Your CAD Management Career Wake-Up Call

26 Jun, 2018 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: Everyone gets frustrated at work sometimes. How can you decide whether it’s a normal part of an otherwise rewarding job, or an indication that you should move on?

Over the past decade, we have gone through some dire financial times (particularly in AEC fields) that have caused many CAD managers to suffer through some less-than-ideal employment circumstances. Of course, not everyone is complaining, but the mail I get often expresses real frustration. I see comments like these frequently:

“Senior management has no clue what we’re doing, and they don’t care.”
“They don’t care about getting things done right — or about training.”
“They try to use building information modeling (BIM) like it’s AutoCAD.”
“Nothing ever gets better; it’s like we’re stuck in a time warp.”
“I’m not learning, and I don’t have any potential to advance here.”
“I’m seriously thinking about quitting!”

If any of these strike a chord with you, then it’s time for a career wakeup call to take stock of your situation. In this issue of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter we’ll begin a series to focusing on ideas for doing just that. Here goes.

So You Think You Want to Quit

Let’s face it, sometimes working at a dysfunctional company can be so demotivating and stressful that you just don’t want to work there anymore. So what should you do in those cases? It’s simple: You should consider not working there anymore! The reality is that the economy is strong now and companies are hiring, so this may be your best chance to ditch the frustration and move on to a better opportunity elsewhere.

creative soul /

However, leaving is not a decision to be made in haste. Please see the following lists of Dos and Don’ts so you won’t make a career mistake (more on these items a bit later):

  • Don’t quit your job on a whim.
  • Don’t issue threats about quitting your job.
  • Don’t tell others that you’re thinking of quitting.
  • Do understand why you want to quit.
  • Do analyze your company’s financial situation.
  • Do create an honest analysis of your current skills/marketability.
  • Do create a plan for how you’ll exit if, after careful consideration, you decide to do so.

Think Before You Speak — or Act

If you look at the items on the Don’t list, please note that all of them advise a cautious, private approach. After all, anybody can have a few bad weeks on the job where quitting seems like a great idea, only to find that once the problems pass, the job is still enjoyable. One you’ve threatened to quit, it is impossible to take it back, so it’s best to not say a word until you’re absolutely sure.

The items on the Do list are homework assignments that will help you decide whether quitting makes sense and how to start searching for something new. You may know that you’re frustrated with your current job, but what’s the plan for landing a new position elsewhere? You don’t know until you’ve done your homework, so let’s start doing that now.

Understand Your Motivation

Why do you really want to quit? This is a question that only you know the answer to, but here are some questions and advice you can use to analyze your own situation.

Are you tired of personnel conflicts, lack of authority, or management disinterest? If so, could these problems be mitigated by taking a different approach to your job? Have you really tried to fix these problems?

Is the company heading downhill financially? We’ll look at this factor in more detail in the "Analyzing Your Company" section below, but a company that is financially unhealthy is a place you may want to move away from.

Are you no longer learning or advancing? Your position may be financially rewarding, and your coworkers may be your friends, but if you’re not able to build your skills and advance your career, it could be time to move on.

By considering these questions closely, you can separate your personal frustration from larger career issues like advancement potential and the financial solvency of your firm. I’ve always found it beneficial to take the emotion out of career decisions, and by answering these questions honestly, you’ll understand the real reason you want to quit.

Analyze Your Company’s Prospects

Most CAD managers don’t sit in on executive meetings — and we certainly don’t have access to company financials — but that doesn’t mean we can’t do a cursory analysis of our company’s condition. Here are a few diagnostic questions that I’ve found very reliable over the years, along with some direction for how to interpret your responses.

Do you work for a non-evolving company? Is your company management married to old methods and tools, even though they are losing work and their profit margins are shrinking? Is your company simply limping along, instead of developing new products and services? Is your company having trouble getting new projects even though the economy is up?

Do you work for a “just get it done” company? Are key leaders in the company willing to take shortcuts and look past quality problems in the interest of getting substandard work out the door?

Are there financial problems? Does management seem tense all of a sudden? Does it seem like work volume has dropped? Have you noticed lots of policy and procedural changes geared solely toward cutting expenses without any mention of improving quality or future growth? These are strong signs that profits and/or sales are down, which will ultimately mean less opportunity for you to advance in the future.

Is the company for sale? Have there been lots of closed-door meetings with strangers? Have there been directives to clean offices and public spaces so tours of the building can be conducted? These are all classic signs that the company is being positioned for sale, and that sale could mean big uncertainty for all employees.

The more you found yourself answering “Yes” to these questions, the worse the company situation is. As an example: If you answer “Yes” to all of the above, you’re working in a company that isn’t advancing, is cutting corners on quality, is losing market share, and is having financial problems that may even lead to an outright sale — all of which should make you want to leave immediately!

On the other hand, the more you answered “No,” the more stable the company is, and the more confidence you should have staying there — even if you do experience frustrations from time to time.

Summing Up

At this point, you should be able to decide if quitting your job is really what you should do. If you determine that leaving is for the best, then you’ll need to start your preparations for finding a new job and get a plan in place to make it happen. If it’s better to stay, then you need to understand why you’re experiencing career frustration and create a plan for improving your situation. Either way, your career can only benefit.

In an upcoming installment of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll present strategies for analyzing your own strengths and weaknesses so you can advance your career no matter where you work. Until next time.

Editor's note: Click here to read "Your CAD Management Career Wake-Up Call, Part 2."

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: Your CAD Management Career Wake-Up Call
by: mikepo
June 27, 2018 - 1:59pm
Great article! Those are questions I've asked myself in previous times. Fortunately for me now, I can answer a resounding NO to all the questions. I know that's not the case for all. I guess I'm getting old and crotchety enough to not put up with any YES answers.
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