Engineers switch jobs often. I’m going to go over 8 reasons why engineers leave their jobs, whether at a large company or a startup.
Of course, this is a very personal question. A lot hinges on your personality and your life goals.
But from my experience, it’s always one or more of these reasons why engineers leave their jobs.
#1 Not learning enough
In some jobs, you repeat the same work over and over again. Nothing is ever new, even one-year in.
For example, you design lighting for residential homes. That’s all you do day in and day out.
Sure, it may be pretty cool to become a pro doing lighting calculations for homes…
But more times than not you’ll get bored out of your mind. Work then becomes a drag and you hate every minute of it.
There’s only so much you can learn too on how to electrically wire lights.
And then there are other roles where you don’t even do any engineering work. You simply fill out form after form without flexing your technical skills.
You didn’t go through years of engineering education to become a paper pusher. I’ve found most engineers who aren’t challenged mentally, will look for the door fast.
This is why jobs need to be mutually beneficial. I personally want to feel smarter at the end of each day to some capacity.
Now just imagine if your job is to copy and paste code snippets all day long for years on end. Then all of a sudden you get fired for one reason or another.
You’ll be at a HUGE disadvantage in the job market because you have no deep skills!
You not only forgot everything from school, but you learned nothing new in your job you were at for 10 years.
#2 Not valued as an engineer
In some companies, engineers are at the bottom of the totem pole. They’re not treated equally like all other employees.
Yes, they’re second fiddle citizens.
This can be especially depressing when your company’s product or service is tech-driven.
It goes without saying, every employee wants to feel valued for their contributions. It’s an innate human characteristic to feel wanted.
For engineers, this value comes in the following ways:
- Great pay and benefits
- Employers listen and consider their opinions
- Management includes engineers who “get it”
Because once you treat engineers like shit, or just ignore them, they’ll quickly look for the door.
This also includes overloading engineers with endless amounts of work with crazy deadlines. All the while management sits back twiddling their thumbs doing nothing productive.
#3 Favoritism and infighting
A manager chooses a group of engineers over you because of favoritism. And not because they’re more talented or better workers.
I find when moving up in a company is unfair and not transparent, you quickly feel like you’re wasting your time.
I wouldn’t want to waste years of my life busting ass, but someone who outputs half my value gets promoted.
It’s simply bullshit when people don’t carry their own weight. Yet, they still get preferential treatment over you.
I find any form of politics among engineers is toxic, especially when logic goes out the door. It ruins the company culture and just angers people with built up resentment.
#4 Working with assholes
We all know that one prick, who we dread to be around. Now imagine if that prick is your boss.
Every day would be a living hell. In fact, the commute to work every single day would be torture.
The workplace needs to be somewhere you feel comfortable. Not a place where you’re on the edge of your seat constantly looking over your shoulder.
This not only kills productivity but it’ll make you hate your life.
To make it worse, imagine if your boss took credit for everything you did while doing nothing himself.
For this reason, no business should ever tolerate rude pricks. They’re so toxic, that they can quickly purge a company of its talent.
#5 Office politics
Many large engineering companies move like molasses. Nothing eventful ever happens week in and week out.
This typically happens when office politics become more important than products and customers.
So to get anything done, you need to hop through 5 different hoops. Not only is this frustrating, but it slows technical progress. Engineers can never get any technical momentum going.
I know some large companies that for every decision you need to go speak with a higher up. This person then needs to go speak with their higher up. This entire process alone can take weeks before a single technical design starts.
Not only is this beyond inefficient, but it makes any half ambitious engineer want to pull their hair out.
Naturally, an ambitious engineer will switch jobs. They want to work in a place where they’ll instantly see their contributions. A workplace where no artificial roadblocks exist to hold them back.
#6 Feeling unfulfilled
Sometimes you wake up with deep philosophical thoughts running through your mind. All of a sudden, you realize you’ve been designing screws all your life. Yes, screws!
You say to yourself, “what the hell have I been doing all my life?!”
It’s like a midlife crisis.
So you start scrambling to find something more fulfilling to do.
Hence, why so many engineers gravitate to working at Tesla and SpaceX, despite the long work hours. Both companies have deeply entrenched missions that resonate with people. Missions that are greater than most any other company in the world.
Simply put, most engineering jobs aren’t fulfilling. You’ll do some obscure task that has no real-world tangible meaning to you.
Combine this with a life-altering ‘ah-ha’ moment, and the feeling of unfulfillment will consume you.
#7 Too much travel
You can have the best job in the world. Amazing pay, awesome co-workers, while working on amazing projects.
BUT, if you need to constantly travel, your work can get old fast. I’m talking about hopping on a plane 2 to 3 times a week. Then living in hotels.
Things become more difficult if you have a family.
So, travel can be a biggie for many people, especially the older you get. Because as you move up in age, you responsibilities typically grow.
#8 Improved standard of living
Life is becoming more challenging with every passing year. So, any job that’ll improve your standard of living is reason enough to switch jobs. More so if you’re providing for a family.
Improved standard of living can be any one of the following:
- Increased pay
- Improved benefits
- Better living zip code
- Less working hours
- Option to work remotely
These standards of living bullets can go a long way in making someone switch jobs. Or on the flip side, make someone stay at a job they hate.
For example, you may not feel fulfilled and you’re not valued as an engineer in your company.
But, getting a salary that’s twice as much as anywhere else will make up for any bullshit you need to put up with. This is why I think this marker is one of the most impactful in our list.
“Why engineers leave their jobs” wrap up
If you’re even contemplating leaving a job, then more than likely one of these 8 reasons is giving you an itch.
And the longer you stay, things more than likely will only get worse.
To improve your situation, write down what you hate about your job. Then write down what you ideally want to find in your new place of employment.
I’ve even written on the work-life balance of engineers. This will help you better find the perfect job based on your personality.
So once you have your list of requirements, start researching new jobs. Without this level of preparation, you’ll find the grass may not always be greener on the other side.
What’s more, don’t jump ship until you have another employment opportunity lined up. Don’t allow your frustrations to override your rational decision making.
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?
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2019 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.