Dear colleagues

1. I am still gathering materials on burn-out in engineering – if you have anything to contribute, please let me know. For the next two weeks I am off on a roadshow to lecture to an accumulated 500+ engineers - if you have any suggestions for items to discuss, please drop me a line. It should be great fun, although I will miss my little daughter’s amateur dramatics (at school that is) and my 11yo boy’s incessant need for help in writing script programs for his web site.

2. Some of us are nervously glancing over our shoulders at the potential recession which has been created in large measure, I believe, by some greedy financial engineers (and the choice of the title ‘engineer’ does stick in my craw somewhat). Some suggestions on recession-proofing your job and indeed, by extension, your firm, are discussed below.
 I have always maintained that, even during the worst recessions, being a good engineer or technician meant that being dumped on the street wasn’t particularly likely. There is no doubt that management incompetence can destroy a company more quickly than saying: “Pass me that screwdriver, Bert” - but if you read the signs, you can bail out in time. And those of you working in the resources sector (mining and oil and gas) are probably so busy at present that you don’t even notice a looming recession.
Jobfox recently indicated that the 20 most recession-proof jobs included; sales, software design/development, nursing, accounting, networking/system administration, technology executives and naturally electrical and mechanical engineering. The technology sector had the most professions listed in the Top 20 most recession-proof occupations. No surprises there. The important point noted (by the US Labor Department) is that the more highly educated you are, the lower your chances of unemployment are. However, I can think of some highly educated family members, with rather arcane master qualifications, who appear to be determined to remain unemployed in today’s pre-recession environment. So chances of employment are more likely when the education is skill-based and useful and there is a determination to work.
Remember the bright spots (logically enough) in any recession are generally education, energy (esp. oil and gas/alternative energy and nuclear), health care (an aging and demanding population), international business (trade is superb as it ties together different regions with different offerings), environment (global warming and sustainability) and security (crime doesn’t take a break and indeed may increase). Avoid at all costs, directly exposed areas to the housing slump such as real estate and, oddly enough, public sector jobs exposed to this.

I know we are all concerned about how to handle crises (esp. the possible one created by the Recession), but I think Anton Chekhov’s comments are so true: “Any idiot can face a crisis – it is day to day living that wears you out.”

Thanks to the following sources for help in this article: Jobfox July 2008, Larry Buhl for Yahoo! Hotjobs, Jack Ganssle of and EE Times, Albert Sun of Businessweek.

Yours in engineering learning