Discussion Thread

Time for a Change?

  • 1.  Time for a Change?

    Posted 06-06-2022 10:13 AM
    Every now and then, I'm willing to bet that many of us find ourselves taking a step back from our daily tasks to try to reflect on some bigger picture thoughts about our careers. We might think about the duration of time we have been employed in our current positions, or about the type of work that we do. We might fixate briefly on the things we dislike about our current role, and then consider the parts we are okay with. But what happens next? Do we decide that "the grass is always greener" and continue in our current role, or do we make a change?

    I am hoping to learn from others who have changed careers (or made other changes)  throughout their lives. Was there a single major event which made you decide it was time for something new? Did the feeling grow persistently over time instead? Did a new opportunity drop right in front of you that you knew you had to go after?

    How did you know it was time for a change?

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 2.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 06-07-2022 10:15 AM
    Christopher:

    My early-in-my-career "big picture" story --

    During the late 1960s I was struggling to decide if I should continue engineering graduate studies.  I was troubled by a conversation I had with my grandmother when I was 27 years old and still in school. She and I had a great relationship, beginning in my childhood. She was a hard-working, kind, and classy lady whose formal education ended with the fifth grade.

    During a visit with her, she asked me what I was doing, and I said I was at the university studying engineering. Her abrupt response, clearly remembered fifty years later: "Stuart, you are 27 years old and don't have a job. What a shame."

    That hurt. Was I studying to avoid work or to prepare for it?

    At that time, by a great coincidence, I stumbled across engineering professor Hardy Cross' 1952 book Engineers and Ivory Towers. I read many
    insightful thoughts such as, paraphased, "an engineer cannot know a little about everything until he/she first learns much about one thing" and "thoroughly explore a topic, find out what has been done, what should be done, what can be done." 

    Cross's book helped me realize that I enjoyed being a student, in the broad sense of the word. I wanted to be a perpetual student, which meant I better find employment situations in which I could be a "student." I did-in academia, government, and business. Cross put me on a student-for-life-track, and I never got off.

    Stuart G. Walesh, PhD, PE
    stu-walesh@...



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    Stu Walesh PhD, PE
    Consultant - Teacher - Author
    219-242-1704
    www.HelpingYouEngineerYourFuture.com
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  • 3.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 06-15-2022 09:21 AM
    Seek new opportunities with your current employer. If you find yourself still restless, start looking, even if you end up staying. Then you may have fewer questions about what-ifs.

    Keep your resume current. It'll remind you of your victories and what you enjoy.

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    Tsee Lee, A.M.ASCE
    General Services Administration
    New York, NY
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  • 4.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 08-04-2022 05:23 PM
    I relate to what you want to express. Time to change is something we think of when there is a factor of money, happiness, and idealist. And as a young adult, I feel the pressure around me, like I have to improve at the same time wanting an instant result. There's is lot of saying to encounter like having more source of income, promising investments, but in reality we're just moving by the expenses of living and not because of what we want. For example I am a Civil engineering student, having compassion about providing solutions to earthly problems, I want to contribute in designing structures, transportation strategies, solid waste management, climate change, etc. But deeply in my heart I also want to be in the entertainment industry like modeling, singing, acting which I don't have any experience yet because I am prioritizing my decent career. I also watched a video of Alibaba owner who says in 20s-30s I should have been trying all of my dreams, in 40s - 50s should have been a foundation of business, and so on. Then, there is also exterior problems because our situation is not consistent as it is sometimes we need to focus in mental health, and it depends of what you need. But maybe, we shouldn't be bother because we are exactly where we needed to be.

    Ps. Wanted to see your replies please, and to read more about their other opinions. Thankful.


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    Llala Chrishaye Ocampo Aff.M.ASCE
    Student
    City of General Trias Cavite
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  • 5.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 08-05-2022 10:38 AM
    Having a professional development plan associated with one's company provides a path upon which to focus.

