Category Archives: Career advice

Cannibalize your present to optimize your future.

I hate to be a killjoy. So apologies in advance for starting off on a negative foot.

The bull run for engineering opportunities in aerospace has ended.

For most of the last two decades, good- to well-paying work opportunities in the western aerospace industry have not been hard to find. Indeed, the opportunities usually came hunting for you. and when one gig ended, there were five more lined up outside, waiting to snap you up.

Not any more.

Continue reading Cannibalize your present to optimize your future.

In praise of recruiters

My current work situation is unusual.

I am doing engineering work, but often find myself at a desk sandwiched between two full-time recruiters.

I have many times been chased by recruiters to go work somewhere. And I have been the company using a recruiter to source engineers.

This is the first time I’ve gotten to see the world through the recruiter’s eyes.

Continue reading In praise of recruiters

8 Ways to Not Make More Money doing engineering (or anything else)

1. Don’t ask for more.

This works for me every time. Amazing! When I don’t ask, I don’t get! Problem solved.

2. On the odd occasion when I fall off the wagon, and ask for more, I wait for an answer.

And I wait. And wait. And wait.

Waiting frequently causes the terrible insult that I’ve just delivered to be forgotten.

Eventually, I can go back to breathing easily, secure in the knowledge that nothing will change.
Continue reading 8 Ways to Not Make More Money doing engineering (or anything else)

Four things you should focus on for 2015. (And 2016, and 2017, and . . . )

Here are four ideas for how you can make a bigger difference, and enjoy your life and your work more.

None of them are aerospace-specific.

(1) Your job is to create valuable conversations.

Conversations are how the world changes for the better.

Nobody achieves anything worthwhile on their own. We make our lives better, and the lives of those around us, by interacting.

Newton, Einstein, Hawking . . . . all the names we typically associate with independent genius . . . . had to publish their ideas in journals, and give speeches. They started conversations. Then, and only then, were they able to change people’s thinking, and create new value.

As you start value-able conversations, you will make a difference.

Continue reading Four things you should focus on for 2015. (And 2016, and 2017, and . . . )

See? Meetups work! Stuff happens!

Just thought I’d do a quick follow-up to my last post, in which I was plugging the value of attending live events, like meetups.

Just last night, we had the first local event in the South West Aerospace Hackers meet-up. That’s one that I jointly kicked off, literally just a week ago, having publicized the meetup on and elsewhere, and on LinkedIn. Have already had about 20 people register, and 10 people show up, just a week.

There was a really really good buzz in the room. We met in a local watering hole. Good buzz! Lots of talk, lot of frustrations shared. People started to plot, and hatch ideas for how they can rejig, replan their own careers, but also other projects and initiatives. Lots of good stuff shared there. The next event is already scheduled for about a month away.

Continue reading See? Meetups work! Stuff happens!

Attend live events and meetups!

One of the things aerospace industry professionals aren’t especially good at (particularly the geekier among us) is attending live events and meetups.

Of course, we all tend to empty out of the shop or office at noon every Thursday, and head to the favourite pub or restaurant for a meal with the office pals. And we’re always talking shop with pals over 10am coffee.

Those are cool, but they don’t count as live events.

A live event involves >25 people, most of whom are strangers, to whom you might have to introduce yourself and, Gasp. make small talk.

It is held somewhere you don’t normally hang out. Gasp #2.

It comes lubricated by caffeine, carbohydrates and complex sugars, protein, cholesterol, alcohol, and multiple combinations thereof. Hmmm, OK you have my attention.

It might be a trade show in a large convention centre with 10,000 people.  It might be a totally unscripted, schmooze-and-booze meetup in a bar.

A live event will elevate your heart rate and adrenaline levels (at least somewhat), particularly for the more socially backward of us. Initiate Cold-Trickle- Down-Back sequence.

Indeed, I would argue, That’s the point.

Live events get you out of your comfort zone. But more importantly, they get you out of the damn shop/office.

