It’s no secret that engineers switch jobs quite often. In this article, I’ll discuss eight reasons why engineers leave their jobs.
Bear in mind, engineers are a diverse bunch with different quirks and life ambitions. But in my time in the trenches, I’ve seen that engineers tend to split from their gigs for one (or a mix) of the following reasons.
#1 Lack of learning opportunities
Ever feel like a hamster on a wheel, running but not really getting anywhere? Some jobs are like that. Picture yourself designing residential lighting day in and day out. Sure, lighting calculations might seem fun at first, but after a while, it’s about as exciting as watching paint dry.
Then there are those gigs where you’re stuck with your nose in paperwork more often than an accountant during tax season. You slogged through years of engineering education for this? Engineers itching for a challenge usually start scanning the job boards sooner rather than later.
Every job should feel like a fair trade. I mean, I know I like to clock out feeling a bit sharper than when I clocked in. Just imagine working for years, copying and pasting code snippets, only to be suddenly let go. You’d be at a huge disadvantage in the job market due to your lack of deep skills!
#2 Feeling undervalued as an engineer
Picture this: you’re in a tech company, working as an engineer. But, the harsh truth is, you’re at the bottom of the corporate ladder, treated like you’re less than everyone else. Now that’s a real kick in the teeth, especially when the company’s whole product or service revolves around tech.
Every worker – engineer or not – wants to feel like they’re worth something. We engineers, in particular, thrive on things like competitive salaries and benefits, bosses who value our opinions, and managers who actually get what we do.
However, when we’re treated like dirt or our words fall on deaf ears, it’s no wonder we start scanning the job ads. That also goes for when we’re swamped with work and faced with impossible deadlines, while the higher-ups seem to do shit.
#3 Playing favorites and internal squabbles
Imagine your boss always choosing a certain group of engineers over you. And the kicker? It’s not because they’re more skilled or hardworking – it’s just favoritism. When climbing the corporate ladder isn’t fair and open, it’s like you’re spinning your wheels.
Who wants to slog their guts out for years, only to see someone who does half your work get the promotion? It’s beyond frustrating when you’re pulling your weight and others aren’t, but they still get the golden treatment.
Political games among engineers can be poison, especially when common sense goes out the window. It tarnishes the workplace culture and creates bad blood.
#4 Working with assholes
You know that one person you absolutely can’t stand? Now picture them as your boss. It’s like living a never-ending nightmare, and even the commute to work seems torturous.
Work should be a haven, not a place where you’re constantly on pins and needles, always looking over your shoulder. This kind of tension not only smothers productivity, but it can also make you hate your existence.
And, to add insult to injury, imagine if your boss stole credit for all your hard work. No company should ever allow such toxic personalities to fester, as they’re like repellent to talented employees.
#5 Office politics: The corporate swamp
Some big engineering firms are slower than molasses, with not a hint of excitement from one week to the next. This is usually the result when office politics eclipse the importance of products and customers.
To get something done, you might have to jump through a ridiculous number of hoops. It’s not just exasperating; it also puts a damper on technical progress. Engineers struggle to get any steam behind their work.
I’ve seen huge companies where every decision is a chain of approvals that leads all the way up to the top. Weeks could go by before you can even start a technical design.
This kind of inefficiency is enough to drive any self-respecting engineer up the wall. And naturally, they start dreaming about a new job—one where they can make a difference without roadblocks at every turn.
#6 A Case of the ‘Is that all there is?’
One morning, you might be hit with an existential crisis. You realize you’ve been designing screws your entire career. Screws! Suddenly, you’re questioning, “What on earth have I been doing with my life?!”
It’s like your very own midlife crisis.
So, you start scrambling for something that’ll give you a greater sense of purpose.
That’s why so many engineers are drawn to companies like Tesla and SpaceX, despite the insane work hours. They have deeply embedded missions that strike a chord with people—missions that outshine most other companies.
Plainly put, many engineering gigs aren’t fulfilling. You could be doing some obscure task that has no tangible meaning to you. Mix that with a life-changing ‘aha’ moment, and that sense of unfulfillment can hit like a ton of bricks.
#7 Living out of a suitcase
You might have landed the best job on the planet with fantastic pay, awesome colleagues, and thrilling projects, but if you’re constantly traveling, it’s bound to lose its sparkle fast. I mean, who enjoys catching flights 2 to 3 times a week and calling hotel rooms home?
And if you have a family waiting for you back home, things get trickier.
So, too much travel can be a game-changer for many, especially as you get older and your responsibilities start piling up.
#8 Stepping up the lifestyle game
Life seems to be throwing curveballs at us with every passing year. So, if a job promises a better lifestyle, that’s reason enough to consider a switch, especially if you’ve got a family counting on you.
A better lifestyle can include perks like:
- A better salary
- Better benefits
- A nicer neighborhood
- Fewer work hours
- The option to work from home
These factors can nudge someone towards switching jobs or, paradoxically, make them stick to a job they detest.
Take this for example: you’re not feeling fulfilled and you don’t feel valued as an engineer in your current company. But, if your pay packet is twice as hefty as anywhere else, you might just put up with the bullshit. That’s why I reckon this factor is a biggie on our list.
“Why engineers leave their jobs” wrap up
If you’re even toying with the idea of quitting your job, chances are one of these 8 factors is starting to bug you. And the longer you stick around, the worse it’s likely to get.
To turn things around, jot down what grinds your gears about your job. Then list out what you’re really looking for in your next gig.
I’ve even penned down thoughts on the work-life balance of engineers. This could help you zero in on the perfect job that aligns with your personality.
Once you have your wishlist, get on the job hunt. But remember, without due diligence, you might discover the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
And remember, don’t abandon ship until you’ve got another gig lined up. Don’t let your frustration cloud your better judgment.
Why do you think engineers leave their jobs? In the future, do you think there will be new reasons why engineers will leave their jobs?
SUBSCRIBE TO ENGINEER CALCS NEWSLETTER
Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, our history and future, sports, and fitness.