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chemeng421 (Chemical) (OP)
17 Jul 08 2:43
I am a chemical engineer, and while I enjoy the field I have to admit that I have disliked the majority of locations I have worked in.  I recently found a job I really like in a location I love.  The problem is, like every job in the engineering field in the US these days, it is not secure.  I want to stay in this location, so I don't have to go back to working in a refinery in Oklahoma, because I hated it so much.  I hated everything about that job, the location, the work environment.  I never want to go back to that again.  

I want to get an assessment from other engineers in the field, particularly mechanical and chemical, where have you worked that you hated the most?  What jobs have you hated the most?  And why?  

How do you avoid not having to move out of a location you love?  Every one of my former colleagues is trying to suck me back into the lifestyle of moving from one crappy place to another, working night shifts, for not much more pay than what I am getting now.  I hate working like that, even if that is where the jobs are, to the point that it is not worth it even for the challenge and the money.  Now that I have a family in the location I live in, I really don't want to uproot them.  I hated living in Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey and Georgia and I know that it isn't for them either.  No offense to those who live there, but it really wasn't for me.  Now it seems like all the jobs are going there, and I don't want to go with them.  Should I just change careers?  I hate the idea of moving back to the south or midwest in particular.
Helpful Member!  moltenmetal (Chemical)
17 Jul 08 8:08
Man, that's a tough one.  Here's how I solved it for myself.  When I graduated, I plunked myself down in the geometric centre of the largest concentration of jobs in my part of the country.  Not chem eng jobs, but just jobs, period.  I stayed away from the region which had the most obvious concentration of chem eng jobs- that was a chem eng ghetto from what I could see.

Once settled, I refused to move, whether that was to chase jobs or to chase women.  I turned away jobs that were too far away, and I turned away women that didn't want to stay in the city where I was living.  Three different jobs, all within 45 minutes drive of where I was living- and fortunately, one very good woman!  And no regrets.  It's a good solution if you're a good generalist, and you like living in cities- and hopefully if you find the right woman!

The trouble is, I found a GREAT job right at the edge of my range of tolerable commute.  It wasn't a great job from day one, there was a risk associated with it, and I was too stubborn and superstitious to move.  If I moved, I'd have felt trapped, because the job options within a reasonable commute of THAT location were much poorer.  So I stayed put.  That was twelve years ago...I tell my co-workers that I'm their good luck charm.  Murphy's Law says that the day I move to the suburb our plant is in is the day the place starts to go downhill in a hurry!

I know of four chem engs living on my street, myself included.  I'm the only one of the four doing chemical engineering per se.  Of the seven engineers I know, I'm the only one doing design engineering.  So it would seem that many have taken the location-over-career approach.  Or just given up on chem eng when the market was down, or were unable to find a decent chem eng job right out of university- and never looked back.  In basic salary terms, I doubt the other three are doing any worse than I am.

Which job did I hate the most?  Fortunately I had co-op terms during university to help me figure out what chem engs did, and what of that I could stand- and what really turned my crank.  So I avoided the really bad jobs.  For me, aside from work that's just plain dull, the situations to avoid are ones where you have responsibility but no authority, and design jobs where you don't get to see the results of your design work.  The former make you a stressed-out basket case, and the latter make you a bad engineer.  Oh yeah- and I stay away from companies big enough to have a human resources "department" (ie. they're too big to treat their employees as human beings), and I avoid public companies (ie. whose shareholders are idiots).  Learned the last two after working for a small branch of a big public company with an insane HR department.  Don't worry, it imploded, so there's no risk of YOU working there!
GregLocock (Automotive)
17 Jul 08 8:55
My advice is completely uninformed. Chem eng seems rather interesting technically. If you can get a job that interests you, near where you want to live, and provides enough money to do what you need, then why move? Just cos your buddies earn more in return for night shifts in nasty places, so what? You do what you want.

Frankly I could earn more elsewhere, yet being able to cycle from work to the yacht club and being able to race after work on Wednesdays, is a benefit beyond reasonable recompense.


 

Cheers

Greg Locock

SIG:Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

cranky108 (Electrical)
17 Jul 08 9:39
I just moved from close to one of the area you described. And I took the approch what jobs are in locations that I would actually want to live.

There are some industries, that are more stable than others. Have you looked at something close to what you like doing?
Helpful Member!  cksh (Mechanical)
17 Jul 08 12:06
I moved to Michigan in the early 90's because of the CAD work.  Don't really like living here but there were so many jobs back then.  But around 2000 or so it really got bad.

But I was going to night classes to get my BSME.  As soon as I got that more jobs opened up for me.

I am currently in Automotive and it's still bad but if you don't care what you do there are jobs up here.  Talked with some people I worked with that have found new jobs up here within the last month.  And I still get calls for work in the area.

