigeon-holes people in to specialties if they want to get paid well. It also makes everyone go looking for certificates that only prove that you know how to pass a test and that you had all the right check marks from all the right agencies. The certification industry and educational institutions are making a killing training people for all sorts of things that didn't even exist before.

    I keep saying this and I still think it is true: Human Resource Specialists used to be called Personnel Clerks. There is no way these former clerks will understand experiential knowledge. For example, someone who spent a lot of time designing HVAC gear might also do very well designing pressurization systems for aircraft. Good Luck proving that to an HR specialist.

    We probably lose many qualified candidates because they do not include the proper key words that these people are trained to look for. So they often outsource their services to head-hunting firms who do understand the field.

    Thus, my answer is that you are probably right. Unless you find some way to squirrel yourself around the HR gauntlet, the chances of you applying your wits to another field of interest are slim to none. Alternatively, you can work for a company that is too small to care about HR regulations.

    I really can't see any way around this. This is a bureaucratic solution to a social problem. The social problem couldn't be fixed directly, so this is what happened. I hope someone sorts this mess out some day, but I fear that it may be a long time before that happens.
  4. Aug 15, 2012 #3
    no. companies are required to put out though ultra detailed 'requirements' but they are much closer to wishlists. if you are capable of doing the job and can convince them of that, you will be hired so long as mr.perfect never applies (which he usually doesn't.)

    senior engineers are retiring everywhere. companies are being forced to accept 'under-qualified' workers, they just don't like to admit it. Obviously you will need to prove yourseld if you are jumping disciplines but migrating within your field is possible and if you gain other engineering experience while doing it that only opens more doors.
  5. Aug 15, 2012 #4
    Thanks for the reply

    It stinks because being married one needs flexibility to follow the spouse. I am currently in a flow modeling group. I figured modeling multi phase flow has broad applications. Gas, any type of chemical plant etc... The problem is you read job postings and they will specify a specific degree which mine will never fit NE. So i am kind of up the river.

    I thnk the answer is to put together a network of head hunters. Its depressing, I went into engineering because of the broad spectrum of jobs and that every so often i can change it around without starting from nothing. Doesn't appear to be the case any more.
  6. Aug 16, 2012 #5
    Do you know people who do the kind of work you are seeking? You can change somewhat but it is easier *within* a job than it is to convince someone to pay you to do something you haven't done before.

    I think the best way would be to look through your network to try to find an in at an organization that does the kind of work you want. Once you get to a high technical level, job postings are not a good way to look for work. The vast majority of good positions are filled by people that have been referred to them (sometimes through a headhunter, but often not)
  7. Aug 18, 2012 #6
    You won't even get called in for an interview if you're missing some key words.

    I tried applying for a job posting at Boeing a few minutes ago.


    With my lab experience, I figured I'd be a shoe-in. Except they specifically ask you if you've done any sort of "additive machining" stuff. I haven't. I have all the other necessary skills and experience. I figure that's the part they could teach me in a week. So what do I do? Do I lie and then get asked about it during the interview? Or do I just hit "no", get told I can't even apply, and then go do something else?
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