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What would you do if you were us? (possible job change and move related)


kentuckymom
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So, DH is an engineer. He works for a printer company, which means he works in a shrinking industry, what with everything going digital. He's worked for the same company since he graduated from college in 1998. When he hired on in 1998 they employed approximately 10,000 people in Lexington. Now they're down to 3,000. They're moving more and more in the direction of being a software company, and DH has always worked in hardware. His degree is in mechanical engineering, but, at this point in his career, having designed motors for nearly 18 years, he is often mistaken for an electrical engineer. 

 

The company has had a pattern over the past decade of layoffs approximately every other year. They first start with a "voluntary reduction program" wherein employees are invited to choose to leave with a pretty decent package (including 1 week of pay for every year of their employment). They just announced another "voluntary reduction program" on Monday, and, for the first time ever, we're really torn about what to do. Every other time DH has decided pretty quickly not to take the package and hoped he won't be involuntarily reduced. Obviously, he never has been. The odds are low that he'll be let go involuntarily this time because someone from his division just left late last year and his supervisor is really happy with his work. He's also doing the work of about 1 1/2 people.

 

The reason we're actually considering taking this step is that, for years, we've talked about this year (the year Squirrelboy will start middle school and Kittygirl will start kindergarten) as being an ideal year to move, school-wise, because both kids would go to new schools regardless (although if we stay here homeschool might be an option for Squirrelboy, as I've posted in another thread). Neither of us is from here, and neither of us intended to stay here so long when we both moved here (separately) in 1998. I just planned to get my graduate degree and then find a job closer to home and he planned to log a few years of work experience and then find a job closer to home. Then we met, got married, he still loved his job, I wanted to stay home with the kids, and it just didn't make a lot of sense to move.

 

However, he's from Wisconsin and I'm from Michigan and we both still miss the Upper Midwest. His parents still live in his hometown, but they're hoping to move to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, where one his brothers lives. My parents still live in my hometown and one of my brothers lives a couple hours away. I also have lots of extended family within an hour of where my parents live.

 

So we've talked for years on and off about moving north, preferably to West Michigan but, if he couldn't find a job there, our second choice would be the twin cities area in Minnesota. Third choice would be somewhere in Wisconsin, though that's less preferable since his parents don't intend to stay there. Every time we drive to one of those places for a visit we wish we lived there, but when we come home we remember all the things we love about living here. And, the fact is, moving can be expensive and is always a huge hassle.

 

So, if you were us, what would you do? Keep the status quo that we really like most of the time and hope DH keeps his job, or take a risk that is bound to be really annoying in the short run but could make us really happy in the long run?

 

 

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I would say that you're not quite ready to move.  You haven't mentioned him networking or checking out job prospects in the new location.

Those would be prerequisites for me to want to do this.  You want to look before you leap.

OTOH, any chance that he could do that quickly while the 'voluntary' window is still open?  In that case, I'd try it. 

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If DH still loves his job, that is a huge plus. However, the constant downsizing is not good. I remember my late best friend, and his wife, agonizing, the first time the airline he worked for offered an early retirement package. They wanted to take it, but they went to a C.P.A. or a Certified Financial Planner, and they could not go for that package. Then, for several years, he prayed that they would offer him another early retirement package, before they fired him.  They did eventually offer a package he could accept and he did accept. Your DH is young and he is not going to be offered early retirement. He is going to be offered a Buy Out Package. I believe the experience he has is good and that he can probably find another position, working as a Mechanical Engineer (he has a B.S.M.E.) or as an Electrical Engineer.   I would suggest, very strongly, that he spend a lot of time on creating/improving the best 2 or 3 page resume that he can. 3 pages is the absolute maximum, unless he has a Ph.D. and is looking in the Academic world, which he is not.  MI sounds depressed to me.  MN sounds like a place that is on the move, with a lot of Medical Electronics stuff and other stuff going on. He needs to network. Let everyone you know he is looking, if, in fact, he is looking. Spend hours on each of  the following web sites registering and giving them information that is as complete as is possible:

(1) Monster.com (2) CareerBuilder.com and (3) possibly Dice.com      If he is willing to accept a temporary contract job assignment, go to the CJHunter.com web site.http://www.cjhunter.com/   In fact, I believe he can browse on CJHunter without paying, and possibly without registering.  That will give him an idea about how sought after his skills and experience may or may not be and he can go from there. Let his colleagues in the industry know he is or might be available soon. Look before you leap! GL

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How long do you have to decide whether to opt into the voluntary thing? Does the involuntary thing get the same set of benefits? 

