What makes great engineers

Are you pushing or are you being pushed?

During my studies seven years ago, I always had the idea of ​​working as a production engineer in a large industrial company. However, through internships and my thesis, I came into contact with an engineering office and joined them as an employee.

They took time for me there, I learned all the tools I needed to become an engineer from the bottom up. I worked there very successfully over a period of six years. For convenience (5 minutes by bike to work) and because of relative satisfaction (nice colleagues, good working atmosphere apart from occasional choleric impulses from my boss), I had never looked around for a new job. Only after I was not granted a previously promised raise and there were no opportunities for advancement did I begin to apply.

I had two interviews for three applications: one at a large corporation (I was one of eight invited out of 250 applicants), one at another engineering office. I actually only applied to this office to practice interviews.

Result: The industrial group took on another applicant, the conversation at the engineering office went well - they promised me the required salary there, offered me a contract, and I said yes.

After the change, I am more and more happy to have taken this step every day. I am a project manager and manage large projects independently with a planning team. My boss gives me freedom of action and trusts me completely. I reward him for this trust with loyalty. I get on very well with my colleagues. There is a lively exchange of experiences. The prospects for future projects are currently to be classified as "top" against any industry trend. I really enjoy the work (that was the point where I asked myself what this man actually wants, the author).

However, my long-term goal is not to work in an engineering office over the long term. Joining an industrial company would appeal to me much more from a career-related as well as a financial point of view (not to mention the voluntary social benefits of a large company). The flat hierarchies in an engineering office (boss, project manager, project engineer) limit the opportunities for advancement considerably. In my new job, I'm in exactly the same position as in the old office. In principle, I can only expect a rise in terms of salary.

Nevertheless, I do (at this point this sentence ends in nothing, the author).

My problem: five years ago, in my first job, I had completed several projects for a plant operator to their complete satisfaction. He offered me a position at the time, but I turned it down because of my limited experience at the time.

Now I have read a suitable job advertisement from this company in newspapers. I could well imagine working there and, even after several years of service, I would expect a good chance of qualifying later for my actual “dream company” (the company that I didn't get the position for when I last applied for a job). This path appears promising for a number of reasons.

Now I am faced with the decision to change jobs again within a short period of time. I would like to know from you whether you consider it sensible to take this step and thus penetrate a new company structure (industry) that brings with it new tasks and improved opportunities for advancement. How can I explain the short time in an application?


No, dear readers, I do not invent these submissions myself, they all come “straight from life”. The latter is beyond me, but my imagination would never reach it.

What facts do we have in this case? A young engineer has believed since he graduated that industrial companies were his favorite employers. Nice. However, he gets to a service provider who is nice to him, promotes his thesis, offers a job there himself. Nice too.

Note I: There is no attempt at all to achieve the dream type of employer.

The candidate accepts what he sees as the "wrong" offer. While other young academics often leave their first employer after two years, this candidate stays with the "wrong" company for six long years out of sheer convenience. And leaves because of a canceled raise.

Now he has a great second chance to realize his dream of becoming an industrial employer.

Note II: There is one (!) Application for this ideal type. When this plan fails, he slips back into an employment relationship with a service provider that he does not want to work for, as he did six years ago.

Note III: If we assume four years for this, then after eleven years of employment he could finally be with a type of employer that he considers ideal for himself. It is not clear what kind of position that would be. And then the effort to make the ascent would only really start.

You, dear sender, are an engineer. Merchants have one rule for ideas like yours: Don't throw good money after bad. Or: Better an end with horror than horror without end.

So: You have been with a type of company that you chose yourself for seven years. There were two points on your résumé where you could have struggled for your dream. In both cases, you failed to take advantage of the opportunities for no good reason. Instead of vigorously fighting for your - supposed - goals, you have clearly chosen the path of least resistance. You each let yourself be pushed instead of being pushed yourself.

I don't want to get malicious. But either you have five minutes by bike to the office or you realize dreams in life.

According to your own statement, you have a dream job today, but in what you consider to be the wrong profession. And you have absolutely no certainty that you would be happier in the industry! Thousands are working there - and absolutely not happy. As is the case with old-age dreams - awakening is usually pretty tough. You know what I'm thinking?

1. Your central motive is money, money. Money. You left your first employer because of a missed raise. Because he responded to your financial expectations, you gave the second employer a promise despite having the wrong industry and although you had to know beforehand that "I will be in exactly the same position in my new job as in the old office".

And again, what fascinates you about the industrial company is the “financial perspective” and the voluntary social benefits. There is no basis in your argument for the “career-related” reasons that you also cite. There is no specific goal, no implementation plan.

If you want to earn a lot of money, you have to fight. Less about the high salary, there are limits to the employee. But when it comes to career, the money comes “automatically” - managing directors hardly ever complain about underpaid.

2. You are not only pursuing the dream of a certain type of employer (large industrial company), but also that of working for a certain individual company. You shouldn't do that in such a concrete way, it makes the realization of the objective extremely difficult.

3. After eleven years of service, you would arrive in the target industry on your way. Without concrete experience in this type of company, without knowledge of the rules of the game that apply there. What do you think, what the industry colleagues have made out of their eleven years lead in the meantime. You'll never catch up with that again. Often dreams lead to disappointment. Then what do you do?

4. Your current short period of service will only really become a problem if you have to or want to leave the third employer again after a year. There is no guarantee that this will not happen!

5. If you really want it that way, you could now argue in applications like this: “Although I am doing a very interesting job in an environment that is perceived as positive, I can already see that the most recent change was a mistake: I find myself under comparable circumstances as in my previous position - apparently I overinterpreted explanations and statements in the interview. I am therefore specifically looking for the challenge of a new corporate environment with new tasks, with whose successful solution I can qualify and open up new perspectives. It turns out that this is just as impossible in today's manageable company as it was with the previous employer. Therefore, I am now trying to correct this mistake, despite my own massive reservations against such a quick renewed change. "

Applicants who admit mistakes are so rare (and therefore extremely original) that you would immediately have what marketers call a “real USP” of a product.

6. My real advice: everything is going well, you just have to recognize your dream for what it is - and bury it. You work great and successfully for a service provider - stick with it and build a career in this profession. It is well known that small offices in particular have or offer flat hierarchies and few opportunities for advancement. But there are also bigger ones. There you can become a department or branch manager. Maybe in three years. Then you would be 40.

Short answer:

1. Man is allowed, yes, he should have dreams. But either he converts them into concrete goals in good time and fights for their fulfillment - or he says “it would have been nice” and goes over to day-to-day business.

2. Sometimes life gives you a second chance. A third one, however, probably not. Trains have left if you don't jump up in time.

Question No .: 2065
Number of the VDI nachrichten edition: 43
Date of the VDI nachrichten edition: 2006-10-28

A contribution by:

  • Heiko Mell

    Heiko Mell is a career advisor, author and freelancer for VDI nachrichten. He is responsible for the career advice series within VDI nachrichten.