it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I left an extremely dysfunctional workplace in December of 2019 and started freelancing. Unfortunately, I never got up to a full-time freelancing load, so I decided to job search in February. I was in final interviews with two positions in March — right as COVID destroyed the job market. Both positions were cancelled. Since then I’ve been living on savings and as much freelance work as I could find, and applying to as many jobs as possible.

Well, everything came together in July — I got four interview requests in the course of a week, had three interviews on one day, and just accepted a job for more than my previous salary (I was very concerned about having to take a salary dip). My partner is heading to grad school in the fall so it was extremely important to get a solid income before she left her current job. And I’m actually starting on my 30th birthday!

2. This good news is about my son. He was graduated with a masters in engineering in January. Everything I share below is what the son shared willingly with me. I get a gold star for never once asking him, “so, how is the job hunt going?” Extra points for never telling him to show gumption. I was able to give him requested advice along the way from my own experience and everything I have learned from you and AAM readers these last years.

He spent the first couple months after graduation in contention for interesting positions that were above entry level because of his solid graduate work that included having his name on several papers and presenting. Hindsight, he was shooting too high (no security clearance yet, proven track record was in research not industry), but you don’t know until you try and no one was worried about him ending up with a good job one way or the other.

Well. Come the pandemic. Now we all shift into concerned.

The first thing that happened was his circumstances changed. Previously he was willing to job hunt all over the US and was open to international positions also. Now he was only willing to be about two hours from home because both he and his partner did not want to be too far away from family in case family needed them. Fortunately we live in a good area for engineering jobs but still, that changed the map big time.

March through June was grim. So many applications dropped into silence. Some initial conversations ended because of the lack of security clearance. One excellent opportunity progressed into third interview and then disappeared with no resolution. And then yesterday:

Offer accepted! Solid, interesting starter job with an excellent large company about one hour from home base. Salary is 30% less than what he was shooting for in January but they will get him his clearance which he now believes is the key to his next level of progression. The benefits are great and the biggest bonus of all is that he is aligned with the mission of the job and the organization. One of his greatest concerns was that as he was getting to the “job, I need any job now” phase he would end up in a job where his work was going toward something that was against his moral code (always a danger in his area of engineering). FWIW, he got this opportunity through a recruiter and he would pass along that in his circumstances, all of the solid chances he got were through recruiters looking for him and not through direct applications.

3. I am an avid reader of your blog and I wanted to share some news that I’m absolutely over the moon about. For the last few years, I have worked as a contractor for a company. The position I was in was being converted to a full time role, which I had to apply and interview for.

Since I’ve been in the role, there have been significant changes to the responsibilities, and while I had received some increases before COVID, the increases stopped but the expectations for the role continued. It’s not something I was unable to handle and I like what I do, and I didn’t want to rock the boat during a time when everyone is struggling. But when the role was converted to a full time position, I saw an opportunity to ask for what I felt would be a fair salary. I prepared by looking at salaries for similar roles both internal to the company and externally using sites such as Glassdoor and Payscale. I was also prepared to defend my case with that research and my own contributions to the role and company. I was very nervous because I was requesting a 25% increase. Alison, and fellow readers—I got it!

Reading your blog has helped me feel empowered to advocate for myself. It has also made me a better employee. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. Zombeyonce*

    I’m so glad #2’s son was able to get a job that didn’t go against his moral code. It can be so tough to find something when you’re desperate that will pay the bills no matter what it is. I’m glad he wasn’t put in the position to choose between eating and following his values.

    1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

      THAT’S MY SON. :)

      We are over the moon and could not be happier about the mission of the org he has joined. Champagne for everyone.

      1. Nea*

        Finding a company willing to give someone a clearance is like hitting the jackpot and grabbing the brass ring all in one. Congratulations!

      2. Cruciatus*

        I’m truly asking because I’m ignorant of the issue and not trying to be snarky–what sorts of things in engineering would potentially go against a person’s moral code? When I read that I realized I didn’t know enough to be able to even come up with an example.

        I’m glad he found something he likes though!

        1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

          Saying this without casting aspersions on people who make other choices:

          working for a defense contractor would be an example.

          In his area of engineering, a great deal of people end up doing things that build bombs, etc.