 

I'd definitely start looking for a new job now, but the answers to those two questions would make a big difference in deciding whether to do the voluntary reduction right now.

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Dh's company does the same kind of thing when they want to lay people off- they do the same 1 week of pay for every year of service. However, people have discovered that if they do get laid off they get the same severance package as if they'd taken the voluntary separation. And they also get unemployment to boot.  Does your dh's company do the same? (Dh's company makes laid off employees sign a nondisclosure agreement that makes many of them keep quiet about the separation package but dh is a manager so he knows both from his job and from hearing former employees talk that they get the 1 week a year of service as severance)  If so, I'd put out feelers to headhunters and see what his job prospects are. But I wouldn't jump to take the separation package just yet. 

 

So your dh is nearing 20 years of service- does he have a pension or anything that might be affected if he leaves now?  

 

I feel for you- we've been dealing with downsizing for years. When dh came into this company there were about 8,000 workers here. Now there are about 700.  It's stressful...so I do understand how tempting it is to take the payout.   Maybe a headhunter will find him a great job lickety split!

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 . He's also doing the work of about 1 1/2 people.  does he have the pay of 1 1/2 people in his division at his level?  there is less how good a worker you are, and more a how much do you cost the company.

 

 .

 

So, if you were us, what would you do? 

 

start looking for a job now. or better, yesterday.  it's a sad but true fact, it's easier to find a job if you already have a job.  I don't know what the job market is like in those areas, but I would strongly suggest you find out asap.  consider other areas if needed.

 

how long would he be able to continue working if he chose to voluntarily leave?  could he delay that while he looks?  (re: realities of finding a job while you have a job . . . )

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He's some more info: DH has been looking at jobs casually in the areas we'd like to live in for years. A good friend was laid off from the same company a few years ago, and he got a job at Whirlpool in St. Joseph, Michigan. Since he already knows someone who works there (and like it) and it's in an area we'd like to live in, that would be a strong possibility. I appreciate the advice about sending his resume out and then deciding about whether to take the package (he has until the end of February to decide). However, given his personality, he's unlikely to make the move of sending out resumes unless he's made a firm decision to leave.

 

The ideal, of course, would be to start a new job very shortly after leaving the old one, but there's no guarantee that would happen.

 

Oh, and in answer to the last question - he has some stock options that won't mature unless he spends 3 more years at the company, but nothing really major would be affected financially.

 

edited for fix typo

Edited by kentuckymom
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I happen to know that BAE is hiring in Michigan--I think in the Detroit area but am not sure.  They have a pretty good-sized operation here in Silicon Valley but are trying to get people I know to transfer there. 

 

I am not so sure about engineering jobs in the Twin Cities area.  It seems to be booming, with real estate going up like crazy, but the people I know there are mostly in financial services or law or higher education. 

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You have until the end of February to take the package? Go for it!!! Send those resumes out!!!  Dh's company gives people a week to ten days. They want to make sure people don't do what I'm urging you to do- take the money even though there's another job in the wings. 

 

But I have to add: in a lot of industries one person doing the work that was formerly done by 1.5 or more people is becoming more typical. Dh's staff has been cut to a third of what it used to be but they have more workload than when they were fully staffed...and that's not unusual.  Sad, but true, at least in his world of test engineering.  And that of the design engineers he's working with, too 

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Oh, and in answer to the last question - he has some stock options that won't mature unless he spends 3 more years at the company, but nothing really major would be affected financially.

 

 

In my experience, stock options are nice to have, but should not be included in your future plans. If he's laid off between now and the vesting date, he gets nothing. I'd value the stock options as what they are worth now: zero dollars.