I started down this road three years ago, and while the benefits haven’t been revolutionary (yet), they have certainly been more than evolutionary.

Most people who attend live events are movers and shakers, or want to be one.

Which one you are, doesn’t really matter. If you are bored, fed up and itching for change, even if it’s just changing yourself . . . . . start attending live events and meetups.

If you can’t find a relevant one, start one.

Partly to take my own advice, this week I started a new meetup called South West Aerospace Hackers, for aerospace types in the greater Bristol, UK area. Click on the link if you are within a reasonable driving distance.

It’s a sad fact of life that most live events are geocentric, so I apologise if you are too many hours or time zones away. If this one becomes a global phenomenon, then you can be sure I will leverage the power of the internet to broadcast it globally. But until then, it’s restricted to the south west of the UK.

Or . . . . . . you can start your own.

The upside is huge. You’ll meet interesting people who can help you (and whom you can help) you would never meet otherwise.

Stuff Happens at meetups. Friendships are formed. Light bulbs in heads get switched on. Businesses and initiatives get started.

The downside is minimal. Nobody comes, and you’ve wasted a few hours.

Hint: The downside rarely happens.

The Three Most Valuable Aerospace Career Traits

An easy smile.

A firm handshake.

And an easy laugh.

(All of them sincere.)

Put them together, and they’re a formidable combination.

Make them yours.

They will open doors in your career, business (and love!) that nothing else will.

They allow you to start the match one goal up.

You have to really screw up to screw it up. (Hint: Screw-ups are usually reversible.)

In short: Be someone who’s instantly likeable.

Three excellent career moves for a new year

Here are three career moves that I strongly recommend you initiate this year, and maintain for the rest of your working (and non-working) life.

None of these suggestions are specific to aerospace, or any other profession, for that matter.

They are hard to start.

They are hard to maintain.

And they WORK.

(1) Save

A lot.
Continue reading Three excellent career moves for a new year

Three Career Questions to ask yourself regularly

Here are three questions to ask yourself when contemplating your current, or a new, career situation:

Are you global, or are you local?

Do you like checking in with the same crowd every morning, in the same office, preferably close to home? Does your brain get excited by travel, meeting new people with different experiences and perspectives? Do the same faces and the office banter cheer you up, or get you down? Does what’s happening on the other side of the world fascinate you or bore you?

This is the global versus local question, and it’s not really my question. I chanced upon it on Derek Siver’s blog. He’s a well-travelled entrepreneur, who settled in Singapore a few years ago, and decided that he really ought to try and put down some roots and get to know the locals. Within a short time, he was frustrtrated and dissatisfied. He realised that what was going on next door just didn’t interest him as much as what was going on in the next country.
Continue reading Three Career Questions to ask yourself regularly

Security or Significance? Choose.

Here’s an article which will probably both ring true with you, and disturb you at the same time.

The essential point is, an awful lot of people, in an awful lot of walks of life, seem to find themselves doing work that is peripheral, or completely disconnected, from what they value, and from what they thought their employer was all about.

And it leaves them feeling worthless, unvalued, unhappy, even ashamed.

They do it because it keeps them alive, and it provides enough income.

The world of traditional aerospace, being by its very nature traditional, conservative, and bottom-line-oriented, is no exception.

It is therefore worthwhile asking oneself the following question then, no matter what stage in your life and career you find yourself:

Which matters more to me: Security? Or significance?

Because if security (of lifestyle, income, schedule, etc) matters more, you had better have some tolerance for doing work that you don’t value. For at least some of the time.

Conversely, if significance matters more to you, you will have to keep your wits about you, and be prepared to take bold action when required.

Because the inevitable trend is towards work that is dull, commoditized, and security-oriented.

The action you will need to take will include refusal to do work that doesn’t matter to you, or to the people you care about.

That’s risky, of course. Security goes out the window, at least for a while.

Though if you stick to your guns, in the long run, security might come back in the front door, and you get the best of both worlds.

Whatever the case, ask yourself the question. And choose.