In the COVID era, people being unhappy with their career is a topic that has come up a lot in the news. However, most of them don’t realize that this unhappiness is not limited to their workplace alone. If you feel like you’re not living a happy and fulfilling professional life, and even think you maybe want to switch jobs, then this episode is for you!
Today, Jeff Perry jumps on the show to talk about his work helping people find fulfillment in their careers. At More Than Engineering, Jeff helps engineers deal with their current professional struggles, navigate through unemployment and underemployment, and most importantly, get crystal clear clarity regarding where they want to go―and who they want to be―in their professional lives.
What You’ll Learn:
- How More Than Engineering Can Help You Achieve Your Happy Professional Life
- Do You Want to Change Career Paths? Do This One Thing Before Anything Else
- How to Find out What You Really Love Doing―And Move on From What You Don’t
- Do You Hate the Work You're Currently Doing? Here’s What You Should Do.
- Why Network is Key Even in Job Transitions―And How to Expand Yours.
- Common Struggles Professional Engineers Go Throw―And How to Get Over Them
- How Your Beliefs May Affect Your Opportunities in Life
- How to Get Over Your Ego When You Truly Need to Ask for Help
- Successful Stories of Some of His Clients Finding Professional Fulfillment in Life
- Why Your Unhappiness with Your Career is Not Limited to Your Workplace
- And Much More!
Engineer 2 Entrepreneur – https://engineer2entrepreneur.net
Free Online Training – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/mte
More Than Engineering – https://morethan-engineering.com
Jeff Perry’s LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffcperry
The Engineering Career Coach Podcast – https://engineeringmanagementinstitute.org/the-podcast
The Two Hour Job Search, by Steve Dalton – Click Here
The Anatomy of Peace, by the Arbinger Institute – Click Here
Think Again, by Adam Grant – Click Here
How Will You Measure Your Life, by Clayton Christensen – Click Here
Brigham Young University – https://www.byu.edu
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
CEA Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeFLBZ2gk0uO5M9uE2zj0Q
CEA Free Facebook Community – https://ceacommunity.com
CEA FE and PE Practice Exams – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/exams
CEA Newsletter – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/join-our-newsletter
CEA Website – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Additional Resources Mentioned:
NCEES – https://ncees.org
Engineer to Entrepreneur – https://engineer2entrepreneur.net
Civil Engineering Reference Manual – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi (Use this link to grab a copy for a 15% discount)
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: All right! Hey Jeff, how's it going? Welcome to the Civil Engineering Academy Podcast. How are you doing?
Jeff Perry: Doing so well, Isaac. So glad to be here.
Isaac Oakeson: Great. I'm thankful that you are here. So, you run an awesome online gig, I think, that's done very well and is doing well. And I'm excited to talk a little bit about that as we talk about this. The site that you run it's called More Than Engineering. And I will definitely talk about your biography a little bit as we start this episode, but I always like to ask: why don't you tell us a little bit more about yourself? And maybe even how you started More Than Engineering.
Jeff Perry: Yeah, thanks Isaac. So it's kind of been a whole process, as it is for many of us, right? But I have some background in various engineering disciplines, but about four, four and a half years ago, I started getting into leadership development mindset, aand learning personal development resources that really changed me. And so, even on top of some of the leadership and engineering work that I was doing in the corporate world, I sort of felt this almost call that said, "Hey, there's something else I've got to do". And I wasn't sure exactly what that looked like, but I finally pulled the trigger and said, "Hey, I've got to do something different". And it's been a little over two years now that I've been running More Than Engineering, with the goal to help engineers and technical professionals build careers and lives that they love. And so a lot of what I do is, I support like purpose-driven engineers to make intentional career transitions, and we can talk about this all day. But really in the end for me, it's about helping people see the value that they have to give to the world, and move through a personal transformation so that they can do that as effectively as possible. So I like to say that, you know, from my engineering work, I was developing products and now I work on developing people.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, that's awesome! I love that. I caught in there that you developed this sense of -- You know, there was a calling, there was something else out there for you. And I imagine you help a lot of engineers discover what their calling is, either in the engineering world or outside of it, but kind of help guide them in that process of finding what they really love to do as part of this. So I love that you said that.