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I live in the same area and am familiar with this company. I would personally be looking at moving or at least job hunting seriously especially if you don't have to give an answer until the end if February. I know way too many people who have been laid off from there in recent years, several in senior management and one guy a year from retirement (not an engineer) who was given three hours to make a decision about retiring early. I'd rather have the nice severance package and move if you don't love it here.

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I think that if you want to move, then dh should do a serious job search, starting today, and find a job BEFORE he chooses a voluntary layoff. 

 

30 weeks of "free" pay sounds really great, until week 31 with no job. Then it really, really would suck. 

 

Now is the time to start hunting. If he finds something while he still has a chance to take a voluntary layoff with a cushy severance package, whoopee, free money, fun times!

 

If he gets laid off involuntarily before he finds something, well, that sucks, but hopefully he'd have a nice severance package anyway plus/minus some ability to collect unemployment (which ain't an option if he voluntarily separates!) . . . and, anyway, at least he'd have a head start on the job hunt . . .

 

No way would I quit/accept a layoff willingly without a job lined up.

 

 

Also, he is in a MUCH stronger position applying for a new job when he already has a job. Seems ironic, but it's true. He's likely to make more money and get better offers if he is interviewing from "a position of strength" where the new company can see that he WANTS to move to their company/location as opposed to them viewing him (reasonably) as a desperate soul who may take their job because he is desperate but then again is highly likely to move on in a year or two when he finds what he REALLY wants. Companies want people to work for them who WANT to be THERE, and that is why it is such a stronger position to already be employed.

 

Frankly, I would try not to consider that $$ that is on the table for voluntary lay off. 6-9 months salary is groovy, but it is generally not going to change your life, and if that much money is really vital to you . . . then think about how vulnerable you will be if he doesn't find a good job before the money runs out. Not worth it, IMHO. 

 

IMHO, if you had two high earning careers and could live on one wage, or dh really hated his job in the first place, or there was some urgent pressing reason to move, then, OK, go for it. But, with one wage earner, no way, no how, would I compromise his ability to find just the right job. 

 

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Tax ramifications of a Buy Out offer (see a C.P.A. or Certified Financial Planner, if you contemplate accepting).  Unemployment benefits, if you accept a Buy Out offer (probably not available to your DH)?   The friend in Whirlpool should submit the UPDATED resume of your DH, to his company, ASAP, if your DH and you would like to go there. Is the Whirlpool business growing or shrinking?  BTW, this is somewhat a crapshoot, except that you would both prefer to relocate to another part of the USA.  One of my former colleagues was working as a Temporary Contract Employee (Software Engineer) for a client in the N.E.   They were going to have a big layoff. She assumed they would cut her.  Surprise: They cut "Direct" (Permanent) employees and kept her...   The knowledge and skills she had and the work she was doing for them, was much more important to them than her status as a Temporary Contract employee.   So, if you and your DH liked the area where you have been living, there is a possibility his employer would keep him employed there, but that is always a big gamble.  Here's another story. I was working for a client in Huntsville. The client hired a young Engineer who was living in San Antonio. How did he get to San Antonio?  A company there hired him, paid the Headhunter and Moving Expenses, and then 2 weeks after he began working in San Antonio, they laid him off.  There are no guarantees. Try to get the best employment contract that your DH can get...

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Get the job*, then move. Do not take the voluntary separation or whatever they are calling it, since it seems like they really like him and the chance of his getting laid off is low.  the chances of things just not coming together for a new job are probably much higher, and looking for a job while you don't have one is horrible, just horrible.

 

 

ETA:  *Clarifying:  it is better to work his tail off to get a new job, while employed, and then to move, than to look for a new job when you have the pressure of no job, and people always wondering if there is more to your story, i.e., why you were not kept, even when there were lay-offs.    I'm NOT saying that he should stay with the company, rather he should make his job change from a position of strength, if at all possible. 

Edited by Halftime Hope
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I happen to know that BAE is hiring in Michigan--I think in the Detroit area but am not sure.  They have a pretty good-sized operation here in Silicon Valley but are trying to get people I know to transfer there. 

 

I am not so sure about engineering jobs in the Twin Cities area.  It seems to be booming, with real estate going up like crazy, but the people I know there are mostly in financial services or law or higher education. 

