Mercenary Career Decisions

An ex-colleague called over the weekend and we had a quick update on each other’s status. I told him I had handed in my resignation although it had not been accepted, and we were still negotiating my staying on. I jokingly asked if his company was hiring, or whether he had other recommendations.

As it turns out, his company is hiring if I am interested. He also rattled off such a long list of global firms that I didn’t even bother to jot it down. It seems like plenty of companies are looking for engineers in my field and having difficulty filling the jobs. I also know from keeping tabs on the online job search sites that jobs in my field are plenty out there.

If I am so inclined, it appears that some of our consultants and clients in North America,AustraliaandMiddle Eastare also looking to hire experienced engineers.

I am not in a hurry to look for a new job until we settle whether I am going to stay on at the company, but it appears that I won’t really have any problems finding something if I do leave.

Surfing the web earlier, I happen to stumble across a local forum where people were expressing concern with market slowdown as well as increased competition for jobs locally. Globally, we have all been bombarded with news on the unemployment rates inU.S.and some European countries.

Should I feel guilty that I have all these choices available to me at this point?

Well, I don’t feel guilty, but lucky? Yes, very. At the same time, I like to think I get some credit for making some sensible decisions in the last decade.

In University, I chose engineering as my major purely for financial reasons. My own interests tend towards chemistry and/or biology, but a hard science degree would have been restrictive in terms of career options since R&D work is not as advanced inSingapore, not to mention the need for additional investment in further education. I believed engineering provided the greatest value for money in terms of guaranteed ROI and sufficient flexibility in terms of entry into other fields of work, and would allow me to reap the returns the soonest.

After graduation, I was recruited by aSingaporeowned company as a junior engineer. I had one of the lowest salary in my graduating batch, and my job was not in the same engineering field as my major, but after six months of unemployment and temp jobs, I was just happy enough to get a permanent job. However, I intended to hop as soon as the job market improved.

However, I observed that our industry was booming, and there was a clear shortage of qualified engineers in this field, both locally and globally. Things are generally tougher in the first two to three years in the industry due to the steep learning curve, which also coincides also with comparatively lower pay compared to other industries. After that, one can cruise, because this is one engineering field where the technology is slow to change. However, most rookies find it hard to get through the initial learning period. If I could stick it out and get at least five years of working experience under my belt, I would be in demand.

To be frank, I was only an average student; I managed to graduate with only a second-lower bachelors degree and I didn’t and still don’t have any post graduate accreditation. I am also not that good an engineer, although my soft skills gave me an edge in packaging and presenting myself. However, when no one else wants to do the job, being average is not so bad.

So, anyway, instead of bailing as I had originally intended, I did stick it out. For a good decade. For the past three years, I have been averaging around $120K annually. Pay aside, the road to the C-suite is free and clear if I wish to pursue it (which I don’t, but that’s beside the point).

I have never regretted starting off from a purely mercenary perspective when it comes to my career. Sure, I don’t love my job, and I intend to switch out from engineering in a few years time to something I really love doing, but probably wouldn’t pay as well. However, shifting down from a position of financial strength is a whole totally different ball game from having to power up a career switch from a wobbly financial foundation, so I am glad that I made the decisions I made and thankful for the luck that got me the rest of the way.

This entry was posted in Career.

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