        2. Guess?*

          An aerospace engineer might not want to work on fighter jets that drop bombs, for instance.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

            And then you have questions for yourself about how far in the process you are willing to be – are you okay with doing X, which ultimately contributes to Z, even if you don’t work on Z. I think the choice is very personal and he is glad that he is doing something in an entirely different alphabet. :)

        3. laughingrachel*

          I’m not sure about Wakeen’s son, but my brothers are engineers who needed security clearances. One works at a place with DOD contracts, and I can think of lots of things the DOD might want people to build that some will probably have objection to. The other works in nuclear energy, which is also sometimes controversial. I will say, I wish we invested more in nuclear energy, it’s increasingly safe if regulated and enforced, and it generates so much more energy than other green options.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

            Engineers can face many ethical choices. Energy is so important to the future of everything!

            1. laughingrachel*

              It’s so tough and personal to each person! I’m so happy for your son that he didn’t have to make any compromises for his first job. The first one is the hardest to get! Even if you have a great co-op/intern/work history out of school. Once he gets through the first one and gets that clearance, every search after will be so much easier. Both of my brothers put their first 2 years in at less money and less interesting work than they thought they would get, but after those first 2 years, they both had a lot of doors open to them and they just thrived. And it sounds like your son has a similar track record of excellence so the only way is up from here!!!

        4. Mirve*

          When I was graduating college (eons ago), one defense company I interviewed with made a point of saying they only did non-weapons type work (combat simulators and such), but also made it clear that that could change in the future. So the companies are aware of that as well.

        5. Uncivil Engineer*

          Some examples of things that may go against a person’s moral code that do not involve security clearance could be things like: oil drilling/oil pipelines; developers who buy up low-to-middle income housing and replace it with luxury housing that price out all the previous occupants; companies that bend safety/environment/labor laws; companies with a poor diversity record; government jobs of any kind. It’s all legal. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

            I can see you think like my son does. He was willing to make some compromises for the first job and glad that he didn’t have to.

            It would be great if everyone could just work on “getting water to arid areas of Africa” projects but most people can’t (and that’s not what son is doing either).

        6. MayLou*

          I have a friend who is very uncomfortable with the fact that the work she does is adjacent to the maintenance of nuclear submarines. She doesn’t directly contribute to the creation and upkeep of warheads but indirectly she’s part of a company that does.

        7. Mid*

          My friend works in a specific niche of engineering that is directly related to drone navigation systems and guided missiles, and it’s a struggle for him. The technology has other applications, but most of the jobs and money are in gov’t contracting and that means making weapons.

        8. Derivative Poster*

          I’m an engineer who does the kind of work others are citing as potentially objectionable. I think it’s important for all engineers to grapple with the potential applications of their work and its ethical ramifications. At the same time, we have to realize we can’t anticipate how people will use what we create. I’m sure Mark Zuckerberg didn’t intend for people to use Facebook to stir up ethnic conflict. However, he also didn’t seem willing to admit his technology had destructive potential, which kept him from addressing the issue promptly and effectively.

          It’s comforting to think you’re doing work that can only benefit people, but often there’s some ambiguity there and I think we need to acknowledge that ambiguity.

          Sorry, I have many Feelings on this topic! I’m glad your son found a job he’s happy with in his target location, and I hope he enjoys it.

          1. Anon for now*

            Same same same. I’m working at a defense contractor now, after spending my whole career saying I would never. But while I’m definitely part of the military-industrial complex now, my specific area is computer security. And yeah, the money is coming in because the military needs to secure assets in the field, but secure systems are important for everyone. Previously, I worked on consumer electronics, which I thought was fairly safe, ethically speaking. But some of the products we designed bought up in huge quantities by bitcoin miners. And bitcoin has so many ethical issues, from the enormous waste of energy resources running mining to the way it shields and enables criminals to the fact that it would be an economic disaster if it gained traction the way its advocates want it to.

            And that’s not even getting into the work culture. For example, I’ve worked with more Black engineers in the last six months than in my entire career previously. I have not once in this job been the only woman or the only POC in the room. My previous job kinda sorta paid lip service to diversity & inclusion, but it remained very homogenous.

            Sometimes its a lot more complicated than defense/not defense.

          2. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

            100 agree, which is why I was careful to word as personal choice. Personally, he did not want to work on a defense contract. Personally, I was happy that he did not want to do that. Generally, do I want an actual national defense? Yes. Do I want to support good people working on a national defense? Yes.

