Changing companies questionsPosted by slim on January 9, 2022 at 1:10 am
I’m currently a PLS with a 4 year surveying degree at a small family outfit and have been here for almost 6 years – just got my license 2 years ago. I’m looking to make a move soon to a larger corporation because I feel like I’m falling behind my peers. We basically use a total station for all of our jobs (residential, small stakeout jobs, ALTA’s, pretty basic jobs) and when needed rent a GPS unit with VRS subscription. Looking over job descriptions at these new companies I’m getting overwhelmed feeling like I won’t be able to succeed. Since I’m a PLS they’ll probably want me to come in as a senior surveyor but I don’t do much with proposals / cost estimates, we only have 1 field crew so not much in terms of managing, even using autocad I feel like it’s pretty basic commands compared to some of the questions I read on here. Any body ever been in a similar situation and how did you succeed? I know I have to get out sooner rather than later. Do these large corporations usually have trainings available to help people succeed. I feel they’ll expect me to “hit the ground running” but I’m not sure I’ll be exactly ready for that. Guess I’m just asking for any insight into these larger corporations and help ease some of my concerns. Thanks!
- 32 Replies
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 1:29 am
Slim, the best answer I can give you is “it depends”. I’ve worked in both large and small shops over my career. As with everything else in this world there are benefits and drawbacks to both. I had to chuckle a bit at your post because it seems so typical. I’ve read posts here about folks in large outfits that think a smaller organization might be their answer. And I’ve read the reciprocal.
Here’s the honest skinny from my point of view:
When I was getting started I wanted to experience all that I could, to the point I “job hopped” a good deal. Big firms are great place to get a big bite of experience. Although I’ve always felt that large firms are a little impersonal when it comes to how they treat employees. Smaller firms always seemed a little friendlier when it came to the relationship between management and employee.
Any employer will probably expect you to “hit the ground running”. With your accomplishments so far I might guess the only thing you lack is a little confidence. So run like the wind toward your future. Just remember nobody hits a home run every time they step up to bat.
I remember starting a new job once where I had butterflies and wondered if I was really worth what they were paying me. In a week I felt like a member of the family and wished I had gone there sooner. I also remember laying in a hotel room in Baton Rouge thinking I had made the biggest mistake of my life. But I’m still alive and happy. Even the bad jobs I’ve had gave me good experience. And nobody can ever take that away from me.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 1:37 am
Excellent post. Excellent response, already. More to come??
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 2:03 am
Is there no way to modernise the firm you are in? GNSS is not that expensive once you demonstrate to the boss the savings that are available (unless you are in a heavy canopy area), perhaps you need to put a business case forward? Can you look at developing new work streams for the company that justifies a drone, scanner etc. if that’s what your missing? Possibly the work stream one is a bit limited by your locality (small town?).
All said, I’m with Payden, smaller firms (<10) have been more enjoyable and less office ladder climbing rubbish. Small firms don’t have to be backward though, that is a choice of the management, been in several small firms that are more innovative/efficient that the larger multi disciplinary ones and have the latest gear.
Also smaller firms should be providing someone in your position a pathway into ownership and if they’re not maybe ask assuming you can get a modernisation project underway.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 2:19 am
@lukenz no, it doesn’t seem like the owner has any interest in modernizing. His grandfather started the company 100 years ago passed it to his father and now it’s him and it still basically sits the same way it did then; today. Most of the jobs we do today are ones his grandfather/father have done previously so we can just tie in the work pretty easily. I agree with you though, this place has been low stress, comfortable and no drama at all but the pay is lower and the benefits stink. On the other hand I’ve never had to use my license or stamp or seal a drawing due to this and it makes my life less stressful knowing I’m not liable which when I leave will no longer be the case.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 2:24 am
@paden-cash Thanks for the great reply. I guess I’m just going through a little time in my life where I’m unsure what’s next for me. I have a lot of confidence in the work I’m doing now but not in what most larger companies ask since it’s still foreign to me. I’m sure after 6 years at a larger corporation I’ll be pretty confident. And you’re correct this place does have great management to employee relationship but the pay is lower and the benefits stink that is the main drawback.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 2:30 am
I’m looking to make a move soon to a larger corporation because I feel like I’m falling behind my peers
There are trade-offs for everything. The experiences you gained at a smaller business will help you and will be unique to you. Not all large corporations utilize the newest technology either; some are still out there with total stations every day. Well, almost everyone has GNSS though.
residential, small stakeout jobs, ALTA’s, pretty basic jobs
“pretty basic” for you, but depending where you go, you may never do any of this. It’s all a matter of perspective. A lot of larger companies are set up so they have construction crews, boundary crews, etc. Other companies have all their crews do all the different work. It just depends on the company.
