Engineer Career Advice - 7 years in, time to go contracting? Engineer Career Advice - 7 years in, time to go contracting?
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  1. #1

    Nervous Newbie

    Join Date
    Feb 2020

    Default Engineer Career Advice - 7 years in, time to go contracting?

    Hi, hoping there might be some on here able to offer an opinion..

    I’m a mechanical engineer in the shipbuilding industry with 6.5 years of graduate level experience and I’m looking for a bit of advice on my present situation so apologies for the long post. I’ve moved around a bit so I’ll briefly summarise my experience to give some background:

    - 2 year graduate programme with Babcock, Devonport Dockyard. Included a 6 month production management placement seconded to Rosyth on Aircraft Carrier Programme.
    - HR put blocker on taking a permanent role in Rosyth so took a 12 month temp staff contract as a Production Controller instead.
    - Joined BAE Systems as a Shock engineer on submarine project. £3k pay cut but needed full time employment after leaving Babcock. Stayed in this role just over 2 years and did a mixture of analysis and project work.
    - Internal move about 1 year ago to the Mechanical Engineering team responsible for cooling system design.
    - I intend to submit a chartership application this year with IMechE. (I have BEng Aero Engineering)

    The general concerns I now have are as follows…

    - I effectively started on the same salary as a direct entry graduate when I moved to BAE 3 years ago, despite having had 3 years prior experience. My first 3 years were largely spent in operations roles or graduate placements so they weren’t directly relevant to the Shock engineer role I applied for.
    - After 3 years with BAE I find I’m now earning the same as those with 3-4 years post uni experience, when I have approaching 7. Moving to a new (internal) role again last year has meant another learning curve so if anything I feel further away from the skill level of those with 6-7 years in the same department.

    And my queries about what to do about them…

    - Should I be pushing for a higher pay grade that is more in line with others who have similar time served? What is that first 3 years experience actually worth? I feel slightly short changed that my pay today doesn’t reflect that.
    - What does the job market think of people like me? Well rounded engineer or Jack-of-All Trades and master of none? I’ve effectively had 3 or 4 different roles across 3 different sites in Operations, Project and Engineering. I’ve been in my current job 1 year, and my previous roles were each approx. 2 years in length so not been job hopping every 6 months..
    - What would my job prospects be as contractor? Is it better to have a wide range experience to call upon providing I’m not going for niche analysis jobs?
    - I do feel slightly envious of those who have settled into a role straight from uni and progressed quite far in the time that I have been moving around, but then the cards didn’t quite fall my way at the start..

    Any advice much appreciated.

  2. #2

    Should post faster

    Join Date
    May 2018


    Wrong time, even to think about contracting!
    Last edited by BigDataPro; 16th February 2020 at 08:43.

  3. #3

    bored now

    eek's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010


    Quote Originally Posted by BigDataPro View Post
    Wrong time, even to think about contracting!
    +1 Engineering companies seem to assume people are replacement employees so everyone is inside. Contracting in Engineering has never seemed to make that much sense to me.

    As for you current salary - the issue is that when you moved into BAE you were put on a salary scale and you clearly haven't (albeit with BAE it's probably impossible anyway) justify why you should get more than other people especially as you continually move around departments (which may be a bad thing, it may not we don't know enough to know).

    I think things are just how they are, you may not be happy but I expect all other options would actually make you worse off.

    But no harm asking for more money when you are chartered after all the worst that happens is that they will say No. Or you could simply ask what you could do to get yourself up to the pay of those with equivalent (fully inside BAE) experience.
    merely at clientco for the entertainment

  4. #4

    Nervous Newbie

    Join Date
    Aug 2012


    Definitely the wrong time to think about contracting in the engineering industry if purely for the money. I’ve been contracting in the engineering industry for 20+ years. In the last 10 years it’s got more and more difficult. Almost all the big companies will now determine you as caught by IR35 so any monetary gains are effectively wiped out.

  5. #5

    Still gathering requirements...

    Join Date
    Dec 2017


    There's a big piece missing in your post:

    Do you actually enjoy your job? If you do and it's just that those with less experience are getting paid the same that is chapping your ass then stay, suck it up and see out your chartership - then, and only then ask for a raise or leave for a better paid position elsewhere.

    If you don't enjoy it then look for a permanent position with another company. This may in part solve your salary issue as in my experience the biggest jumps in pay come when you change company, not when you are promoted in the same one.

  6. #6

    Still gathering requirements...

    Join Date
    Jun 2018


    Go for it, it’s possibly the worst time but be ready to leave your current role and upset people you’ve worked with for years when you find a contract and the new gig ask you to start on Monday.

    You can’t please everyone but it’s about you and as you mention these are the same people who are underpaying you.

    It isn’t the best time to be looking but when you do land your first contract you’ll probably treble your take home.

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