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Engineering Feeling like I'm working too hard (mentally) for the pay

  1. Jun 3, 2017 #1

    Maylis

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    I've been working for about a year now as an engineer. I find myself thinking that the amount of mental effort that I have to put into my job relative to what I'm paid sucks. By the way, my pay is competitive for my position and years of experience. However, I see that the senior engineers are the smartest people in the company, yet the folks up top are taking the lion's share of the profit. My company is far more generous than most, so it makes me churn to think about how it works at even larger corporations (CEO's with 300x salary of average employee). I shutter the thought of working for the next 30 years to get breadcrumbs and drive a Toyota while the president cruises around in a Porsche. This business practically runs itself. Makes me think again about my career choice. Being in finance sounds way more lucrative. Am I just a spoiled brat who hasn't paid my dues?
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 3, 2017 #2
    The guy driving the Porsche may have started out like you and wanted to be the guy driving the Porsche. Do the best you can while at work and someone will always want you on their team. Or start your own team?

    Good luck!
     
  4. Jun 3, 2017 #3
    That's a feature, not a bug. A company is supposed to make the shareholders wealthy, not the workers.
     
  5. Jun 3, 2017 #4

    Choppy

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    Yep - life's not fair.

    It's best not to compare yourself too much to other people though. There will always be someone who is better off. The CEO of your company can look at other CEOs and think that he or she is underpaid compared to what he or she has accomplished at the helm.

    And remember that there are a lot of people who might look at you with envy. You've got a not just a job, but a professional career. You're in a stable country with a reasonable standard of living where the rule of law, though not perfect, tends to prevail in most situations. You don't have to worry about paying off the right people to keep your job (or worse).

    If you don't like where you are, you can try to figure out how to change it. The trouble with getting those well paying CEO positions is that they tend to come with a lot of risk, and your stars have to be aligned just right for you to have a shot in the first place. Remember you're not normally looking as someone who came from an average background and just worked a little harder. You're looking several standard deviations out on the curve.
     
  6. Jun 3, 2017 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Two thoughts: one is that if you are truly underpaid, a different employer will pay you more. The problem is that many people who think they are underpaid discover that there are plenty of people willing to do the same work for the same or less.

    The other is that I seem to remember a post of yours where you said you couldn't keep focus for an entire eight hour day. That may have an effect on Thought #1.
     
  7. Jun 3, 2017 #6

    Dale

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    Then you are being paid fairly.
     
  8. Jun 3, 2017 #7

    marcusl

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    Maybe you aren't cut out for the working world. Working for yourself might help, since you'll be the one on top (and on the bottom, so you won't see factors of 300x). Otherwise try changing careers--try being a musician or artist if you want to really know what it's like to be taken advantage of.
     
  9. Jun 3, 2017 #8

    RJLiberator

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    Yeah, with all due respect OP, if you have no debt, are able to afford a Toyota, have a job and the needed things in life you are much richer than a strong most of the world. I think you need less of a pay raise and more of a reality check on life. You don't need that Porsche, just find what you enjoy doing.
     
  10. Jun 4, 2017 #9

    Maylis

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    Going into the working world has been a reality check. I found out very quickly that being smart is not a strong function of how rich you are. I wish I could have a job using business euphemisms in meetings like "we're facing headwinds" and talk about profitability charts. Then I see people making millions selling make-up or some other terrible product. I shouldn't hate the player, just hate the game instead. Or better, figure out how to be better at the game.

    When I see senior engineers doing the same work I'm doing, I am totally afraid that my life will fly past me doing the exact same thing for 30 years, and at the end hope that I don't get cancer and a third of my 401k savings don't get gobbled up in 6 months of medical bills.

    I can't compete with some guy in India (where they churn out engineers like US universities churn out liberal arts degrees) who will work for $20k a year and the company can bill customers for engineering time at $20/hr. I think engineering is a rotten profession unless you can get into some protected industry (aerospace, military, etc).

    I can totally see how the ideas for socialism and communism came to be, especially in the early industrial age with robber barons making single digit percentages of the entire country's GDP at the time. Some people were breaking their back 15 hours a day and the fat cat at top was raking in millions.
     
  11. Jun 4, 2017 #10
    Watch Alain de Bottons status anxiety(the 2 hour or so video, not TEDtalk) if you are getting depressed or angry about it...I hope it can help bring some new perspective. Cannot link it here.
     