…I’m getting overwhelmed feeling like I won’t be able to succeed.
It’s not as hard as you might think. Everything is daunting when looking at it as the “outsider.” If you find you don’t like it, go back to another small business, or start your own. But if you made it through your exams, and through college, I have a feeling that learning some new skills on the job won’t be too hard.
Since I’m a PLS they’ll probably want me to come in as a senior surveyor but I don’t do much with proposals / cost estimates, we only have 1 field crew so not much in terms of managing, even using autocad I feel like it’s pretty basic commands compared to some of the questions I read on here.
Don’t sell yourself short. Again, big corporations aren’t as scary/different as you think.
When you get to your new job take a read through some proposals the company did already, and you will get a feel for it real quick.
As for estimates, if you have field and office experience, you have a good idea of how long things take. And you can always ask your new boss how fast their crews are at certain tasks. I doubt you will be completely alone. Even if you get given a proposal, or estimate, with no guidance, they will likely look it over with you afterward, and help with what you missed… if they are a good boss anyway. Just be honest about what you don’t know yet. Good surveyors are usually happy to help someone learn, and take pride when those people rise up through the ranks. But again, don’t sell yourself short. If you did some proposals and estimates in school, mention it.
Too many people BS their resume, then when they get to their place of employment, can’t do anything they said they could. Just be honest about what you need to learn, and confident that you can learn it.
You know yourself better than anyone. If you are successful where you are now, and doing great work, you will likely be successful and do great work in a large corporation. I don’t know anything that different about large corporations that would turn a successful surveyor from a small shop into an unsuccessful surveyor in a big corporation.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 2:37 am
My first 10 years I worked for a small (10+/-??3 partners 7 employees at the peak) civil engineering firm. They ran into financial trouble and had to lay me off which worked out in the long run.
1. A lot of different experiences, surveying, design, drainage, energy calculations, drafting, beginning of CAD.
2. low pay, the benefits were okay??fully paid family health, good vacation, no dental, no vision.
3. tends to be insular??didn??t get exposure to other ways of doing things.
4. like a family except the partners bickered a lot, like parents in a bad marriage.
I landed at a small city then after 6 years of that applied and got hired by State Parks (exactly like the TV show, I??m not kidding, I??m sure the writers had worked for a park & rec dept somewhere). 12 years ago I lateraled to the State Fire Department which is the best place I??ve ever worked.
My advice is be honest, don??t BS??just tell interviewers an accurate account of your education and experience. If they want some proposal writing Superman then maybe it??s not a good fit. You got a degree and a license so I assume you can learn and progress professionally, that much should be obvious to anyone.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 2:45 am
The first step is to prepare a resume. The second step is to print out 30 copies. The third step is to call up every company in the area you want to work. Tell them in 2 weeks you’re going to accept a position. Tell them you’re immediately available for an interview. At the interview answer all questions honestly and determine their expectations. They’ll let you know if you’re qualified.
In this market you’ll have that new job.
Most of all you have to believe in yourself. Now bust your ass to succeed.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 2:48 am
I’ve always been a shark. Was dedicated to my present positions but eyes open to more lucrative employment near and far. It’s been amicable when I leave and I’ve jumped in to a few bad situations but moved on quickly. The downside is you can’t grow roots. I’ve worked all over the west coast (including Alaska) in my career and at the end spent 9 years at a company and finally 16 years for the gov’mnt which pretty much funded my retirement. So I did grow roots at the end unexpectedly ???? .
