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Engineering Career Advice - 7 years in..

Discussion in 'Careers, Employment and Professional Development' started by SJ8812, 15 Feb 2020.

  1. SJ8812

    Associate

    Joined: 15 Feb 2020

    Posts: 2

    Hi, not sure how many here will be able to help but thought it worth a try!

    I’m a mechanical engineer in the shipbuilding industry with 6.5 years of graduate level experience and I’m looking for a bit of advice on my present situation so apologies for the long post. I’ve moved around a bit so I’ll briefly summarise my experience to give some background:

    • 2 year graduate programme with Babcock, Devonport Dockyard. Included a 6 month production management placement seconded to Rosyth on Aircraft Carrier Programme.
    • HR put blocker on taking a permanent role in Rosyth so took a 12 month temp staff contract as a Production Controller instead.
    • Joined BAE Systems as a Shock engineer on submarine project. £3k pay cut but needed full time employment after leaving Babcock. Stayed in this role just over 2 years and did a mixture of analysis and project work.
    • Internal move about 1 year ago to the Mechanical Engineering team responsible for cooling system design.
    • I intend to submit a chartership application this year with IMechE. (I have BEng Aero Engineering)

    The general concerns I now have are as follows…
    • I effectively started on the same salary as a direct entry graduate when I moved to BAE 3 years ago, despite having had 3 years prior experience. My first 3 years were largely spent in operations roles or graduate placements so they weren’t directly relevant to the Shock engineer role I applied for.
    • After 3 years with BAE I find I’m now earning the same as those with 3-4 years post uni experience, when I have approaching 7. Moving to a new (internal) role again last year has meant another learning curve so if anything I feel further away from the skill level of those with 6-7 years in the same department.

    And my queries about what to do about them…
    • Should I be pushing for a higher pay grade that is more in line with others who have similar time served? What is that first 3 years experience actually worth? I feel slightly short changed that my pay today doesn’t reflect that.
    • What does the job market think of people like me? Well rounded engineer or Jack-of-All Trades and master of none? I’ve effectively had 3 or 4 different roles across 3 different sites in Operations, Project and Engineering. I’ve been in my current job 1 year, and my previous roles were each approx. 2 years in length so not been job hopping every 6 months..
    • What would my job prospects be as contractor? Is it better to have a wide range experience to call upon providing I’m not going for niche analysis jobs?
    • I do feel slightly envious of those who have settled into a role straight from uni and progressed quite far in the time that I have been moving around, but then the cards didn’t quite fall my way at the start..
    Any advice much appreciated and happy to share my CV.
     
  2. Jokester

    Don

    Joined: 7 Aug 2003

    Posts: 41,037

    Location: Aberdeenshire

    After 7 years, I would be looking for Senior Engineering roles, in an area you have several years of experience in, or where you can easily transfer the skills you have into another role, project engineering/management type stuff tends to be the same regardless of industry, but if you lack specific detailed technical competence it will be harder to move to a new area if there's a specific requirement for it.

    Contracting is going to change massively in the next couple of months, if it isn't doing project work it probably won't be worth the bother as you'll be almost certainly be forced to go PAYE contract, so all the tax of being staff, with none of the staff benefits or legal protections. At the moment, nobody is really sure how the market is going to respond to IR35 changes.
     
  3. Slam62

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 3 Jan 2006

    Posts: 7,685

    Location: Monaco

    Hi there
    I'm afraid there is no real answer, contracting is out of my experience, I have worked with a few, seems ok to me, maybe not the money earner it used to be.

    With regard to your current experience and salary, I think you have a lot of valuable experience so don't worry about that. Regarding salary, the answer seems to rely on many random things. I would keep applying for jobs both internally and externally something will turn up. Do have a good think about what you would like to do.

    As far as the IMechE goes with the right presentation (don't be shy) you should walk it.
    Anyway good luck
     
  4. SJ8812

    Associate

    Joined: 15 Feb 2020

    Posts: 2

    It's not that I'm primarily motivated by salary, it's just a nagging feeling that my early career hasn't been recognised as valuable experience and reflected in my pay packet. Adjusting for inflation I'm earning no more than I was over 4 years ago.

    I'm on £38k and most contractors in my office are on £50 and hour for doing essentially the same job so I'd be more than happy to go PAYE on those rates..

    I'm just curious what my 6-7 years are worth on the job market versus someone with 3-4.. Perhaps there's only one way to find out
     
  5. dowie

    Caporegime

    Joined: 29 Jan 2008

    Posts: 48,292

    Unless Engineering is radically different with rigid pay structures etc.. then the 6-7 years vs 3-4 years comparisons are probably a bit meaningless...

    The general thing to do would be to jump ship if you want a pay rise. At least in tech/finance someone working 3 years in one place, 2 in another then say 3 in another would generally be earning more than someone spending 8 in the same place.

    Obvs you have moved and it doesn't seem to have worked out for you, however it seems like your early move after a couple of years was to some job that wasn't much different to a new grad role anyway?

    If you're going for experienced roles now then obvs you don't want to job hop too much but 2 years at a new place then another jump could get you a couple of nice salary boosts.