 

 

There is a company, North of Detroit, I think in Livonia (?) that was involved in the conversion of an Airbus model, from Passenger to Cargo configuration, about 7 years ago. I don't remember the name of the company, but I was contacted by a Recruiter in England (I'm in Colombia), for that temporary contract assignment in MI.   I believe they ended up not getting that contract from Airbus, but that work obviously required Mechanical Engineers, in addition to Software Engineers.  The Detroit area is very rough, but Livonia looked like a better area, when I looked into the possibility of going there.  

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I have a friend who works as an engineer for Whirlpool. She has a great job working from home in another state far away.

 

I can't speak much to the job situation, but your Dh sounds very qualified and it seems like he could get a job where you want to live. Personally I would take the voluntary buyout and go for it.

 

One day you two might wake up and realize how important it is to be near family. When we moved away from my parents 3 1/2 years ago it seemed no big deal. Now it seems HUGE and we are working to get them move near us.

 

Make these changes while you have more control.

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I agree with what Carol.has said, but as a 24 year resident of Michigan whise husband is high up in the tech industry here for a huge employer - I cannot recommend you come to Michigan without a solid, can't be broken without huge pay out, five year contract. This state is in really bad shape and I know multiple people who moved here for tech related work and watched those jobs disappear after only a year or two. Dh's job is secure, but my brother's isn't (works for HP) and there is nothing here. He has 30 years experience with some serious accolades from the company and has been warned he has at most 18 months left with the severance package amounting to six weeks pay and that's it.

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I'm glad to see that many people agree with my first thought - DH should look for a job while he still has time to decide and then take the package if he finds one. He started looking at what's available in areas we might want to live in last night. Whether he actually sends out his resume, well, I think at this point there's a 50% chance. He hates change and making big decisions that bring on change. I'm amazed sometimes that he managed to decide he wanted to marry me.

 

I may tell him that a bunch of people who don't actually know us agree with me. That probably won't sway his decisionmaking, but at least I'll have some evidence that I'm not a lunatic :).

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Unless you have a really big cushion, I would always want a job first before I move into an area. As you said as well, moving is such a big hassle, it is not done easily. Also, the kids will have some kind of adjustment period. I'd research a little more and find out where the best job options are. I think then you will have a clearer picture if leaving in the near future is feasible or not. I am always assessing worst case scenario and best case. Sounds like in the worst case, your dh gets the layoff notice with  weeks of severance pay, in the best case he is not asked to leave at all. We would be starting to network and look at offers in various areas.

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We've looked at some engineering jobs in Farmington. Those have been consistently good but it's not the cheapest place in the state to live. Some parts of Michigan, like Saginaw, are in long term slumps. Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor are not doing nearly as bad. It kind of depends.

 

I agree with finding a job and then just rising he severence package. And though there is some work in Minnesota (that we have seen) it wouldn't be my first choice. I'm fond of western states though, as is my husband. So anything in the flat middle/mid east of the country is a hard sell for us!

Edited by Arctic Mama
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 I appreciate the advice about sending his resume out and then deciding about whether to take the package (he has until the end of February to decide). However, given his personality, he's unlikely to make the move of sending out resumes unless he's made a firm decision to leave.

 

They likely have given him such a long lead time so that he can go out and job hunt before he commits to leaving the company. The extra time is a gift and he should use it wisely by networking, researching and sending out resumés. 

 

ETA: I think it's good for him to target areas that you know you want to live in, but he also shouldn't hesitate to broaden his net and apply for jobs that are in other areas. They may not be ideal from a location standpoint, but they may be great professional opportunities and/or jobs he would really enjoy, thus making the trade-off worth it. 

Edited by TechWife
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Get the job, then move.  Do not take the voluntary separation or whatever they are calling it, since it seems like they really like him and the chance of his getting laid off is low.  the chances of things just not coming together for a new job are probably much higher, and looking for a job while you don't have one is horrible, just horrible.

 

Being well liked is usually not protection against a staff reduction. The company is doing this for financial reasons. They are looking at how much each of these employees is costing them (in salary, bonus funds and benefits) and will choose their mix of people to let go accordingly. Generally speaking, the company can save money and have a smaller impact on their revenue stream if they let go the more expensive employees.  