            Also appreciate your point about ambiguity because that is right on.

        9. schnauzerfan*

          Yeah just about any field of engineering or science can and should lead one to question “just what the hell are we doing here.” Something a simple as “are electric cars really better for the environment or shouldn’t we be working on mass transit?” “I’m working on a blood testing machine that, as it happens doesn’t work as advertised and may well lead to people’s early death” “toenail fungus? really? I thought I’d spend my career fighting cancer and I’m just making an expensive drug that …” “the game I’m working on glorifies violence and drug use. Is this really the best use of my skills and talents?” “Fracking? Who knew it’d cause earthquakes?” “That mountain top needed removed. The coal under it wanted to be free!” “Mars! Cool! I’ve always wanted to be involved in space, but maybe my talents would serve mankind better if I focused on improving life here on Earth?”

          No offense to anyone happily engaged in any of the above activities. Its just that “Is this ethical engineering and science is actually a fairly vexing question.”

        10. JSPA*

          Many things related to high energy physics / anything nuclear. Anything related to “cloaking.” Anything related to facial recognition. Anything related to big-data surveillance. Many things related to deep fakes. Many things related to cryptography. Some things related to aerospace. Some things related to specialized imaging or specialized communications. A few things related to deep sea exploration. A few things related to geology.

          Only a subset of these require clearance.

      3. Random Commenter*

        I’m curious, how do security clearances work in the US?

        I work in Canada. I had a job at a nuclear power plant. There was an extensive background check, but there was no concept of a clearance I needed to have outside of their background checking.

        1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

          This is a government security clearance. Son is working on a federal contract. So he will have a federal security clearance.

        2. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Years ago I worked for DND and had a secret clearance, it was like gold when it came to looking for another job.

        3. Annony Annony*

          My father had one (Security clearance) as well many, many moons ago. He was a chemical engineer, but his focus was on water purification and waste water treatment.
          I think at one point one of the companies he worked for had some maintenance and re-design contracts with the Navy for their fleet “facilities” with the aim of making them more efficient, but I was so small at the time I may very well be in error.

        4. Gumby*

          The security clearance is what you have after passing the background check. It has to be renewed / updated periodically but travels with the person so having one already can make it easier to get jobs that require it. First because it allows for faster hiring since the background check takes time and in the meantime what you work on can be limited. It also saves the employer the costs associated with getting cleared which are not humongous but do exist.

        5. FriendlyCommunityBasedSocialWorker*

          It’s like an extensive background check on steroids. My husband also has one for his engineering role. He works on specific govt. projects, each level of clearance has a different level of checks. They go back years. They talk to a lot of people, employers, co workers, current and former neighbors, they speak to your spouse’s employer. They run extensive credit checks ( Are you going to be willing to steal infor for China/Russia/ Al Queda to because you’re in hock up to your ears?) I believe they’re good for 10 years (unless something crazy happens).

        6. JSPA*

          A number of jobs at high energy labs in the U.S. actually require that you be a citizen to get a high enough levels of clearance.

          That’s only a subset of jobs at Oak Ridge, Livermore, Los Alamos. Don’t know about Argonne, Ames Lab, etc. Industry jobs that are direct defense contract work have different yet roughly comparable requirements. Nuclear sub design and maintenance, working on the tech to render subs less detectable, all that jazz.

      4. Altair*


        And yes, an extra gold star to you for never mentioning gumption. ;)

      5. Kuododi*

        I’m afraid alcohol is on my permanent “given up for Lent list.”. I’ll be delighted to toast your son with sparkling water and a lime twist. Mazel tov Kuododi

      6. J.B.*

        Congrats! There is definitely a disconnect between the degree that was supposed to lead to great things and the entry level reality. I’m so glad for the positioning and future potential!

  2. Dr. Richard*

    Question regarding #3. I know when you’re a contractor through an agency they take a portion of what the company is paying (I’ve heard 33%), but what should you expect your salary to be if you’re converted to full time, since the company has to account for benefits now.

