Great job or year long internship

1. Jul 17, 2012

jaredmt

I have a situation and I wanted to know what the Engineers on this forum thinks of it and maybe some advice.

i work for a small company. 3 people left including my supervisor. it is now just me and the owner as far as engineers. then just one guy to do packaging.

This is one of my first jobs after graduating with B.S. in Mech Eng. been working for 3 months now.
I have a lot of responsibilities. I practically run the company. but i make nowhere near the starting salary for mechanical engineers. my boss knows i wont be truely happy until i do. but he claims at a later point i could make 6 figures, (which might be true as long as he doesnt rip me off.)

so here's what is definitely going to happen now:
-my supervisor just left. im taking on all projects now
-im reorganizing things. updating information.
-my boss and i will cancell all projects that are not making money and move forward with the rest
-we will only take on good projects from here on out, which means we will have less issues to deal with (will loose less $) and will finish projects faster and likely take on projects at a faster pace(= more$).
-my boss and I will renegotiate my salary including a bonus on all the projects. he mentioned 10% of profits + base salary

so assuming we take on 2x as many projects and deal with much less issues, this company truely will make significantly more money. I have potential to make a lot here. but the questions are:
1) when? it could happen within a year or it could take 5 years for all i know. and i make nothing right now
2) How much can i trust the owner? how fair will my salary be? as the company grows I would expect to always be right under the owner, making the most out of his future employees. What if he decides to let me go and have someone work for less (way in the future when im actually making )

so what would you guys do?
a) see how things go. maybe i'll hit a jackpot and make 6 figures at this company. or maybe i will still make nothing a year from now and this will have been one loooong internship with great experience
b) find a new job and run

Last edited by a moderator: Jul 18, 2012
2. Jul 17, 2012

Travis_King

This is 101 of making business decisions in life. We can't tell you how to choose, we can only tell you what we would do in a similar situation (though, of course we can't know the exact situation).

If you trust your boss to give you your due, then being in your position with a small company like that is a perfect place to be if you take off. It's hard work in, what essentially seems to be, a startup. But if the company gains ground and expands, guess who is sitting on top (assuming your boss is trustworthy).

That doesn't mean you'll be an owner or anything, that's up to the current owner. They may need to hire more experienced people for managerial or strategic positions, and that is something you might have to deal with. That's business. But, you might wind up an executive, or a manager, or a lead engineer, or...etc, who knows. (for all you or anyone else knows, the company could go belly-up in 6 months!)

The other option is, as you say, find another job and run. Be careful though, your salary might be higher, but the work for new grads is often times boring and the responsibilities minimal. Realisitically, no where else will you find a job with so much responsibility. You won't gain the experience you are getting right now in any larger company for a long time.

I wouldn't listen to people on the internet about which choice you should make in your life. People are willing to take risks when they aren't the people who might have to face the consequences.

Personally, though, if you think it's a strong business model and you trust that the boss-man will do a good job of steering the company to sucess, I'd stay. If it goes under, you'll be out of a job for a little while until you find something new, but the experience (and recommendation) you'll get from being there will make you very sellable to any larger company you look at. You don't often get opportunities to be part of a start-up/small business. And really, the only risk you run is being out of an engineering job for a few months if it goes under. I offer this opinion because, if it were me, I'd think the risk is worth it. If you can handle that risk (say, if you don't have a family, or don't mind eating cheap for a while), then go for it. If not, find somewhere else.

Just my \$0.02

edit: Also, ask that if you are to be taking on this responsibility, you'd like to be hired outright. I wouldn't harp about the money. The company needs it to expand. If you want to stay with them you need to recognize that you aren't going to be making big bucks unless the company does; and it needs capital to do that. Don't short change yourself, but don't be greedy. I'd inquire about being hired as a full time employee, maybe a tiny bump in salary in good faith. If you choose to stay, I think you should show that: (a) you are dedicated to the company and really want to see it grow, but (b) if you are going to be a part of that growth, you should be an employee. What's the worst that can happen?

Last edited: Jul 17, 2012
3. Jul 17, 2012

AlephZero

First, ask yourself why everybody else has left. What do they know that you don't?

4. Jul 17, 2012

turbo

This a really good question. I worked for a guy (his father essentially gave him the company) and he forced me to take over a sales division that I was unprepared to take over. It took me about a year or so, but I managed to win back many disenchanted customers, and made the boss into a millionaire many times over, with a 2-person department. Then he got greedy and tried to slash my compensation despite the fact that we had a contract laying out my compensation. I had to sue him and eventually it ended up in Federal district court. It cost me lawyers' fees to get justification and back-wages. That was not fun.

Now (@OP) why do you think that your boss is holding out potential 6-figure earnings as a "carrot"? How soon can you get there, and can he withhold that at his whim? We can't offer you cogent advice without a detailed understanding of your situation, but your initial post raises some doubts about the your ability to trust your boss.

Good luck, however you decide.

