Like many other people that go off to trade school, I had a goal of going to learn about how to work on cars . (In looking back, I'm not sure why I even bothered as I thought I already knew everything). I envisioned a career where I got really good at my craft and lived a good life of working on cars. Past that, I really didn't have any aspirations or goals other than possibly taking over the reigns of my Dad's shop at some point. I didn't really know anything different than the shop lifestyle that I grew up in.
Little did I know, life would have far different plans for me. After coming back to work at my Dad's shop after graduation, I quickly got a rude awakening. I wasn't very good at actually diagnosing or repairing cars and, if I'm being honest, I didn't like it very much. It's hard to like something when you're really bad at it! I lacked any level of confidence at that point and continually going into a job that you stink at isn't much fun. It was a really tough time for me but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
After my very short stint as a "Technician", I packed up my crappy confidence and worked a couple odds and ends jobs. None of them paid very well but you don't really have people beating down your door when you're not providing any type of value.
I always had a feeling that my skill set might be different than what I had been telling myself it was. While I really enjoyed talking about cars, buying tools and generally talking shop, I didn't actually like doing the mechanical work itself. Kind of a weird feeling that is hard to understand…I loved everything about being a Tech but the actual work of doing the things that are required of a Tech. On top of that, you see your buddies doing well and it's extremely discouraging.
I've been very transparent about my history because I feel like it has given me such a different perspective and respect level for people that are good with their hands. Getting knocked on your ass by something you think you love is one of the more humbling things you can endure.
With that being said, I've become more than a little frustrated by the conversation driven on many social media channels from industry vets claiming that working in a shop isn't rewarding or that it's not appreciated. I'm frustrated to the point that I want to hit this head on. As with anything, most of the people who's voices stand out are highly negative. They continue to spread their misery onto a younger generation who are taking what the negative folks are saying and making lifelong decisions based off of their offhanded comments.
So, here's my plea. Stop it. You've got options outside of publicly making yourself look like an ass. Either stop working in a profession that drives you to advise others against pursuing it in public forums or make a move to a place that treats you better and makes you feel less miserable. One other option would be to shut the hell up. We don't need you.
How hypocritical do I sound? Here's a guy that went to school to be a Tech, didn't really like it, and quit to pursue other things.
But here's the thing. What I learned in those days working on cars set a base of knowledge that I have used ever since. It's helped me build a career that has provided me with lifelong relationships with some of the best people I have ever known. It has truly given me respect for talented people that don't get credit for how smart they are. It has provided me opportunities outside of a shop that I didn't know were possible. No, really. I had no idea that there were any opportunities outside of the shop.
This is something that I feel is completely undersold to people looking at entering our business. Many of these industry veterans that are complaining that the business has been tough on them are also some of the people that have no goals and are just "riding it out" until retirement. With all due respect, these aren't the types of people that should carry the message to people looking to enter our business.
What those voices don't understand is the incredible opportunities that are out there for those patient enough to actually learn the basics of how things work. Learn the basics of how things operate electrically, mechanically and even how a business works. This gives you a heck of an idea of what works, what doesn't work and what you're good at…or in my case, what I wasn't good at. Looking back, I wish that I would have known that the ultimate goal should be learning as much as you can while you're taking home those initial modest checks.
It can seem like a long road but I truly believe that those who are patient, professional and take their craft seriously will enjoy a rewarding career in this business with lots of truly great opportunities. Shops are going to need management with many of them looking to hand their business down to the next generations…in some cases, some pretty sweet deals out there for the right people. There's lots of baby boomers looking to exit the business with nobody waiting in line. Manufacturers are going to be looking for factory reps and the ability to diagnose electrical issues will be a skill in high demand. There are going to be plenty of opportunities to not only survive but truly thrive.
Ultimately, building the foundation of your career around a core skill and then building off of that always seems to result in something positive. If you're a young person entering the industry, talk to others in the business outside of the shop to see how they got to where they are. There are so many cool opportunities out there that it would make your head spin. Do your research and understand what it is that you want…whether you're just entering the business or if you're currently complaining about the career path you've chosen. There are plenty of opportunities to do great things if you find the right mentors, are willing to adapt, read the right things and surround yourself with the right people.
The hardest part about this is to make sure the right message is portrayed to people entering the business. We invite you to join us in doing this.