It gets disheartening (and I'm not the one out of work): I receive an increasing number of emails from engineers who've been out of work for more than a year, sometimes more than two.
We know that this is not a problem restricted to engineers, and we do know that the over-45 crowd seems to suffer more than other age groups.
It's always easy to say (when you're employed) "well that's not me. My situation would be entirely different were I laid off. I'm smarter, luckier, sexier etc." Maybe. Maybe not.
Often smarts or luck shines through because you reassess your situation and get honest with yourself.
That's Norm Morin's take.
He wrote about his post-layoff experiences, and it's worth sharing as inspiration:
"I was happily working as a manager of a small group of diagnostic engineers at a startup when high tech nuclear winter hit in 2002. In the first round of downsizing , all of my small group except for me was terminated. The next round of cuts pushed me out the door. After a few interviews, I realized that there was no hiring boom. The government was not going to “give” me a job. The government did provide unemployment benefits that are intended to assist people in transition. Opportunities were scarce so I made my own opportunity. NKC Systems was created to provide computer repair and consulting services. Initially, it was a one man show. I worked out of my home and car. While purchasing advertising with the local newspaper, I inquired about writing a computer column. The newspaper accepted my offer and “On the technical side” has appeared weekly in the Lowell Sun since February 2003. The column has helped establish me as a local computer expert. It took a few years but eventually, I had more work than I could handle. In 2007, NKC Systems opened an office in Dracut, Mass., and hired employees. A year later, NKC Systems was incorporated.
Everyone should never forget that they are responsible for managing their careers. While I earn much less than when I worked in engineering, I have more control over my destiny. It was no fun being laid off but it really was an opportunity that I was fortunate to recognize."
Well said. Thank you Norm.
Who else has been through a similar situation, looked in the mirror and reinvented him or herself?
I know an middle age engineer that moves between jobs and lives in hotel rooms for months/years. He's not unemployed, but he is miserable, is single, and in poor health. He probably spends so much on living on the road that others who stay put may actually earn more. As Ben Franklin said," Three moves are as bad as a fire". While I stayed in the same place and was unemployed for a little while at times, but am just as miserable or less, single, and in better health. And from the looks of his car, cloths, and food, I may have about the same amount of quality of life materialistically.
Biggest employment problem engineers face is a reluctance to relocate. The unemployment rate for engineeers who are willing to relocate to where the jobs are is approaching 0%.
Been unemployed for more than a year? Sell your house and move someplace that isn't dying (from a technology jop standpoint). I have moved in excess of 1000 miles, 4 times in the last 20 years in my career and have never been unemployed (moved from one position to another).
New grads are at the bottom of the marketable skills range.
Very few new grads have the in depth experience it takes to be a productive engineer. In my experience a new grad takes between 1 to 2 years of on the job training before they become real contributors.
Employers are looking for people who can solve their problems now, not 2 years from now. Short sighted I agree, but considering how many experienced engineers are on the job market why would anyone be willing to fund a new engineers apprenticeship?
In the west it seems we value lawyers, accountants, financial analysts, doctors, etc. Work for them might slow in slow times, but they still have a nice income even then. For engineers it seems we have a binary salary - all or none. To leverage a phrase from Willy Nelson - "Mamma don't let your babies grow up to be engineers".
You see both types at meetings. There are the chair warmers, and then there are the go-getters who are not afraid to speak up (even if they are NOT head honchos) and create meaningful input. Whether or not the HH chair warmers listen is a whole 'nother issue.