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 3:43 am
The grass is always greener on the other side. Well, not always. You will find that there is a great amount of difference in management when comparing a large firm to a small one. I’ve worked for myself practically all of my career but I have worked for medium size and large companies too. Large companies have big overhead and have to push their project managers to the limit to find new projects while getting the existing ones out the door. Its easy to get lost in the maze. There is nothing at all bad or wrong about large companies. Its just the nature of the beast. And don’t think that they don’t have their financial problems too. As the economy goes so do they. But, they have the resources to train you and bring you up to their speed and their way of doing things. They can send you to management seminars to improve your mangement skills. You will learn a lot in a small amount of time and you will do fine. You have already proven you have the ability and the work ethics they are looking for. You have a great deal to offer and they know it. So DO NOT SELL YOURSELF SHORT! Get your resume out there. A change would be good and if its not what you like then you can find a company that you feel best with. This really is a great time to be a young PLS.
I like medium size surveying companies the best. They seem to have the best of both worlds. Good luck, young grasshopper.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 3:55 am
FIRST OFF – DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF OR YOUR POTENTIAL. YOU CAN GROW & WILL GROW FASTER THAN YOU REALIZE GIVEN THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT!!! IF I COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND TELL MYSELF ANYTHING, IT WOULD BE TO HAVE MORE CONFIDENCE IN ME & MORE SKEPTICISM OF THOSE WHO SAID THAT I COULDN’T CUT IT!!! /rant
So I was in a similar position with the first enjoyable job I landed after civil engineering school. I had worked for a large multidisciplinary firm that did it all & had half a dozen offices across NC/SC/VA/TN. They planned to keep me doing construction material testing in the lab which blew & didn’t require a degree really nor a PE (many times the geotechnical dept oversaw that but they wouldn’t let me cross train which made me mad as I wanted more experience from the job)
so I moved back home to work for a moderate sized, family owned civil surveying firm of about 25 people whose bread & butter essentially was municipal infrastructure projects with a lot of land development while the survey dept took on random surveys whenever things got slow. the survey dept ranged from 3-4 crews usually of 3 men per crew whenever possible – a concept I disagreed with as wooded boundary surveys were rarely encountered with that work. But I stayed on with them almost 7 years and learned a TON there while also getting my PE. The size of that firm is the one thing I can attribute as to why I was able to become the better engineer & surveyor today than I could’ve been I feel working for a large one – my justification for that is that I still get to see a lot of others’ plans & maps these days and see things I have learned to do differently from experience at a small to mid sized firm that tried to do a little bit of everything. The big firms are not always necessarily better, especially in the quality of the work rendered
But, like you mention seeing, that family-owned firm was behind the times on data collection in the field as well as utilizing software in the office so it took much longer to complete projects than the competitors while they were charging more yet complaining that they couldn’t make a decent profit now. however they refused to accept any real advances in technology to help – CAD files were still very crudely done which caused inefficiency and confusion, cut sheets were all manually calculated from a 3 man crew typically running auto levels & booking every shot which led to very slow turn around & crews screwing around whenever possible. GPS was only used to get VRS grid ties typically and robotic total stations were not used to even passive track prisms normally as they expected someone to stand behind the gun almost always as a pseudo instrument man (usually the crew’s smoker or laziest person). The firm would pay for continuing education training but it was only under the premise that they approved the professional development course first – I remember one time I had to pay for a DOT course out of my own pocket as they felt it wasn’t necessary though I dealt with this process and the local DOT on it almost daily. Also the owners allowed a select few individuals to become very toxic towards other employees which started to cause low morale with everyone in my opinion and poor behavior all around
Pay was usually very low, we were told each year to be grateful at Christmas for meager bonuses, while having to use any accrued leave for the week that the company was closed. Only benefits were health insurance with a profit sharing retirement plan that was not in favor of any employees who did not have decades of tenure – pretty sure I’ll never see my portion of that but money. And towards the end there was a lot of distrust amongst employees and the owners. I had been strongly pressured by the owners into getting my PLS ASAP without any help really on the cost of the study materials or exams (I had paid for the PE as well on my own but was told after I had passed it they might reimburse me if I left the course materials & note there for it to be shared with other employees – no thanks that was my hard work). The demands of the job time-wise weren’t good for studying for three different exams for the PLS, nor for having a new family (wife & two babies). I was given a little bit of lip from some individuals & owners for taking a few days off to be with the wife & first born after she delivered and was home alone. The seasoned employees there were getting close to their mid 60’s, many whom I had learned from & loved to work with so much for so many years, but yet they were starting to drop like flies due to the atmosphere. Some of them which weren’t licensed professionals themselves but they could’ve been had they been better guided by the company and they had more relevant experience in the industry than the licensed owners in many ways in my opinion but were treated as inferior (a license doesn’t make you – the experience and judgement is what makes you). The pressure started to build on me to maintain previous years’ production in the absence of those guys, where the owners were talking about filling the gap of several key project managers with decades of experience and clients that loved working with them, just after the market started picking up steam a few years ago. All the while, we were losing good staff (several younger people close to my age) & with the firm sticking with very antiquated methods to do the work that was required. The good news in all this is it made me grow up quickly overnight and the clients started to take notice of my efforts, which kept me hanging on in there for many months in hopes of building those relationships or that things would change for me – some times this hope could be both a good thing & a bad thing.
