Mid career guidance as an aerospace engineer

  • #1
Lowcountry
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Hi all,

I have a problem that I’m trying to seek some help out on. I have spent nearly 20 years of my life working in Aerospace Engineering, primarily doing contract work, but doing some direct work as well. I feel like I’m coming up against a brick wall, where I can go no further.

I think, if I want to advance my career more, I have to get involved in some major projects where I’m taking on senior or leader ship roles. Unfortunately, it seems like the only kinds of jobs I can find or what I called “slag jobs“. These are essentially menial roles, primarily for contract, where the employer just needs someone to come in, put out a fire, and then disappear. These jobs doesn’t carry any real weight on a résumé, and doesn’t really advanced me as a qualified candidate for good jobs.

So what I’m wondering is how do I get from where I am to where I want to be? Is this a function of getting an advanced degree in Aerospace Engineering or similar discipline? Maybe a MBA?
 
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  • #2
Before going out and spending years of your life and thousands of dollars on a master's degree in engineering or business administration, you might want to spend some time speaking with people who are currently in roles that you aspire to.

The fact that you're working "slag" jobs would suggest that you must have some connections in the industry. Try to make an appointment with some of those people - maybe invite them out for lunch or just ask if you can skype with them for fifteen minutes. Be up front and tell them you're seeking advice on how to advance in your career. Most people, I find, are quite happy to talk about themselves and offer this kind of advice. You can also seek out hiring managers for the positions you're interested in and ask them what they're looking for, whether you fit the bill with your current experience and skill set or if there's something you can work on.
 
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  • #3
Lowcountry said:
Hi all,

I have a problem that I’m trying to seek some help out on. I have spent nearly 20 years of my life working in Aerospace Engineering, primarily doing contract work, but doing some direct work as well. I feel like I’m coming up against a brick wall, where I can go no further.

I think, if I want to advance my career more, I have to get involved in some major projects where I’m taking on senior or leader ship roles. Unfortunately, it seems like the only kinds of jobs I can find or what I called “slag jobs“. These are essentially menial roles, primarily for contract, where the employer just needs someone to come in, put out a fire, and then disappear. These jobs doesn’t carry any real weight on a résumé, and doesn’t really advanced me as a qualified candidate for good jobs.

So what I’m wondering is how do I get from where I am to where I want to be? Is this a function of getting an advanced degree in Aerospace Engineering or similar discipline? Maybe a MBA?
(1) I've been waiting to see whether those with direct experience in aerospace would offer their insights. Since there have been none, I'll give you mine. I worked in telcom. Many of my colleagues were contractors (science and engineering of various flavors), including some in lead roles.

(2) Your timeline tells me that there are more issues going on behind the scenes. If you don't wish to discuss them on a public forum, that's fine. But ~20 yrs is an awfully long time to remain stagnant in a situation such as yours. Contractors I knew fell into several major categories: (a) They deliberately chose to be a contractor. They could make more money as a contractor than as an employee. These were typically established professionals who did not need to pay a cut to a contract house and got paid well for overtime. They typically got health insurance through their spouses, and being a "permanent" employee did not really afford them more job security since the industry overall (telcom in my instance) was riddled with layoffs. (b) They were newbies who couldn't land a job as a "permanent" hire, but could land a temp position, often via a contract house. Corporate budgets often don't have funds for additional salaried employees, but do have funds for contract positions. The hope of many of these contractors is that if they prove themselves on their initial assignments, they will be hired as "permanent" employees once there is funding for additional headcount. (c) They worked for many years as a "permanent" employee, got laid off or forced into early retirement, either couldn't afford to or didn't want to retire, and became a contractor to tide themselves over until they decided to retire.

(3) It's not clear from your first post, but it appears that you have a BS in Aerospace Engineering. Is that correct? If so, then a MS in Aerospace Engineering might advance your career (but follow Choppy's advice above and confirm). But a separate non-engineering degree (such as an MBA or a degree in project management) by itself, probably will not: you will need an actual record of good performance in a lead role. Which leads me back to my discussion (2) above: Over the course of ~20 yrs, why didn't you develop a sufficiently strong record of performance for a company to keep you on and give you opportunities for advancement (via in-house training, assignments, or further education)? You don't need to answer that here, but, before proceeding, you should answer it for yourself.
 
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