    1. I coulda been a lawyer*

      It was a long long time ago, but I once had a position through an agency bc the company just couldn’t keep the job filled. The work was hours of mind numbing boredom peppered by moments of high stress decision making. They were willing to pay a temp $10/hr, but when I was looking for more respond and money within the first month, they were willing to pay $20/hr with excellent benefits and 4 weeks vacation. [prior and future temps sometimes went to lunch on day 1 or 2 and never returned. The culture required a special type. ]

  3. EPLawyer*

    Yaaay. I love good news Friday. So happy for all 3 — but especially Wakeen’s son, since the kid is “like family” here.

  4. Treebeardette*

    I’m happy for your son. I too did a change on where I was looking for a job since the pandemic happen. I also changed what kind of organizations I wanted to work for. I just accepted an interview that’s only a couple hours away, smack in the middle of a couple of my of my relatives. It’s great feeling and I bet he feels the same.
    Also congrats on your position! Woot! Woot!

    1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

      Thank you!

      Pre pandemic I was the one encouraging him re international. “Go to Japan! Come back when there are grand babies but, really, travel the world! Go now!”

      And…. that changed. Good luck to you!!

  5. knitcrazybooknut*

    THANK GOODNESS FOR GOOD NEWS. I am so happy for everyone, and grateful that they shared!

  6. Abogado Avocado*

    I’ve been meaning to write this for a while: THANK YOU for continuing to post this good news. It is uplifting to hear the updates from other readers of your terrific blog, and it is a real upper during these difficult times. If we readers have been stressed out, I’m sure there have been many times you have been, too. And, yet, you’ve continued to provide care and feeding to this blog and this wonderful community, and you’ve continued to post these updates. With much appreciation for all you do, and especially for your work during the pandemic, I remain,
    A faithful reader

    1. Hotdog not dog*

      I LOVE the Friday good news post…it’s the highlight of my week! As someone of “a certain age” who is job hunting during a pandemic, it helps me stay focused and remember that good things come to those who don’t give up. Keep the uplifting news coming!

    2. juliebulie*

      Yes! It’s hard not to be discouraged about the unemployment numbers, and I’m not even job searching! It’s helpful to be reminded that the world is still turning.

    3. allathian*

      Yes, this. I’ve said it before, but Friday good news is absolutely my favorite of all of Alison’s posts.

    4. AGD*

      Agreed. It’s wonderful to see good news, to cheer on other readers, and (in some cases) to get good tips about what works!

  7. BlackCatOwner*

    I got a new job this week too! One that I found myself, which surprised me given that I was working with several recruiters. In many ways it’s a very lateral move (same job title, $5K more in salary, which is about an 8% raise) but it’s a totally new industry, which is relevant to my future career goals, much better benefits, and the company is international but headquartered in my tiny town, of all places. I made a mid-life career change (I turn 40 this year), and this well be my second job in my new career, which makes it feel more solidly like a career and not just a “job.”

    1. Abogado Avocado*

      HOORAY! (As another human owned by a black feline, I hope your kitty will get extra treats to help you celebrate!)

  8. Sarah*

    I’ve had a very similar experience with recruiters in my industry – the direct postings might as well be sent into the void. All of my jobs have come through recruiters approaching me directly. My husband (in the same industry) had applied for a company and never heard back and then was approached by a headhunter months later for the same (or at least the same title and description) position. Although he told them he’d already applied, they submitted his application anyway and he got the job. I’ve asked a couple people who are involved in recruiting why this is and they say that’s absolutely not true and they’d love to get direct applications, however that has absolutely not been my experience in practice.

  9. Desichan*

    Woo hoo! #3 is my sister and none of this shizz would have happened for her if I never told her about this blog. So I’ll take my accolades here. :) Really though, she is so dedicated to that job and she deserves everything she is getting and more.

  10. 30 Years in the Biz*

    Especially wonderful good news today! I like to read these before I go to bed – ending the day on a positive note. Happy Weekend everyone !

  11. Matt Quartermain*

    I can 100% endorse the use of job agencies. While there are horror stories about agents which send your details to horribly inappropriate positions, and (worse) those who doctor your CV without consulting you to make you look more “attractive”, I state without reservation that they have worked for me extremely well. I have not changed jobs a great number of times in my career, but every time I have done so has been with the help of an agent.

    As for interview hit rate, as a result of training sessions with companies which specialise in honing interview techniques, some of which also help out with improving networking skills, I have an average of approximately 50%.

  12. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

    I’m happy to report, that even in this time of covid, I got a substantial raise.

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