  12. Jun 4, 2017 #11

    Dale

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    Sounds like you are getting consumed by envy, @Maylis
     
  13. Jun 4, 2017 #12

    marcusl

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    I recommend seeing a therapist to work on your fears, anxieties and issues.
     
  14. Jun 4, 2017 #13
    If (a) you work as a scientist or engineer at a corporation, (b) the corporation is sufficiently large, and (c) you do well at your job, then at some point you will need to decide whether to continue in a technical role or switch to a management role. Some corporations have introduced dual-tracks, in which ostensibly you can stay in a technical role and get as high a pay, as fancy a title, and as big an office as you can in a managerial role. But often the opportunities in the technical track are limited. So, if you want to advance in pay and prestige, you often need to switch to the management track; if that is where your priorities lie, then switch.

    I'm personally not a fan of exorbitant CEO salaries (especially for the ones who screw up and walk away with mucho severance). But note that a CEO has a much greater effect, for good or for bad, on the overall success of the company. If an engineer screws up, he makes only a relatively small impact on the company; if a CEO screws up, he can bring the company down. So the burden on a CEO's shoulders is much greater.

    If you don't like life in the corporate world, you are free to start your own company, or become an independent consultant. Then rant about the head hauncho all you like.
     
  15. Jun 4, 2017 #14

    Charles Link

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    @Maylis I recommend you do your best to broaden your horizons, both in a technical sense and otherwise. Having a broader engineering background will put you in a better position to compete for new opportunities when they arise, and if you try a couple of other endeavors on weekends and/or after work, you might find something that is better than the daily grind of the workaday world. Meanwhile, do your best to hang in there. Engineering is normally not a route that will get you rich in a hurry, but it can be a steady source of income. ## \\ ## And an additional input: I found being in front of a computer screen for 8 hours a day would make for a very long day. Oftentimes, I would get out with a couple other engineers for about 15 minutes during lunch time to throw a baseball around and get a little exercise. It helped make the day go a whole lot smoother. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2017
  16. Jun 4, 2017 #15

    Vanadium 50

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    You've said right there that you're providing $20K a year of value to your company. Yet you want to earn more because you're smart. Is this smart?

    If you want more money, you should be looking for a way to provide more value to the company, rather than to argue that you're entitled to more because you're smart. That would be smart.
     
  17. Jun 4, 2017 #16

    Choppy

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    Well, why not enroll in an MBA?

    One of the realities that you're likely to learn though is that even though on the surface it may seem like the management types are making more money, their positions are often less secure. People that aren't contributing anything of real value to a company are often the first ones on the chopping block when it's time to tighten the company belt. Then imagine searching for a job with lines on your CV like "assessed company headwinds" and "printed profitability charts."

    Again - remember that we tend to notice people on the tail end of the distribution. Most entrepreneurial ventures fail.

    And the world doesn't need any more crap. You can make money, lot's of money, doing good things and doing them ethically. There's no reason to game the system.

    That's totally understandable. No one wants to just turn the crank for 30 years and feel as if their career is not making any difference.

    But you don't have to tie your happiness to your job (in fact it's best not to). Many people do what they do to put food on the table and pay the bills. Their fulfillment comes from other dimensions in their lives: family, sports, volunteering, teaching, community service, etc.

    Something else that can help is developing a career plan. Where would you like to be in 5 years? 10 years? In developing a plan you figure out where you want to be and what you need to do to get there. Break it down into smaller steps and then climb those. If you just sit and do your job day in and day out, after 30 years, it's quite likely that you could be in the same spot. But if you want to progress into a management position in the next 10 years, start by figuring out what's required to do that. Advanced education, corporate education, experience, project leadership?
     
  18. Jun 4, 2017 #17

    Maylis

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    you are right, I was misinformed about the value of an engineer. I should be a scientist at a national lab that can't be outsourced because of government (do they have pensions too like other government workers??).
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2017
  19. Jun 4, 2017 #18

    Dale

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    Really? You were actually informed by someone that an engineer has as much value to a company as a CEO? I am calling "BS" on that.
     
  20. Jun 4, 2017 #19

    Maylis

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    No, in response to the $20,000/year comment.
     
  21. Jun 4, 2017 #20
    I think it is odd you are now getting jealous of other technical jobs, also national labs also hire engineers...

    Back to your original point, in this society the people that are remunerated the best are those that decide on the allocation of capital, if you want a high salary you need to get into a position where you can do that. Most technical jobs do not allow this. It is possible to get such a position from an engineering background (indeed apparently 33% of CEOs have an engineering background) but the skill set is very different so you'll need to start developing those skills.
     
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