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Calvin Asks: Time to throw in the towel?
I’m a young professional engineer and have been working with my current employer for the past seven years. I’ve applied for a few different internal roles during my time here that I feel would improve my personal and professional development but on every occasion I’ve been turned down.

I’ve been keeping up to date with my CPD and have attended many events and conferences etc related to my industry and have been on many internal training courses. However, the feedback I’m getting is that I don’t have enough experience for the roles I’m applying for? But how do I move forward with my career if I keep getting turned down for the roles that will give me more experience?

Is it time to throw in the towel and start looking to move to another employer or should I stick it out for a bit longer?

Overlooked and frustrated - Manchester
 
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9 Replies
I think you have to look at are the roles you are applying for - has this been a path that has been suggested to you by a manager or senior people in your department? 

If you keep getting told that you don't have enough experience are you applying for roles that are at a much higher grade than you are at, so trying to miss out steps in your career ladder? 

Can you ask your manager what is going wrong and if they could suggest a way to reach your goal. 

If not, then it may be time to move on.
Sorry if this sounds harsh, but maybe it is time to move on - 7 years at a company with no progression is a long time.
Perhaps have one more attempt at getting specific feedback from your line manager about how you can get the relevant experience in the company.
Consider some career coaching

Good luck!
You could also see if your IET Local Network is running any Lifeskills courses, or better still, get involved with the LN and run it yourself.  It may not just be the experience, so other experiences could help - volunteering in your field could be one for one.  The lifeskills cover other areas that may be lacking like assertiveness, presenting, Taking control of your career and many more. 
Andy Millar
1784 Posts

Calvin T. Engineer:
I’m a young professional engineer and have been working with my current employer for the past seven years. I’ve applied for a few different internal roles during my time here that I feel would improve my personal and professional development but on every occasion I’ve been turned down.

This is where you find out who your real friends are - it's well worth trying to find out why you keep being turned down. It might be the company, in which case go for another job. But if it's something to do with you then you may struggle to find that other job as well. Maybe you're too quiet? Too aggressive? Too much focused on your own work at the expense of other people's? Too much focused on other people's work at the expense of your own? Know your work but can't talk about it clearly? Talk a lot but your work doesn't seem to back it up? To make it worse, it often it appears that someone shows one or more of these traits when actually they don't have them - it's just how they come across.

The best thing, if you can, is to find a manager (it doesn't have to be your manager) in the company who will be honest with you. It's absolutely fine to ask for a chat, all (competent) managers want staff to progress - it's good for everybody, including the company. Be prepared to hear some things you may not want to hear - but if you know of any weaknesses in your work, or problems in the way you come across to others, you can either change and develop, or you can make sure that you are applying for jobs that really suit you.

Be very careful listening to "mates" who try to make you feel better by either saying it's disgusting that you didn't get a job, or that it's a conspiracy by the company, or that you're better off without it. They may be right, but it's very likely they are just trying to make you feel better in the moment. 


Doing all this before you start applying for jobs elsewhere is really good if you can - sadly many employers don't give candidates very good feedback (for all sorts of reasons), which makes it hard to learn lessons from the recruitment process. But also, candidates do very much better if they apply for jobs with a really clear idea of their strengths and weaknesses.


You haven't said where you are with professional registration (EngTech / IEng / CEng) - but if you haven't applied yet it could be well worth it. Not just for the added credibility on your CV, but also because it will give you a chance to sit down with a Professional Registration Adviser who will impartially help you look through your career strengths and weaknesses, and again this might give you a clue either as to what is holding you back at your company, or give you some ideas of how you could spread your wings elsewhere.

And finally, I would particularly recommend the IET's Mentoring service - not nearly enough people take advantage of this, it's a free way of getting one-to-one independent and confidential advice from an experienced professional engineer in your field. https://www.theiet.org/membership/career/mentoring/iservice/index.cfm

Good luck!

Thanks, Andy  

John Mann
60 Posts
A very good reply by Andy.
Another reason for lack of promotion within a company can be the "too valuable where you are" effect i.e. you are doing a fantastic job for not much pay so your boss blocks any move!

John.
In addition to the other links that have been mentioned there's the Career section on the IET website.  Plus if you're in Manchester, Google Digital Garage are running some great free short courses now that might be of help to you as well.
Roy Bowdler
847 Posts
Most has already been said.

“When I was one and twenty I heard a wise man say” (A E Housman). If you stick around in the same place people will still see you as the “jack the lad” apprentice that you were, not what you have become.  

