Everyone is replaceble, it's just that some professions continue to be in demand, whether the economy is up or down, where other professions are very sensitive to the economy.
Lots of lawyers looking for work these days, actually. Teachers continue to be in demand unless the population declines. Which it isn't doing yet. Kids need to go to school even when the economy is sluggish. Government workers aren't immune either, e.g. during the BRAC closings. In many cases, even if you theoretically could keep a job of some sort, it would entail relocation to someplace you might not like.
With engineers, it all depends what kind of engineer. For those working on consumer products, clearly a slow economy means less demand for their services. For those working in defense, the early and mid 1990s were super bleak. Those working in the utilities, roads, and such, probably have steady demand for their services. And so on.
And too, when your job entails development of intellectual property, you're competing globally these days. There too, though, if the engineer is willing to relocate and make a lower salary, in a foreign country, he might just be able to continue working at his trade. Many are doing just that.
Frank: In general I agree with you a common wisdom that everyone is replaceable. This mantra applies to engineering and some other professions. But teachers, government workers, medical doctors or layers (with some exception) are largely immune to this effect. Why is that? Kris
I agree with the others, this was really well-written, emotional and suspenseful.
Engineers get indignant at the notion that others...particularly managers...might view us as interchangeable. But I don't think it's that simple. It's not that we are interchangeable, it's that we are all replaceable -- just like every other employee in the company, from the CEO to the mid-level manager who has the unpleasant task of choosing who gets laid off and who doesn't, and on down the list to the lowliest employee in the company.
Everyone is replaceable. We wish it weren't true, but it is.
If you're an engineer, the question isn't "if" you'll be laid-off, but "when," - especially as the engineer gets older. That's why engineers really need to have better people-skills. Sadly, technical smarts only go so far.
Has anyone ever figured out why most of the management (good or bad) remains in place during a layoff and the worker bees get let go. I have worked in so many companies where the technical talent is kicked out of the Kingdom them management is frustrated NPIs are moving slow, crisis are not getting fixes, etc. The people that are left behind many times, yes still being paid, have double work loads, frustrated management beating on their heads, and timelines that are unrealistic for the workforce to accomplish.
You gave me chills! I've been down that road so many times. The technique that my company used was slightly different (but no less traumatic): gather everyone in one room for a mass "bad news" announcement, then order everyone back to their desk and wait for the dreaded telephone to ring. Smearing goat's blood on the door wouldn't help, either. If an hour passed without a call, then we were passed over. Then "Who got it this time? OMG, not him?" consumed those who of us who were left.
The big one for me came while I was on vacation - a email from a co-worker informing me that the entire operation (or what was left of it) was being closed. Those vacation bills came due around the same date that that the pink slips were passed out. After 27 years, at age 56, the proverbial "don't let the door hit you on the a.." became a reality. It did a really good job of boosting my cynicism.