My stress started building exponentially in my final months at the family firm, so after I felt like I had hit what I felt like was my limit, I moved on to another job which felt like a tough break up with your first serious girl (don’t laugh too hard haha). Just like you mention, I unfortunately never got the experience of proposal writing or managing an entire department at that smaller firm, though towards my last year or so there, I did essentially coordinate all work on the project through the survey department head and overseeing his crews at times whenever necessary as well as my draftsmen/designers – that was both tough & enjoyable/rewarding when you had a good team to work with. Once I left the family firm, I found the next job (a gov position) sucked to be honest as it wasn’t actual engineering or surveying at all as advertised. I did get to see many proposals and how other firms handled doing engineering or surveying consulting which was eye-opening as there’s no one size fits all for consulting. But those several jobs led me to where I’m at today which is happiness thus far for me (working for myself). I have learned I have to make the best of the circumstances that I am in and try my hardest to fix only what I can (myself usually) while accepting that does not mean fixing everything or everyone. Some things are a lost cause but there’s a lesson to be learned usually if you stop to pray hard enough about it.
As for the career move -I would be very hesitant to go shotgun blasting or broadcasting my resume or intentions of leaving. This is an employee’s job market right now from everything I’m seeing – you be picky and feel out any prospective employer and avoid those like that plague that even begin to mention anything that concerns you as you are in the driver’s seat currently. Feel out their flexibility on your situation as an employee (if you have a family) as well as their openess to employees seeking to either learn, become licensed further (should you want to), receive any relevant training, or improve the firm’s processes where possible. If they aren’t willing to change I’d keep looking. No employer or firm is perfect but you start to learn what you can live with & what you can’t
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 4:21 am
Your situation, your skill level, is not all that unusual for a person with your time in service. There is having 6 years of experience and there is 1 year of experience 6 times over. Sounds like you have the latter.
Your situation also sounds very much like mine at about that stage of my career. I made the jump from a mom and pop living on a steady diet of “lot jobs” and small plats to a medium sized multi discipline firm doing a lot of work for the DOT, the transit authority, and large developers. There were 6-8 PLSs in the room and a couple of career techs as well. I found that most of the guys there were hacking out repetitious tasks all the same. A couple of them had some specialized skills but none had the complete package. To make a long story short, it took me about 3 years to pick up the available knowledge about GPS, coordinates systems, adjustments, CAD in general, and project management that was in that room. And believe me, it wasn’t offered freely. I put a lot of my own time into that. There were resources there to tap into, but no external push to do it.
And then things stagnated and it was time for me to move on again.
Anyway, that is a long winded way for me to say that it may well be time for you to move on. But don’t worry too much about being behind. Just that fact that you feel that you are puts you ahead.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 4:46 am
I believe you have described circumstances that are far more common than what you might imagine. This is sort of what they call the seven-year itch. You look around and note that a certain friend with similar background has become some fancy title at some fancy company. Could have been you, you think. You then learn of another friend who has made some sort of big name for himself. Could have been you, you think. You are the only one putting you down. No one else sees you as doing poorly.
You feel you are in a rut and missing the boat to SUCCESS. Meanwhile, you are probably doing far better than you think. Frequently, your spouse and/or children may play a major role in where you go and what you do. This happens especially in cases where the spouse brings home more net pay or benefits than what you do. On the other hand, a divorce or messy and lengthy separation may force your hand to make a significant move, whether you really want to or not.. The job plays second fiddle to your daily emotional state.
One of the friends you view as very successful may be miserable every day, but, you don’t know that until you move into a very similar position. Another may have to travel three days per week all over the country, which sounds good to young people, but may lead to severe problems at home for any one of many reasons.