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OP   About 20 minutes ago, I received an email from a Headhunter about a "Direct" position with a "Rapidly Growing Tier 1 Automotive Supplier".  This was for a Software Engineer, but it is indicative of the fact that the U.S. automobile industry is thriving. Because of the location, your DH might want to look on Monster and CareerBuilder, so see if they are also looking for Hardware people. The highlights of the email were:

 

Position type: Perm

Position location: Saginaw, MI

Salary up to: $125K / Yr

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I agree with what Carol.has said, but as a 24 year resident of Michigan whise husband is high up in the tech industry here for a huge employer - I cannot recommend you come to Michigan without a solid, can't be broken without huge pay out, five year contract. This state is in really bad shape and I know multiple people who moved here for tech related work and watched those jobs disappear after only a year or two. Dh's job is secure, but my brother's isn't (works for HP) and there is nothing here. He has 30 years experience with some serious accolades from the company and has been warned he has at most 18 months left with the severance package amounting to six weeks pay and that's it.

 

 

I do business with someone in MI.   Their older DD began as an E.E. major, last August, in a state university you know well.  Her parents (and probably the DD) are well aware of the "Brain Drain", where MI educated students emigrate to other states.   Possibly now that the automotive industry is humming along, that will lessen, but it is part of what happens in MI and other places.

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I'm glad to see that many people agree with my first thought - DH should look for a job while he still has time to decide and then take the package if he finds one. He started looking at what's available in areas we might want to live in last night. Whether he actually sends out his resume, well, I think at this point there's a 50% chance. He hates change and making big decisions that bring on change. I'm amazed sometimes that he managed to decide he wanted to marry me.

 

I may tell him that a bunch of people who don't actually know us agree with me. That probably won't sway his decisionmaking, but at least I'll have some evidence that I'm not a lunatic :).

 

Will they let anyone take the buyout or only a certain number & when that number have put in for it, the option is gone? I've seen it work that way before.

 

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Your husband is on a sinking ship. 

 

Start sending out resumes. It can take many months to get a new job, so that needs to start now. And if he is offered a job, he doesn't have to accept it. The key in a job search is to send out MANY resumes and to act like you're really going for it until a job offer is on the table. Then you can take a step back to decide if this is something you want or not.

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Since he hasn't been job hunting for a while, he should be prepared for a whole different game. In many fields, you need to get your resume into several databases and through several layers of computer algorithms and speak to half a dozen headhunters before you ever sit face-to-face with anyone remotely connected to hiring you. DH only had a gap of a few years between job hunts and it jumped from walking in, handing them a paper resume, and talking to someone, to an electronic maze. God forbid your job be more complicated than its most descriptive keyword. He got all sorts of crazy calls for jobs not remotely connected to his. I was was weird and seemed less efficient than to ancient way of doing things.

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Since he hasn't been job hunting for a while, he should be prepared for a whole different game. In many fields, you need to get your resume into several databases and through several layers of computer algorithms and speak to half a dozen headhunters before you ever sit face-to-face with anyone remotely connected to hiring you. 

:iagree:

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I am a strong proponent of being where you want to be.  DH and I ended up in VA for 10 years after a job lay off in NC.  We thought maybe 1 year max, but 10 years later and all my kids knew, we finally made the push to get out.  We were at the coast and we both are mountain people.  FINALLY a job opened up back west and we sold everything(even our car) to make the move happen.  For us, it's farther from family, but for US, we like it here.  We like the scenery, the lifestyle, the culture, etc.  So far my kids are very happy as well.  And a LOT of our friends moved right after us, so it was a good thing we did for our family.  I say this....it's been 1 1/2 years since we made this move and lately I am kinda sad and missing the past.  I know it's just part of life, and it was 10 years of our life.  The people who made it special are mostly moved away, but still, I miss the old you know?  I would be sure you and your DH make a list of things you like where you are, where you want to be and a list of things you don't like in both places.  Some things weigh more than others.  But my point is that I think you should do what you need to get where you want to be.  We are much happier where we are.  It was hard financially, and emotionally, but we are so glad it finally happened for us to make this a reality. 

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