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Company Politics / Frustration / Career Advice

  1. Sep 14, 2012 #1

    I recently graduated from University as a Mechanical Engineer. I am currently working at a large oil and gas company as a New Graduate Mechanical Engineer. My roles and responsibilities primarily include Preventive Maintenance and Reliability of pipelines. It is probably one of the highest paying jobs for a New Graduate Engineer.

    I have to be honest; I am bored out of my mind. I don't find my job stimulating.

    90% of the time I am dealing with people problems. For example, Maintenance, Quality, Management and Engineering constantly struggle to get along. It's a bit exhausting and depressing to deal with all this nonsense on a daily basis. Phone, Email and Meetings take a huge chunk out of the work time. Any suggestions I make to improve the process, system or equipment strategy is pushed back with a lot of resistance.

    I really don't care for the money, just as long as I can earn a decent income to support myself plus some safety margin for rainy days and emergencies. I just want to find a challenging and stimulating job with little people problems.

    My true goal is to become a competent Mechanical Engineer. I want to learn, grow, innovate, contribute and make a difference. Is that too much to ask for? Am I an outlier in the world in terms of the experience I have described above? Anyone else experience this?

    I have a broad range of career interests which span over the Automotive, Aerospace, Transportation and Oil/Energy sectors. I am looking for an innovative, exciting company which can provide a challenging environment. I am just starting my Mechanical Engineering career.

    Help? Suggestions? Guidance?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 15, 2012 #2


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    Welcome to the real world. Most professionals will spend more of their time solving "people problems" as they progress up the career structure, not less. The reason is fairly simple: however technically brilliant you are, your ideas are worth nothing until other people know about them and believe they are right.

    If you thought working as an engineer was going to be a continuation of what you did at school and college (i.e. working mostly on your own and solving the sort of problems you find in textbooks), this might come as a nasty shock, but that's the way the world is.

    A big company will probably have internal training resources available. Get yourself singned up for courses like time management, presentation and personal communication skills, etc. The best way to deal with this is by getting good at doing it, not by trying to fight it.
  4. Sep 15, 2012 #3

    The part that comes as a shocker is that I have to deal with people problems constantly. I am not afraid to work in a team, in fact, 99% of the time in life it takes a team to achieve extraordinary goals.

    In University, when you join a club, for example, let's say Formula Racing Team, you will spent countless hours trying to build the best product possible before the competition deadline AND not to mention that you are not being paid. Not just you as an individual, but every single person on the team. 1 AM, 2 AM, 3 AM it doesn't matter. This is definitely not the case at work. Everyone is worried that the clock might start ticking backwards. Never seen this kind of behavior where people are overjoyed that it is 5 PM or that Friday is here. I am shocked and puzzled. Shouldn't we all be working as a "team" - a word that I am sure everyone who gave the interview said and that they are a "team player".

    Take a look at sports, take Football for example, every team in the NFL wants to win the Superbowl Championship. It's what each and every player lives to achieve.

    I understand that there are difficult people, lazy people, smart people, so many kinds of people in this world, but I find it quite amazing that the work life and people can be far more challenging than any first year calculus problem.

    To simply say, "Welcome to the real world" is a bit depressing to hear. I am most certain that there are places on this planet where true passionate team's exist with the goal to achieve a common goal. I just haven't found it yet.

    EDIT: I am joining several different courses and events which range from technical, community, soft skills, etc... I just don't know what direction my career is taking. I don't want to feel like I lost a year of my life dealing with nonsense when there is another place internally or externally where I could be progressing as a Mechanical Engineer.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2012
  5. Sep 17, 2012 #4


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    AlephZero, while it is true that "people problems" are part and parcel of working in the "real world", it sounds to me that the OP's situation could also be a reflection of a particularly toxic work environment (some red flags include the turbulent relations between the quality, engineering, and management, as well as extreme resistance to suggestions for process improvement).

    If the situation is extremely stressful on top of being unstimulating, then the OP should speak to their manager and address this. He/she should also consider seeking other employment as a last resort.
  6. Sep 17, 2012 #5
    Wow, you went to a university where no one partied on the weekends? :smile:

    I enjoy my job, but I must say that I enjoy being with my family more. And I think a clear majority of people agree with me on this.

    As for company politics, I think that this *is* a constant factor, although it's worse at some companies than at others. I'd suggest that you look into joining a small startup company... while there will always be a clash of personalities *somewhere*, it's been my experience that at startups, the conflict is usually due to people passionately believing that their way is best and not that someone is threatening their "empire" or "how we've always done things." A big company can survive feuding fiefdoms, while this would be death to a startup, and everyone knows this, which tends to put a limit on conflicts.
  7. Sep 18, 2012 #6
    These types of problems and resultant frustrations exist in EVERY company. Some more than others. If it is constant, pervasive, and consumes most company resources, then IMHO this is indicative of terribly weak management who can't run a company. Except into the ground, that is.

    You have to find your tolerance level for this stuff. Leave the company if you have a low tolerance: the toxicity will kill you. But also evaluate yourself honestly and make sure your expectations aren't way too high for the frustrating reality that is known as work.
  8. Sep 19, 2012 #7
    Right. Part of it is that if senior management can get away with you working for free, they'll keep all of the revenue, and you will get nothing. This is one reason that companies like interns. They work cheap. Eventually, interns figure out that they are being used and they actually can get paid, but at that point, you can bring in the next batch of people.

    There are situations in which people are willing to sacrifice, but if you see senior management making a ton of money, you aren't in a mood to work for free.

    Building effective teams turns out to be rather difficult. Money makes things much harder.

    Believe it or not, a lot of people have lives outside of their jobs.

    Sure. That's actually why people that are good at management IMHO deserve a lot of money and power.

    You'll find that sort of environment in small start ups. One word of warning, with startups, good is usually very good and bad is usually very bad. Small companies resemble cults. People put insane hours because it's more than a job.

    It's not non-sense. Dealing with "office politics" is extremely useful experience. If you don't like it, then try to change it. If you can't change it, then make a list of things that you want to do differently if you end up somewhere else.
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