Jeff Perry: Yeah. That is a fun part. Engineers have so many different paths and options ahead of them, based on the skills and, you know, who they are and what they can do. But often they get in this point of, you know, "Which path is right?", and "I don't know", and "What does that look like?", and unsure and so much uncertainty there that we deal with. And being a part of that process to help people uncover that for themselves is really --
Isaac Oakeson: That's true. So Jeff, why don't you tell us a little bit more about your engineering background? Where did you go to school? What did you do? What's going on there?
Jeff Perry: Yeah! My background is kind of varied. I got a mechanical engineering degree at Brigham Young University in Utah, nearby where I grew up. But right out of my engineering degree, actually went into software. I was designing software that helped with CAD systems. We were automating, creating 3D geometry, and doing reference checks and all sorts of things there. So I was actually writing code for a few years. Gave that a try, but honestly that wasn't quite the right fit for me. And so I got back into more mechanical design and even like manufacturing process improvement. For our civil engineering friends, some of the solutions that I was helping to design had a lot of connections and interplay with some civil engineers in particular with like, storm water management and water runoff, and things like that.
Jeff Perry: Because we were measuring a lot of things with regard to that. I was making scientific instrumentation and data collection devices, and things like that. Had some solutions there. So I got to have my eyes open with a lot of those solutions, and things, and problems. We were dealing with low-impact development, and things like that. So it's a pretty wide range as far as the things that I did technically, which is really nice now because it allows me to have kind of a broad set of personal experiences and insight that I can draw on as I work with engineers from a lot of different disciplines.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. So you're saying mechanicals and civil can get along? Is that what you were saying?
Jeff Perry: That's what I heard sometimes. Yeah. Well, I think anyone can get along if they actually try.
Isaac Oakeson: I know there's always those cheesy jokes in school when you're going through there, you know? But that's good. That's awesome. You've tied in a lot of different fields. You've done a lot of different things. So it gives you a great background to help others with More Than Engineering, which is awesome. I wanted to dive in a little bit into More Than Engineering, and talk about, maybe, what's some advice that you would give to engineers that are maybe wanting to make a transition in the positions that they have? What are some things that you may share with us?
Jeff Perry: Yeah! So there's so many things that we could potentially go into here. And certainly the things that are top of mind that a lot of people are going to be thinking about are like, "Okay, what do I do with my resume or LinkedIn profile? How do I network?" And you know, "What are interview tips that I can make sure you get?". Those things are important. We need to, like, do well with those things. And I help people with that a lot.
Isaac Oakeson: Sure.
Jeff Perry: But my approach is a little bit different in that I think we need to start underneath that. And to connect with our civil engineering friends, I call it kind of a foundation layer that we need to move through before we get into some of the strategic issues. Like, we need to have a solid foundation set up. And some of the things that we need to consider is just, first, take a step back, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, "Do I believe that I can do this?"
Jeff Perry: And consider like your mindset as you, like -- You know, what do you believe about yourself? What do you believe about the people that you're going to be interacting with then? Because that's critical, because if you're only trying to reach out to people or things so you can get something out of them, like get a job, then that connection isn't going to be very strong or genuine, and that's going to be a little bit tough.
Isaac Oakeson: Doesn't feel authentic.
Jeff Perry: Yeah, exactly. So we start from some things that are a little bit lower: our mindsets, what we believe about ourselves. And then ask, what do you really want? What do you really want to do? Because the worst thing you can do is like, if you're in a place that you don't like, is just say, "I've got to get out of here, and I'm going to take the next thing that comes." Instead, if we can get some clarity around, "Okay, what do I actually want to do and move towards?", it's such a more powerful place to be coming from. You know what you're moving towards, rather than just moving away from. And we talk about that process of, like, getting that clarity, knowing what we want to do, can be difficult, but it's so critical. I think of the classic Alice in Wonderland story. She's going through the forest and the Cheshire cat is like there. And Alice is like, "Hey, Which path should I go?" And the cat asks, "Well, where are you trying to get to?" And she's like, "I don't know". And he's like, "Well, any path will take you there then. It doesn't matter where you go". So we need to have some sort of like north star, right? Like some direction that we're headed with intention. I use that word a lot, intention or intentionality. So that we can be moving towards something.