5. Jul 18, 2012

tygerdawg

I've learned to trust no one in business. They have to earn my trust. Conversely, it is up to me to try to get the truth out of folks. This sounds like the typical shoot-from-the-hip entrepreneur with good intentions who is trying to make a go of it through sheer force of personality. As the saying goes, "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

If it is only you and him, you like the work/hours/bennies/other stuff, but.... Then get the owner to show you the business plan, sales & marketing plan, cash flow projections, etc....all the stuff a bank would want to see if he went for a loan. That is, in effect, what the situation is. He is asking you to loan him your expertise, time, and life for a promise of some reward later.

If you don't think you would understand what he would show you, if he actually had those documents, then hurry up and learn it. It'd take about a week to gather sufficient materials and learn how to recognize nonsense from solid data & realistic projections.

And get any and all "promises" or "gentlemen's agreements" in writing.

6. Jul 18, 2012

gmax137

If I had no responsibilities (spouse, kids, mortgage, student loans) then I might hang on & see what happens. Otherwise, I'd split. Downsizing and reneging on existing projects is not a plan I like.

7. Jul 19, 2012

TMFKAN64

I forget who said that an oral contract isn't worth the paper it is written on. It's not clear to me when the salary renegotiation is going to take place... if it isn't now, I wouldn't count on it ever happening.

If you are enjoying what you are doing and think you are learning valuable things, by all means stay another year. Your boss might be telling you the truth and sign you to a great contract next year. But I think your decision to stay or not should be based on your answer to the question "Would I want to stay if he's *not* going to renegotiate my salary?"

8. Jul 19, 2012

chiro

Hey jaredmt.

To be honest, the last thing you want is a damaged reputation: this can (and most likely) will follow you around.

If you think you are going to get into a situation where you can get smeared either through trying to deliver more than you can deliver to clients, or being associated with someone who has a damaged reputation themselves (whether the other employees know something you don't), or by any means, then you should think about exiting gracefully.

The above comment is not about money or promises, it's about the most important capital available to anyone which is reputation.

9. Jul 24, 2012

twofish-quant

Or it could never happen.

A lot of business success involves trying to read people and figure how much people can be trusted and how much they can't be. It's difficult to give any general advice.

Personally, my big worry is not that the owner will try to cheat you out of money, but that the owner isn't being honest with himself about the likelihood of success of the company. It's his company, so he has *got* to believe in it, but that he is likely being over optimistic about his own chances of success. I would expect that he is looking at the world through rose colored glasses, and he is being unrealistic. The question is *how* unrealistic is he being.

Then you are screwed.

On the other hand, what if he really is Bill Gates, and everything does work out.

The thing that worries me a bit is if he is cancelling projects and leaving people in a lurch for the good of the company, then what happens when you become a liability rather than an asset? Also, a lot of small business depends on repeat business, recommendations, and word of mouth so if he is canceling "loser" projects, this is going to badly impact getting better projects later.

Something that I would look very closely at is how the owner ends up cancelling projects. It he doesn't seem guilty, I'd take that as a warning sign.

Six figures is less impressive than it first seems for an engineer. Also having resume experience isn't that bad. One thing about this situation is that if you don't have family to feed, then you are in a position to take risks. If you had kids, then there wouldn't be a choice.

One other thing that I would recommend is to stay on good terms with your ex-coworkers, so that you can find out where *they* ended up.

Some of the more interesting conversations that I've had were with ex-managers that were no longer my manager, since I often found out what they *really* were thinking and what *really* was going on behind the scenes.

Last edited: Jul 24, 2012
10. Jul 25, 2012

twofish-quant

However, the question you should ask is how much satisfaction you will have if you work for a year and get nothing in the end.

One thing that helps you is that since you don't have kids and a mortgage you can take risks. If you stay with the company, and you get screwed over, it's still a good experience. If you had kids and a mortgage, you just couldn't take those sorts of risks. My suspicion is that the people that are leaving do have kids and mortgages, and so they just can't stay.

Also, even if it turns out badly, it's going to be educational. If you get screwed over, then you can promise yourself that you'll never treat anyone the way that you've been treated.

Finally, one thing that I've learned is to try to separate "love" and "money". The reality is that "loving your job" is a good excuse that people will use to pay you less.

11. Aug 4, 2012

physicsboard

I would stick with it for a couple of reasons:
-even if he rips you off, you are gaining extremely valuable experience for your age. you are not in a position of risk like the owner is.
-you can renegotiate. if you get everything in writing, like saying 10% on profits + base salary, whatever, the owner cannot simply screw you over. I recommend doing this right away, get something in writing that guarantees you will not be cut off the second this company turns around. Even if you still accept low wages right now, you need some actual guarantee of a reward down the road besides his word. If he holds out on this you will probably get screwed, so keep that in mind.
-As one of the heads of this company, you will get to network with people most engineers at your age would never meet. This could also have negative side affects as well, as stated in a previous post, but it's an opportunity none the less.
-You won't have the chance to take this risk again if you start a family.
-You could make a lot of money
-You could start your own company. It sounds like you have your hands in almost everything at this point. Down the road these skills would definitely help you out should you decide to try running your own business. I reiterate, many engineers do not gain these skills until they are loaded with other responsibilities.

I'd stick with it, unless you really do get a bad vibe about the company or the owner. I'd personally love to operate at your level as early as you are, even if it meant I took a reduced salary.