    Also just in general, keeping your CV out there and attending interviews every so often even if not looking to move could be helpful, keep an eye on current rates, how in demand you are etc... plus a job offer can end up with a counter offer by your current employer... which you could take, stick around bit then job hunt again with a higher base to go from.

    Engineering might be different if it is structured into pay grades etc.. but generally in most jobs your next job offer is heavily influenced by your current salary and job hopping gives you a bigger pay boost than most annual pay rises (unless promoted) albeit you don't want to do it too often...

    So things like accepting a counter offer to boost pay then looking again in 6 months -1 year can be sweet moves to make.
     
  6. Fusion

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 10,487

    Location: Notts

    Your salary is around market rate given your experience, so I wouldn’t say you’re being undervalued (from another engineer!).

    Nothing wrong with wanting the best you can get, though. Browse Glassdoor, Payscale and other sites to get a better understanding of what different roles at other companies are paying (including senior positions).

    Engineering isn’t mega well paid compared to some professions, particularly finance/tech. You really need to get into a supervisory role to up your earnings properly. Equivalent jobs to what you’re doing now will probably be paying ballpark the same figure you’re on.
     
  7. Buffman

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 4 May 2007

    Posts: 7,689

    Location: Warwickshire

    I would say it seems lowish but depends on the individual.

    OP, Have you put your cv out to market/gauged your value against other jobs?

    Fwiw ive got about 6 years postgraduate experience
    Company 1 - 18 months
    Company 2 - 2.5 years
    Company 3 - 1.5 years (thus far)

    And when moving i have always expected/recieved a pay uplift
     
  8. Fusion

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 10,487

    Location: Notts

    Based on?
     
  9. Buffman

    Sgarrista

    Joined: 4 May 2007

    Posts: 7,689

    Location: Warwickshire

    I work in construction engineering, with similar qualifications and experience. Im basing on roles i would apply for/salary bands.

    Of course its fairly anecdotal, just based on friends/colleagues experience. Based around Birmingham for reference.
     
  10. delta0

    Soldato

    Joined: 21 Oct 2012

    Posts: 5,404

    Location: London

    I worked in engineering for about 7 years after graduation. Managed to rise up to a senior role in that time and was just shy of 40k. An opportunity came up in tech (they approached me) and I jumped on it. A big pay rise, performance related pay (bonuses, shares etc.) and get to work in London. It feels like a different world to where I was. I’m still doing engineering related stuff but it’s much more research focused. The attitude to engineers in tech is vastly different. It’s also a much flatter organisation so a promotion is quite a big jump.

    Engineering is fun but it feels archaic compared to other industries.
     
  11. Fusion

    Capodecina

    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 10,487

    Location: Notts

    What was your role previously, and now?
     
  12. delta0

    Soldato

    Joined: 21 Oct 2012

    Posts: 5,404

    Location: London

    Working in aerospace engineering. Design, simulation and materials. Worked across products and research. Now focused on research in a tech company. I work with industry doing new things with the software that we can try and automate, finding new things the software should be doing and developing new ideas for the products/prototypes.

    I work with automotive and aerospace mostly. I’ve been able to work with a huge range of companies across the world which has given me incredible insight into the industries. There is always a big element of unknown with the projects as we know the released software probably won’t solve the problem so I work with the research software development teams to try and make new prototypes that can solve the problem. Helps keep the products relevant to the industry needs and at the cutting edge.

    Every job has its down sides and this is no different. It is tech so it is intensely fast paced and you really have to keep up with the latest tech and help drive the industry. It can be long hours at times and have big workloads. In the back of your head you always know that you could walk in one day and they have decided you are no longer relevant to the new direction the company is taking and you are gone. The company will try and reinvent itself every 6-12 months and sometimes there will be layoffs so they can hire new people. The pay makes up for it greatly but I know it will be tough to find another job like this if I am let go one day, at least in the UK anyway. I’m doing some machine learning courses at the moment so that I can open up new opportunities within my current company but also I may be able to stay in tech if the worst happened.
     
  13. SPG

    Soldato

    Joined: 28 Jul 2010

    Posts: 6,484

    Ahh the poor engineer, alas we are stuck in a backward industry that just happens to be really interesting and is offset by poor pay unless you stop doing all the interesting stuff turn to project planning/managing.

    Its not really poor pay its just less than what your worth.
     
  14. Electroshadow

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 12 Dec 2006

    Posts: 1,329

    Civil Engineering here for 18 years and the only advice I can give if you are motivated by pay is Contracting. I started contracting in 2003 and have done nothing but that since, work-wise engineering is pretty safe form a recession point of view although the pay side is still very draconian in that we don't get paid that much on the salary side and progression is hampered by aging bums on seats enjoying the easy life :)
    the only problem is that the government has moved IR35 into the limelight of the employer but the rules have always been the same and nothing has changed, now we have to deal with the blanket everything is inside statement :( (its only really a problem for the proverbial contractor chasing more pay)

    If you are Perm at the moment, then a move to contracting would still more than likley double you're wage even under PAYE (I know you mechanical engineers get paid more than the poor civils:D)