Jeff Perry: And then finally, kind of putting all that together, like, what's our personal brand? And clarifying that. Like, what do we bring to the table that's different, whether a combination of skills, or experiences, or interests and passions that make us different from the next person? And how does that set us apart or provide some really solid, unique value for a potential employer? If you can figure all that stuff out, then it really fuels our ability to do some of the strategic actions when we write a resume or LinkedIn profile, or know who we need to reach out to when we're networking and things, and some of the things we might communicate in an interview. All those things are much more informed. We can take a step back and have that solid foundation.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. That's great advice. One of the things that popped in my head as you were talking about that is, sometimes people don't know what they don't know. So it's hard to -- You know, if I was a client of yours and I came in and I didn't know. Maybe I like project management, or maybe I want to be a manager, but I've never experienced those things. And I guess the same thing could be tied into, like, a younger engineer just starting out in the field. Do you have any advice for people that might, you know, try to discover what they like doing more, or love doing more, so they could head more in that direction?
Jeff Perry: Yeah. I actually get a lot of younger engineers. You know, they have pretty [inaudible]. They're saying, "Hey, a lot of these things would be interesting to me if I got a chance to work on them. And so I don't really want to close off those options yet." And first of all, that's okay. Like, you'll be patient, but intentional, about kind of moving through this process. Go ahead and explore those interests. And so there are a lot of different things we can do. Again, that's one of the great things about engineers. There's many things that can do well. So I like to think of the whole process, and even our whole careers, as a series of experiments, where we're trying things out. See what you like about a particular role, or function, or industry. See what you learned from that experience.
Jeff Perry: Like, I went through a number of different stages. I tried software development. I didn't really like it as far as what I wanted to do long-term, but I learned a lot from that that has informed how I went back and did things as an engineer when I was working in manufacturing, or when I was leading some projects and things like that. Because of what I learned in that role. So you're going to take things. No matter if it was the perfect fit, you're going to take things and build on what you learn. I think that's one of the worst things that engineers do is, they think if they get on a path, then they have to stay on that path, or in that function, or that industry forever. And that's just simply not true. They think they're going to be stuck forever. So try something out and see how it works. And then think to yourself, what's the next thing I want to try? What's the next thing I want to learn? And then find a way to explore that, whether that's internal to your company, you know, other types of projects you want to try out, or if you want to try project management or something like that, try a different function. That's totally okay. And often it's expected, especially early on in your career.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah! So, as part of that, I know within civil engineering, there's typically five disciplines that you could kind of roll into. And similar to mechanical and other engineering fields, you kind of get in these different lanes. Are you also suggesting that maybe you could change lanes? If you were trying, let's say, Water Resources. Find out you don't love it. It's not your thing. Maybe you want to get into construction. I don't know. And moving that way. And how hard is that if you've been doing it for quite some time?
Jeff Perry: Yes. So certainly, to some degree, it may be harder as time goes on. But I have seen people change lanes, change industries. From construction to other parts of design. You know, from structural to something else. And so there's a lot of different pieces to that. And certainly in other engineering industries, like, mechanical is really broad with ways and applications. They can be working in construction if they're doing HVAC or systems engineering, or facilities management or something like that. They can go into like consumer product development. And I have someone who's going from defense into big tech or something like that. And so there's all sorts of different things. And you always got skills and experiences that you're bringing over. So you do need to consider -- And sometimes some people might say, "Hey, you don't have this direct experience. They might not trust you or something."
Jeff Perry: But if you talk to the right people, they're probably going to give you that opportunity if you really can show how the experiences that you do have can bring forward something that is going to be a value to a potential employer in that particular role or field. So yes, I've seen people change lanes. Because the worst thing you could do is say, "I really don't like this anymore. This isn't what I want to do", even if you're 10 years into your career. Okay, maybe you feel like you're going to be stuck, but if you have another 30+ years that you're going to work, is it better to be miserable for all of that time? Or is it better to say, "Okay." Even if you do, perhaps, need to take some sort of step back, which may be a little bit difficult for some people, in the long run, it's probably going to serve you better, if that's what you need to do. But often we can at least do something lateral and then make a shift into it.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. Especially if you love the work. You know, if you find a fit that you really like, you know, you're probably willing to take that adjustment, especially if you love it. And I'm sure you'll probably accelerate quicker than otherwise.