The worse job I ever had?  All of them ;)  They all had there pros/cons.  Currently I am working some place where I don't really like the work but it's great pay and I still have a job ;)

 
josephv (Mechanical)
17 Jul 08 12:42
quote of the week:

"The worse job I ever had?  All of them ;)  "

Brilliant cksh! stars for you
chemeng421 (Chemical) (OP)
17 Jul 08 13:12
Great responses from everyone here.  Well I'm in the alternative fuels industry, which is really awesome.  Love my job, love where I live, boss is great, but it is an industry as many of you know that is just starting up so theres always a huge chance of failure.  I thought about going back east again when I first moved here but I guess living on the west coast has changed some of my ways of life and my perspectives, too.  It has certainly changed what I want to do with my career, wherever the business I'm in right now is going I still only want to pursue green projects.  

I'd love to be able to cycle to work everyday like my boyfriend does.  It definitely improves his quality of life, as well.  Unfortunately where I work now is in the middle of no where so I pretty much have to commute, but it is still great.  Working in a refinery taught me that I don't ever want to work in one again.  And I especially don't ever want to live near one.  Plus, I really didn't like working with those guys either.  If I went back to doing that, I think I'd be miserable.  Oh yeah, coops taught me a lot too.

My parents think I'm crazy and that I should have a "real career", which means I should be doing something other than biofuels, and that I'm shouldn't have gotten too attached to where I live because I might have to move again.  The thing is, I would rather change careers than move.  Being happy where you live, that's all part of being happy with your career, right?

Thanks for the responses.
chemeng421 (Chemical) (OP)
17 Jul 08 13:27
"Which job did I hate the most?  Fortunately I had co-op terms during university to help me figure out what chem engs did, and what of that I could stand- and what really turned my crank.  So I avoided the really bad jobs.  For me, aside from work that's just plain dull, the situations to avoid are ones where you have responsibility but no authority, and design jobs where you don't get to see the results of your design work.  The former make you a stressed-out basket case, and the latter make you a bad engineer.  Oh yeah- and I stay away from companies big enough to have a human resources "department" (ie. they're too big to treat their employees as human beings), and I avoid public companies (ie. whose shareholders are idiots).  Learned the last two after working for a small branch of a big public company with an insane HR department.  Don't worry, it imploded, so there's no risk of YOU working there!"

Yeah molten I agree completely.  I'm not even thirty yet and I've had the bad experience of those two jobs.  It's like you get yelled at for every problem, even those not in your departments control, but then you get no credit for what you do.   Then there's the design jobs where you have engineers from four or five different consulting groups plus your engineers working on things at and miscommunicating.  I still think both jobs are sometimes what you have to deal with at work, any work, but its nice not have to deal with it all of the time.  I always tell aspiring chemical engineering students to do at least 2 co-ops during their education, so they get a feel for what it's really like.  Knowing you may have to work in a refinery and knowing that your major is really hard is a bad combination, enough for some people to turn on their heels, even if the money's good.  Now that I work for a small business and don't have HR folks to go through to talk to my boss, like my old job.  Things just get done, which is what I like.
moltenmetal (Chemical)
17 Jul 08 14:48
chemeng421:  just re-read my own post and figure I'd better clarify:  I've had three jobs and found one good woman (who I had the good sense to marry!), whereas my post might have been interpreted to mean that I turned these away...  I did turn a few of both away (and was turned away from/by a few of both...) but who's counting?!  A few scars make you tougher- and wiser!

Good on ya for getting the biofuels job.  You're relatively young- what's to risk by staying where you are and enjoying yourself while it lasts?  What the @#$*()# do your parents think is a "real career"?  One where some big company tells you where to live?  

Believe me, it feels riskier as you get older, rather than vice versa, because you tend to have more on the line (house, kids etc. etc.).  Take the "risky" stuff now, and benefit from it.  Your priorities might veer off in unexpected directions if/when you have kids.

Sounds like you're about as good at tolerating bullsh*t as I am.  Too bad- you're condemned to needing interesting work!  That limits your career options somewhat...but properly handled, it can be a good recipie.  People spend enough of their lives at work that they'd better like what they're doing- or risk sucking at it, and driving their co-workers nuts.

You'll be happiest when your work doesn't offend your sense of morality, for lack of a better word.  I do see a future in "green projects" as you put it, too.  But don't make the same mistake that I did initially and define your idea of a "green" or "environmental" job too narrowly.  I started out cleaning up the mistakes of the past, thinking this was virtuous, and I starved AND was miserable.  Now I help develop the technology of the future, and am both (relatively) well compensated (and treated), and satisfied.  And I'd argue that my current job has had a whole lot more to do with "greening" the world than my former one did.  I'm helping people make the products and materials and energy they need while wasting less energy, less raw materials, producing less waste etc.  Before, I was cleaning up compounds that people voluntarily expose themselves to daily, from water and soil that in a great many casese, nobody will ever come into contact with anyway...

Best of luck-
csd72 (Structural)
7 Aug 08 11:16
I am sure people told bill gates that he should get 'a real career' when he started fiddling around with computers. The ordinary and safe way may be a guarantee not to fail but it is also a guarantee not to excell.

Do something you enjoy, at best it will give you the passion to excell, at worst it will just be an enjoyable way to earn a paycheck.

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