Fortunately at the time, I worked for a huge national organisation, with vacancies always being advertised, if you were willing to relocate. Initially I had to move for “operational reasons”, but then found myself repeatedly knocked-back, despite working days off to study part-time, there was a surplus of people in the grade above needing to be accommodated.  So I rather gave up (aka “threw in the towel”) and focussed my energies on other things (including becoming a Union Rep, Branch Secretary of a voluntary group and joining the Territorial Army). Within a year my local Personnel Officer suggested that I applied for a role that I wasn’t aware of and I had to be gently persuaded to do so. There was a competitive interview process, but the recruiting manager had seen potential in “jack the lad” and wanted me on his shortlist, so I had been “tapped-up”. Another promotion opportunity came perhaps rather to soon, in another part of the country and colleagues encouraged me to apply, successfully as it turned out, head of a small department at 27.   

I’m probably just re-phrasing some other’s advice, but try to step out of your situation and survey the landscape of opportunities for people with your skills. Hopefully you will identify some potential options worth considering. Also try to understand your own motivations and broader talents, not just skills in your current job. Someone mentioned “career counselling”, I tend to think of a psychometric personality instrument as part of that, to help you understand yourself better. However the better ones are costly and mainly used by larger corporate HR departments. I have used Saville Wave and OPQ (both involved Peter Saville), I also used Margerison-McCann in a team context. I have a very low opinion of MBTI or derivatives.  If something like this isn’t readily available, then at least try to understand “how would I fit in” or “could I work for this person”. Someone has to be willing to take a risk on you as a leader and/or expert. Can you empathise with their perspective i.e. “stand in their shoes”. What makes you someone worth taking that chance on, are they looking for potentially “higher risk-higher reward” or a “safe pair of hands”?

If your ambitions are towards senior management, then this might help http://www.edacen.com/portfolio/MCPA_Handout_Feb_2013.pdf . I am not advocating this specific organisation having not used them, but I have sampled the methodology when it was recommended to me by another company’s equivalent manager after he had used it. If you grasp the idea of “flow” then it might help. Are you “in flow”?    

I can’t second guess the situation and motives of your current employer. Don’t make idle threats to move on, but if you are unhappy then try to open other doors, you don’t have to walk through them, but it may spur your existing employer into action. If your needs and those of your current employer are drifting apart, then part on good terms, you wouldn’t be the first person begged to stay or to come back. I agree that 7 years is too-long at an early career stage if you are stagnating.

 
Andy Millar
1784 Posts

Roy Bowdler:
If you stick around in the same place people will still see you as the “jack the lad” apprentice that you were, not what you have become.  

I've seen that happen so many times. In the worst case I can think of, I knew an engineer who only stopped being labelled as an ex-apprentice after his manager left the company - which was 20 years after his apprenticeship ended! And unfortunately we all tend to act as we are treated, which makes it a vicious circle.

But just in case anyone was wondering (although I think everyone's been clear on this), 7 years in the same company is not a problem. I was with one company for 9 years and another for 23 (and I still thought of myself as the new boy when I left!). It's 7 years in the same role where you have to be careful that you're not stagnating.

Don't make idle threats to move on

Absolutely. Really important. Some employers will fight to keep you if you say you're planning to leave, some will treat you as "dead man walking" - assuming that you will leave one day (if not today) so best not to give you anything important to do. Most companies I've worked for take the second approach most of the time. But it's fine to say internally "I'm really concerned that I'm not making the most of my abilities, and I want to do something about it" (and leave it at that). If they've got any sense your management will respond. If they haven't got sense maybe you don't want to work for them anyway!

Cheers, Andy

 

Arran Cameron
415 Posts

Calvin T. Engineer:
I’m a young professional engineer and have been working with my current employer for the past seven years. I’ve applied for a few different internal roles during my time here that I feel would improve my personal and professional development but on every occasion I’ve been turned down.

I’ve been keeping up to date with my CPD and have attended many events and conferences etc related to my industry and have been on many internal training courses. However, the feedback I’m getting is that I don’t have enough experience for the roles I’m applying for? But how do I move forward with my career if I keep getting turned down for the roles that will give me more experience?

Is it time to throw in the towel and start looking to move to another employer or should I stick it out for a bit longer?

Overlooked and frustrated - Manchester

It will probably help to look at the people who were successful in the positions that you applied for. Try to find out why they were chosen rather than you were. If there are good reasons then that explains it but if the successful candidates have genuinely questionable credentials then it could point in a direction that management are more interested in croneyism or promoting mediocrity rather than merit, or that they somehow distrust you.

What you don't want to be doing is working in a place where the management take you as a fool.

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