Jeff Perry: Absolutely.
Isaac Oakeson: That's good advice. So, what advice would you give to someone that doesn't really love their work right now?
Jeff Perry: This is something that seems to be coming up a lot right now, because there's a lot of news out there, like the Great Resignation. A lot of people leaving their jobs and things like that these days, you know? Who knows what the actual numbers will be as far as people quitting or making career transitions. But there's a lot of people considering it, you know, as we, I guess, continue to move through COVID and whatever that continues to look like. But if you're in a spot that you don't like right now, what I'd say is still do the best work that you can while you're there. Like, it's not going to help you or anyone, if you just kind of do shoddy work and have poor performance. Certainly if you're a civil engineer working for clients and designing and building structures and things like that, this is critical for like what you're doing for safety and all sorts of things.
Jeff Perry: But it's just going to be bad for you. It's going to be bad for the business. It's going to limit your future opportunities. So still do the best job you can where you're at while you're still there. Then you know, we talked about some of these things around getting clarity around knowing what you want. Getting some of that clarity so that we can move towards something that you really want, rather than just moving away from something that you don't. Because a lot of times people think, "Oh, if I can just get out of this and do something different, than everything's going to be better". But the grass isn't always greener. And the last thing you want to do is move to something that is the same or worse as what you're doing right now, for one reason or another, because it's not aligned with something that you care about. So really get some of that clarity.
Jeff Perry: And then build some new relationships. So often I think the natural networking that we do is the people that we actively work with, whether it's people in our companies, or maybe clients that we work with, or something like that. But we need to do some things to expand our network and have some of those conversations and build some of those relationships outside of our immediate, easy group of people that we talk to. And, you know, you never know who is going to know someone who knows someone who's going to have an opportunity that's just right for you. And that's often how it happens. 70, 80%, who knows what the right numbers are [inaudible] of jobs, as they say, are found by networking. And that's really the metric.
Isaac Oakeson: That's very true. Very true. So you know, if you're looking to network, what's your suggestions on that? Is it being part of societies, professional societies? Is it reaching out through LinkedIn? Or is it just all of the above? Any tips there?
Jeff Perry: Yeah. All of those things can be great. But also, like, start with who you already know, right? Like, I think often we don't utilize our friends and our family in our immediate circle. And not necessarily that they have opportunities for you. But asking them and kind of sometimes, certainly if you're in a job search, I say like crowdsource your job search, right? So they may know someone else. The old joke in the movie business, it's like "Six degrees to Kevin Bacon" or something, you know? It's not that far away from someone who knows the right people, if we actually ask, and try, and seek that out. And so, start with who you know. That's going to be the lowest hanging fruit. But sometimes people are a little prideful. Like, "Hey, I don't want to reach out for help". Like, we kind of have to get over ourselves a little bit.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. I can imagine some engineers just don't want to approach family members and say, "Hey, I'm open to looking for some other stuff. If you guys know anybody, let me know". You kind of have to put yourself out there a little bit, which for engineers might be a sign of insecurity or something. I don't know what it is. Just saying, you know, "I can toughen this out", even though they don't love what they're doing. But yeah, good points.
Jeff Perry: Yeah, for sure. But think about the other way. Like, if that friend or that family member came to you and said, "Hey, I'm looking for something else. Do you know anyone? Or is there any way you can help?", almost always the person will say, "Absolutely I will help". Well, if you feel that way, that you would help that person, that person likely feels the same way about you. And so it's funny how often, when people are having these struggles, and they say, "You have this person's phone number in your phone. Give them a call or send them a text". And then they did that, and it was like, "Oh yeah, dude. Do this: send me your resume". And, you know, they had an interview and then a job offer in a couple of weeks. Sometimes it's that easy. It's not always. But you know, we just have to move through that sometimes and be willing to ask for help. There's no shame in that. It's actually a sign of strength, I think.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. Yeah, great advice. So start with your family and friends. See where that leads you. Hey Jeff, I was curious, you know, within the business that you run, More Than Engineering, have there been some most common struggles or issues that you deal with with engineers? Have we touched on those already? Or are there others?