I once had the opportunity to make a move to a wide variety of employers in a wide variety of locations. Instead, I went to work for a small engineering consulting firm. The pay sucked but the experience was wonderful. It would have been easier, actually, to take one of the corporate opportunities. The likelihood of climbing the ladder was excellent. But, everything I value today in life would be absent and replaced with something else that might or might not be so satisfactory. For all I know, I might have been near the top of The World Trade Center one September day in 2001 or been in the wrong section of the Pentagon that same day.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 6:18 am
Don’t let fear rule, sounds like your young enough to make several moves to up your skill set before you settle in for the long haul or start out on your own (my view is need a decade of experience minimum before being solo). If one or two are duds just need to move on but leave on good terms ideally.
I found signing plans wasn’t such a boogeyman once I got into it but you want to be in a firm with another good licenced person or two that you can get a second opinion on before it goes out the door. More likely to find in a small-mid sized firm.
As others have suggested it’s time to polish your CV and work out which firms you wish to approach and then decide which of the job offers suit you, your family and your career goals.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 12:16 pm
The license is the hardest part and you’ve got that under your belt. Now all you have to do is decide what you want because you are in the driver’s seat in this economy
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 12:42 pm
Become the Mom & Pop operation: start your own firm, control your own destiny. Once you become your own boss, you’ll never want to work for anyone else over again.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 1:26 pm
This is almost like finding something I may’ve written 20+ years ago.
I eventually made the jump to a bigger company, and it was great for a while. Big trucks, best equipment, interesting jobs, travel to other states, company phone, big company events, parties, etc. I did that for about 12 years, made some money, and learned a lot, but also met more A-holes and back-stabbers than I’d ever thought existed.
And now I’m back with a small company, no stress, no jerks, decent equipment and trucks, not always the most interesting projects, but I’m ok with that now.
My advice is to give it a go. You’ll never know unless you do it, and if you don’t, you’ll always be restless and wondering.
And don’t worry about not being qualified. Be honest about it during your interviews, voice your concerns, and most of the time they’ll ease you into it. But I have experienced the opposite, where they only heard what they wanted to, or didn’t really understand, or were so intent on hiring a LS, that they disregarded what was said.
And definitely don’t burn a bridge when you leave where you’re at, but you probably knew that
Good luck, whatever you decide.
- MemberJanuary 9, 2022 at 7:28 pm
Change is always a little scary never knowing in advance whether we will look back on our decisions with regret or satisfaction, however we will never know our full potential and build confidence without taking on new challenges. I try and approach these forks in the road with optimism and not trepidation because we never know what we don??t know without putting ourselves out there and risking failure. I guess the only thing I can tell you is to try and be a little fearless, not by making promises you know you can??t keep but by making promises you believe are within your potential and then reaching for that potential with everything you??ve got. Satisfaction and success are not found in avoiding difficulties but rather in overcoming them. Good luck and carry on.Willy
- MemberJanuary 10, 2022 at 1:18 am
Thanks everyone for all the great advice and making me feel a little better about all of this. In fact, I pulled out my books and computer today and started reading and reviewing different topics that I don’t use frequently now but feel will be useful when a new opportunity arises. I already have kept my resume up to date now it’s time to make the leap I suppose!
- MemberJanuary 11, 2022 at 7:29 am
Size of company may or may not have anything to do with the types of tools the company has invested in. As an example, my 2 crew outfit started using GPS in the early 90’s, and began experimenting with Erdas photogrammetry software and model helicopters/cameras in the early 2000’s, while no other larger competitors were. Also, our tiny outfit started using CAD/plotters in the 80’s using AutoCad/DCA, and robotic total stations since Leica 1100’s. Also, prior to all the modern stuff we initially invested in Wid T2/Distomat Di10 and Wang Laboratories 720C (computer/programmable calculator) back in 1972 at the inception of the company.
Today our field equipment includes the latest in GNSS from Leica/Trimble (and now a set of Carlson BRx7’s), as well as DJI drones (M600/P4), and Pix4dMapper/Agisoft Metashape/Virtual Surveyor software products.
So, I personally feel it’s not the size of the company, but rather the types of owner(s) regardless of size. Look around and ask questions, you may just find a smaller outfit that has a keen interest in keeping up with technology (if that is what you are seeking).
Good luck in your quest.
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