Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – Five Myths That Need to be Slaughtered

(1) My manager should help me achieve my career goals.

(Also known as: When I get bored of this job, my manager will help me move to a more interesting one.)

Maybe he should, but almost certainly he won’t.

Your manager is primarily concerned with his own career objectives.

If he’s got his eye on a promotion, or even a sideways move, the last thing he wants is a vacancy on his team. That’s another problem that his manager will point to, and say, “We can’t promote you until you sort that out.” So he’s going to do everything in his power to dissuade you from leaving.

He may say, “Just do me this one favour, I’ll make it up to you”.

No, he won’t.

I’ve seen managers use that tactic.

Then they disappear.

They fly off to their next position.

Their replacement comes in, and says, “What? I’m not going to be bound by a stupid promise my predecessor made! You stay put.”

If your manager can’t dissuade you, he’ll try to prevent you. He’ll enlist the support of Human Resources, or his own management. “We can’t afford for Person X to leave his role. It’ll be months before we can replace him!”

Or he’ll find out who’s trying to lure you away, and threaten them. Few managers like the threat of conflict with another manager or another department. They’ll suddenly back off. “Sorry, we can’t take you on, your department insists they need you, and besides, someone else has become available.”

If you’re quite happy where you are, and you don’t mind being typecast, none of this is a problem.

But most people, particularly early in their careers, have some degree of ambition, and want to move around, and gain different experiences and skills.

And if that’s you, just remember:

Don’t be Mr Nice Guy.

Nothing comes to him/her who waits.

If someone puts a mountain in your way, climb, go around the mountain, fly over the mountain, tunnel through the mountain, whichever. But never accept the mountain.

(2) HR is there to take care of me.

Yeah, right. If you’ve been reading any of my earlier posts, you know better than that by now.

Human Resources is there to take care of the company, not you.

The only reason they hire you is because the company hasn’t figured out how to replace you with computer software yet. (They will.) Or how to stick a plug in your ear every morning and extract all the useful value from your brain, then spit you back out on the street. (They could save a lot of money in desks and office buildings that way.)

I’m being slightly sarcastic, but actually, this is just how it should be. The shareholders have invested big money in the company, and have a right to expect a healthy return. If you were a stock owner, that is exactly how you’d feel about the company you jointly own.

Now if the company management are clever, they recognize that they will extract the best value from your work if they treat you well and provide an optimum environment in which you may work optimally. But never assume that’s because of an obligation on their part.

(3) My salary should rise in proportion to my performance.

It might. It might not.

The logic for point (2) above applies here too. The company pays you to work here because at the moment that’s the cheapest way of getting certain necessary tasks done.

When they can find a cheaper (or less risky) way of getting those tasks done, they will quickly go that route. (It’s already happening in a lot of industries – just check out this article).

But at the moment, you’re their cheapest option. Their priority now is getting more value out of you, without paying you any more.

When I was in the thick of the A380 design phase, I worked incredibly hard one year. When salary review time came, I was hopeful of an extra reward.

I got the same 2% rise as just about everyone else.

Disappointing? You bet.

The following year, I was approaching burn out, and my performance (I’ll be honest) was slipping. So I anticipated a less-than-average pay hike.

How much did I get? Same thing! The same 2% as everyone else.

That’s when I realized the company didn’t really value high-performing engineers. They didn’t value low-performing engineers, either. They valued mediocrity. Average-performing people, working for average salaries and average salary increases, with average working terms and conditions.

Average is predictable. Average is controllable and compliant. Average doesn’t make waves. Average doesn’t threaten the status quo.

Big companies tend to like average.

If your salary doesn’t seem to match your talent or effort, that’s why.

(4) My manager will back me up in a fight.

Maybe.

A clever and consciencious manager will examine the facts herself, and back you up if you really are in the right.

Sadly, I’ve seen precious few examples of this. As I said above, most managers are preoccupied with their own career advancement. Conflicts with colleagues tend to get in the way of career advancement. They will back you up only if it stands to benefit them directly.

It usually doesn’t.

(5) They’re paying me, so I have to do whatever work they give me.

That depends.

Why are they giving it to you? Does the work matter? To anyone? To you?

If neither, don’t do it.

Take initiative. Don’t wait to be given work that matters.

If the boss objects to you taking initiative, it’s time to find a new boss. Or a new company.

The next post is the final post I’ll be writing for Kickstart Your Aerospace Career. I’ve benefited greatly from writing this series. I hope you have too. But it’s time to wrap it up. If you’ve found any of this useful, pleas share it with friends or colleagues. And if you question any of it, please leave a comment.

3 thoughts on “Kickstart Your Aerospace Career – Five Myths That Need to be Slaughtered”

  1. Another great post, thank you.

    The myths you rightly slay aren’t unique to aerospace, of course. In my IT career I spent a year working exceptionally hard on a project that meant spending time away from home all week every week. Same experience, and oddly enough, I’d started out with the same misconception that hard work would be recognised and rewarded. It wasn’t. Actually, that’s happened more than once.

    I suspect you’re leading up to a post on how to go free lance?

    1. You’re quite correct, of course. None of these myths are unique to aerospace. They are sadly all too common in a lot of companies, a lot of industries.

      I hadn’t actually got a freelance post in mind, but maybe I should! Hmmmmm . . . . . .

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