Jeff Perry: There are a lot of different ones. Everyone's kind of got their own flavor. But if we were to kind of put some themes around them, someone, like we talked about, is unsure, that lack of clarity of like where they should go. And that's a fun process to move through to kind of peel back the layers and realize, is that a confidence issue? Maybe they do know, they just don't want to admit that they want to try that out for one reason or another. Some people are just feeling stuck in their current jobs, like in that situation. Maybe even they're okay with their job, like, "Hey, this is okay. But I want to try something different. I want to learn something new. And maybe, I've been in this company for 5, 10, 15+ years, and I don't really know actually what's outside of that. And I feel like I at least need to give that a try, but I don't know what that even looks like, because I haven't really explored that forever."
Jeff Perry: And so that's something that I get with people. Or just feeling that limited opportunities for growth. And that's not even just like moving up the career ladder. It's also just feeling like, "Hey, I'm just doing the same thing over and over again. And I'm not really like learning new stuff. And so I'm kind of getting bored at what I'm doing", right? Certainly through the pandemic and everything, there are plenty of people in some of the engineering industries that got hit hard. And so they were struggling with even having opportunities to have new graduates who -- You know, I had someone I worked with recently, graduated in 2019. So it'd been like, two years since he graduated, and still hadn't had his first engineering job. And he's like, "I have no idea how to figure this out."
Jeff Perry: And so, these beautiful moments where, just earlier this week, we've been working together for a couple months, and he said, "Hey, Jeff, I got an offer, and they even upgraded from the original role that I applied for". And you know, that sort of stuff, like, it literally just gives me goosebumps to think about and read. You know, it's like the transformation I saw in him. It's not just like that he landed a job. Like, he changed who he was and what he believed about himself through that whole process. Because he was down and, you know, some people are dealing with anxiety or depression as they're dealing with this stuff. And I'm no therapist, but we still do work on some of those mindset and those belief issues and move through some of this stuff, because I think it's so critical. And if we can change some of those things and adjust how we believe about ourselves, then the opportunities for growth and development just completely transform. And that's the fun stuff that I love to see.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. I love hearing those stories. And it sounds like to me, as you're talking about that, that's probably the highlight of what you do. It's when you get to see these transformations happen, when people land a job, or they find something that they really love and they can share that with you. Is that accurate?
Jeff Perry: Yeah, absolutely. Just being a part of, and just kind of having a front row seat to these success stories. Because in the end, they put in all the work. I'm just kind of there helping them through that, supporting them. You know, just to give a couple more examples, had someone who -- I mean, she was an experienced engineer scientist. Had a PhD, right? But had already figured out that the academic thing wasn't great. She was working at a startup for a few years, but that wasn't a great fit either. And she's like, "I have these other desires and skills that I want to give a try. Like, I want to try project management stuff. I think that might be a good fit. But you know, I don't really know what that looks like." And she actually did some deeper work and realize where she was pretty unhappy with her current situation.
Jeff Perry: Like, why that was so important for her to actually find something that she really liked. She realized it was so important to her because both of her parents despised and hated their work, and she saw that when she was growing up. They hated their work. And she's like, "I don't want to live my whole life like that." And you know, "If I have a family and things like that, I don't want that to be part of my story." And so it was important for her to really seek out that clarity and figure out what she wanted to do. And in the end, she got a new opportunity in a new city that had recreational opportunities that she really loves. She's actually a professional mountain biker as well, which is fun. But she got a new title that she wanted as a project manager, and she got like a $40,000 raise. And so all these things. But kind of lined up, she eventually figured out, like, "this is what I want to go for." It took a while, but she was able to make that happen.
