Over my 50 years in the HVAC industry (OMG … 50 years!) I made it a point to change jobs approximately every seven years to continue to improve my knowledge of the HVAC industry. I never, never ever changed companies to receive an increase in my salary. Salary increase is probably a benefit to job change, although I have known a select few who have switched firms while accepting a reduction in salary so that they could increase their technical knowledge, knowing the financial arrangements would improve over time based on their performance.

With each of my job changes came internal advancements and increased knowledge, e.g., trainee draftsperson to designer, engineer, project manager, and so on, so an employee doesn’t always need to leave a firm to increase their technical skills. With each company I worked for, I was able to enhance my position in the company based on my performance, but at some point decided I needed to move on and challenge myself in a new company and new environment. I’ve gone from consulting engineer to mechanical contracting to construction manager to facility management to troubleshooter and now semi-retired jack-of-all-trades drawing upon all my past experience and past mentors.

Along the way I have been managing employees, beginning as engineering manager back in the 1970s, and I’ve found that being a loyal employee (as well as having loyal employees) is a sort of double-edged sword. The good news: a dedicated employee who has been with a consulting engineering firm for several years is familiar with its company standards (e.g., standard details, CAD set-up, etc.), and how project engineers pull together a set of contract documents. If the individual had been a proactive employee, then they most likely advanced up via internal position advancements that included increase in salary, technical knowledge, and a little more insight into how things work. That is all “good news.”

The bad news for the loyal employee is that they become “part of the furniture” and employers may look for (and pay more for) a new employee versus the loyal employee. So often I experienced this in the earlier years, and when this “new shining star” moved on to another company, I was routinely assigned the task of finishing up that individual’s projects. Still, there was good news there for employees like myself because I got to learn from my own job experience, as well as learn from the former worker’s projects (especially from the errors that I had to find solutions for.)

Based on my own experience from moving on to another firm and into another segment of the industry, such as design engineering to mechanical contracting, I have often encouraged individuals to consider going to another firm. Usually this encouragement was because I believed that their performance was dropping off, and I felt a change in their work environment would revitalize them. A side benefit of the change for me, as the group leader, was that the ex-employee was now someone else’s problem should they continue their status quo performance. But hopefully this change did rejuvenate the employee and gave them the push to get them back on the career track.

Choosing to stay with one firm for an excessive number of years while not really progressing upward in the company can become a major disadvantage for the employee; because over time, their salary will inherently increase to a point where they may be the highest-paid employee to fill that position. When a business slowdown occurs, and it does occur every so many years, this salary becomes a liability to the individual. If someone needs to be laid off due to insufficient workload, an employer is going to take into consideration people who fill the same job description and make a financial decision to let the higher-paid person go and keep the employee who can do the same job but for a lesser salary. This loss of a job can be devastating to the employee who believed up to that point that they were a valued worker.

In April I’ll address more on “status quo” scenarios that both the employer and the employee face by remaining with a company beyond a certain point in time, whether the employment issues and concerns are initiated by the employee or the employer.