Ask Anthony: Should I Plan to Work for the Same Company My Entire Career?

March 22, 2017
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I recently received an interesting question from a young civil engineer who said that his perception at this point in his career was that to advance quickly and increase his salary, he must move to a new company every few years.

Is this accurate?

I believe it is a perception shared by many civil engineers, that if you stay at the same company for too long, you are missing out on more rapid advancement and higher salary increases. I do not believe this statement to be true, because I have seen many civil engineers have very successful careers with one firm.

I thought to answer this question I would list some of the benefits I experienced from staying with one civil engineering firm long-term. I also want to emphasize that in your civil engineering career, especially early on, you always want to continue to learn. If at any time you stop learning, you should reassess everything about your career, including your employment situation.

Comfort breeds confidence

If you work for the same company for a while, you will become comfortable with the company’s procedures, systems, equipment, etc. This comfort helps a civil engineer to be confident in his or her work every day. If you are constantly trying to reconfigure the way you work, the equipment you use, and even the people you work with, there will be some negative effects on your confidence and, in turn, your career overall.

Don’t take this lightly. I have seen how a lack of confidence can be a huge factor in deterring a civil engineer’s career progress.

Loyalty inspires trust

Often, when a company knows you are committed to them for the long term, they will place more trust in you than they might if they were unsure about your future. I worked for the same civil engineering company for about 12 years, and I remember reinforcing to my superiors on a regular basis how much I enjoyed working for the company, and thanking them often for their support of my professional development.

I also remember being in a meeting once, when executives were trying to decide whom to entrust with a new client, and one engineer was passed over because he’d mentioned possibly leaving the company in the past. People still recognize and put stock in loyalty.

Time grants seniority

Now, I am not guaranteeing you that if you stay with a company for a long time you will go right to the top. I have heard many cases of civil engineers who lost their jobs after being with companies for many years, due to the economy, an argument, or other reasons. That being said, many of the high-level executives I talk to have been with their firms for more than 10 years, which makes sense because a good understanding of how a company works makes it easier to be a leader within the company, for many obvious reasons.

And that kind of understanding comes with time. The longer you stay with one firm, the higher on the ladder you will reach, partly because of your history with the firm.

Leverage a longer leash

When you have worked with one firm for a while, you will build up enough confidence from your superiors to be able to take on more risk than other employees do. What I mean is that if you have an idea for a new service line, or a new software for the company, the trust you have built over time will give you an easier route to having your new idea adopted than the same route for newer employees.

This can be worth a lot. I remember being approved for certain outside networking and training opportunities specifically because of my previous commitment with the firm. These opportunities made major positive impacts on my career, and they still manifest today.

These are some of the benefits I have experienced or witnessed in regards to staying with a civil engineering firm for a long period of time. I hope that they alleviate the concerns civil engineers have about having to “jump around from company to company” to be successful.

I think one of the best measures of the health of your employment as a civil engineer is growth, both career and personal. You should be asking yourself on a regular basis (at least every three to six months) – am I growing right now?

If at any point the answer to this question is “No,” and you start to experience stagnation, then you should attempt to get back on track. If you can’t, then at that time, consider changing companies to ensure that you are constantly growing as a civil engineer.

Anthony Fasano, P.E., M.ASCE, is the founder of the Engineering Career Coach website, which has helped thousands of engineers develop their business and leadership skills. He hosts the Civil Engineering Podcast, and is the author of a bestselling book for engineers, Engineer Your Own Success. You can download a free video series on his website that will give you the tools needed to immediately improve your networking and communication skills by clicking here.

3 Comments
  • The future ‘gig’ economy applies in our business, too. Maybe not quite so overtly but it’s real. Treat your skills as an asset and guard their value accordingly. Be ethical in your practice but know in the end, you’re on your own. So do what you need to do to grow your knowledge and of course, make (and save-save-save) more money.

    For some that’s a long term job at a well-run firm. For many, it’s a matter of getting the job you can find and always being on the lookout for a better opportunity. If you think firms aren’t doing the same thing when it comes to hiring/firing, you’re kidding yourself.

  • Don’t agree. An engineer will never receive a 50% pay raise if he/she stays in the same place, no matter what.

    • Michael,
      If you received a 50% pay increase then you may have either started too low or misrepresented yourself to your new employer, or they lack experience themselves. I hope it was the first, because if it was the later then you very well may find your career entering some hard times. If you are so focused on money and les on developing your professional skills you will likely find dissatisfaction very soon, if you haven’t already.

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