Jeff Perry: I had another guy who came to me, experienced software engineer. He's like, "I want to find my happy place in my career. Like, I don't really know what that looks like, but I want to find my happy place." And so first we explored just some of the changes he needed to make in himself, and how he could change his current environment. Because it's not just the current job that's making you happy or unhappy, right? It's not just the environment. A lot of times it's internal stuff too that we need to work on. So we worked on a lot of that stuff, and he started getting a lot better, his performance improved. And then things did change a few months later. We weren't actively working together, but we were staying in touch. And he's like, "Hey, I figured out that I do need to make this change after all, that I was originally thinking about." And I was like, "Okay. You know what to do. Go do it." And within a month or two he had made a change, he's like, "Hey, this is much better. I got an upgrade". And so, he did that kind of personal work himself. And then he was ready to really seize it when the time was actually right, instead of just getting out out of desperation because he thought he was unhappy at the time.
Jeff Perry: So you know, just being a part of those, and seeing that change in people is just so fun. It really is an honor and a privilege to be a part of it with people.
Isaac Oakeson: I think that's fantastic. I think what you're doing is very fulfilling. I can hear that in your voice that you really do enjoy this, and you really do enjoy seeing people transform. You know, with the world I'm in, with Civil Engineering academy, a lot of people we work with are repeat takers of these exams. The FE, the PE. And sometimes they struggle to get over those humps of passing. I imagine similar mindsets might help them if they find themselves struggling or in a down spot in their life. So I really love the points that you brought out, and hopefully people are listening and can apply some of those things.
Isaac Oakeson: Jeff, where can people get more resources? Is there a book or other resources that you have that you could recommend to our audience?
Jeff Perry: Yeah. Well, I haven't written a book yet. But I figured maybe that'll come someday. There's all sorts of books on various topics that I'm happy to recommend. Like, you know, if we're talking job search, I really like The Two Hour Job Search, by Steve Dalton. Do you want a leadership book, and kind of some of the mindset stuff we talked about? I really love The Anatomy of Peace, by the Arbinger Institute. And that's one of the books and things that I'd say really changed my mindsets. And I can say it kind of changed my life and the trajectory of how I thought about things a few years back. And so I'd highly recommend that. One of my favorite books that I read this year, by Adam Grant, is called Think Again. Fairly new, but it gets us to consider our thinking, be a little more open-minded. And then another one about just finding a greater purpose for our lives, a book called How Will You Measure Your Life, by Clayton Christensen. That I really love. I'd do book recommendations all day, but those are just a few selected ones I'll share.
Isaac Oakeson: They sound great. We'll link those in our show notes for people to pay attention to. We have talked, and we have set up a special link for people that are interested in More Than Engineering. We set that up at civilengineeringacademy.com/mte. That's M, T, E. And what does that do for us, Jeff? Where does that take us?
Jeff Perry: Yeah. So that's a free resource that put together a free online training for those who are in a job hunter or career transition thing. You know, talking more in depth on some of the things that we've talked about today, and some opportunities to go further and joining more in involved program if people are interested. So that's what they're going to get there. Additionally, I share a lot of resources and tips and ideas on LinkedIn. I'm a pretty open connector if people want to connect with me there. Or my main website and blog at morethan-engineering.com.
Isaac Oakeson: Perfect. So, we'll make sure to link those so people can connect with you. You're a pleasant person to talk with. This has been a really fun episode for me, and I really appreciate you jumping on the show with me today.
Jeff Perry: Absolutely. Isaac, thanks for having me. And by the way, I also didn't mention that I also get the opportunity to host a podcast. So for podcast listeners looking for career growth, the engineering career coach podcast. Come check us out. In partnership with the Engineering Management Institute that I get to post. People want something else, it's good to listen to.
Isaac Oakeson: Excellent. Excellent. We'll link that too for a fellow podcaster, and it'll be good stuff. So thank you! If anyone's interested in More Than Engineering, definitely go check out the website. Jeff's going to help you out. If you're stuck in career, or looking into transitions, or just need a boost, Jeff's the guy. So go check it out. Anyway, Jeff, thanks for being here. And we'll see you next time.
Jeff Perry: Thanks, Isaac. Take care.
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