    However, I always asked myself the following questions:
    1) Am I learning or growing professionally?
    2) Am I helping or contributing?


    If the answer was "no" to both questions, I looked to move on.
    If the answer was "yes" to no. 1 only, I looked to stay conditionally.
    If the answer was "yes" to no. 2 only, I looked to stay conditionally based solely on a professional development plan, either the company's or my own.

    At the least (bare minimum), I have to be learning or growing professionally. For me, a relationship with a company should be mutually beneficial and beyond simply a paycheck. For others, the check may provide all that one needs and that is okay, too.


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    James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal/Owner
    POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
    Yorktown, VA
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  • 6.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 08-08-2022 10:50 AM
    Thanks James! I like how simply you were able to explain that. I can envision many cases where it is possible to answer No to #1 and Yes to #2, but I would be interested in hearing more about how it is possible to do the opposite (i.e. grow professionally while not helping/contributing).

    Thanks again for your thoughts.​​

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 7.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 08-08-2022 06:32 PM
    Christopher, let me lead by stating that our perceptions of our project contributions are often subjective, singular and relative. When a task or job one is performing does not match the job description, one may "feel" as though one is not contributing (relatively speaking).

    There are cases where one may develop skill sets indirectly related to one's job description, but vital to the office.
    There are cases where one's efforts may be viewed as contributing to future success.
    In small firms, the young engineer may be the one that performs filing, discarding and scanning of engineering records and data. When knowing where to locate information beats actual knowledge, the young engineer may have unknowingly developed a invaluable reference system.






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    James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal/Owner
    POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
    Yorktown, VA
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  • 8.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 08-09-2022 12:28 PM
    Spoiler Alert (LOL!): Being a young engineer is like the character of "Daniel LaRusso" needing to learn Karate in the 1984 movie "The Karate Kid".
    Impatient and not understanding how he was learning the basics by washing and waxing a car (did he also do the hanging laundry drill). Wanting to perform like all the other kids. Wondering when his training would start. Frustrated and wanting to quit until Mr. Miyagi demonstrates to Daniel that he had indeed been training (via familiar movements without the pressure of trying & having to wire the brain to do something new).

    All interactions and management teams are not the same nor ideal. While patience is important, being an advocate for your professional career is important. Recognize the difference between small steps and a path that leads to nowhere in a company. When given those "odd" task, do not be afraid to ask "What's the plan?", "How long will I be tackling this task?" Ask for a professional development plan. Hopefully that plan is filled with training, a tuition reimbursement program and milestones.

    As young engineers we envision being part of the larger and critical projects when we see the senior guys heading to meetings with big clients or called to attend a meeting with a manager or director. We wonder when our time will come. No need to worry. Your time will come.

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    James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal/Owner
    POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
    Yorktown, VA
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  • 9.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 08-11-2022 11:32 AM
    Thanks a bunch James.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 10.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 08-22-2022 10:23 AM

    James, I love your whole take on this discussion and have asked myself these same questions every time I've considered making a move. As I've advanced further along in my career, I find myself also adding the following:

    3. Do I feel recognized for my contributions/efforts?



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    Brandy Martinez A.M.ASCE
    Associate, Environmental Engineering
    Garland TX
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  • 11.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 08-22-2022 05:29 PM
    Brandy, providing that feeling or feedback is something that management, project or group leads may take for granted. Depending of the level of associated stress and the leader, that recognition/feedback may not come until the source of the stress is removed. Typically, there is at least one that realizes the importance of providing that recognition.




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    James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal/Owner
    POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
    Yorktown, VA
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  • 12.  RE: Time for a Change?

    Posted 08-17-2022 10:15 PM
    Thank you @Christopher Seigel for starting this conversation.

    We are having a similar conversation tomorrow, August 18 on retaining civil engineering talent you can register here. ​

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    Tirza Austin
    Senior Manager, Online Community
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive
    Reston, VA 20191
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