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Gonzo
Gonzo

Greener Grass - It's not always as green on the other side of the service bay door

Greener Grass

You’re washing up after a long, hard day. Your shirt tail hasn’t stayed tucked in since lunch time, and everywhere you look there are more oil stains and dirt on your clothes from working on that last engine. Then the service manager shows up wanting to know why that last job isn’t finished, and asks if you can stick around a few more hours to get it done. You’re about to blow a gasket, but you keep your cool, and call home to tell them you’ll be late again.

Between the car problems, that lousy air hose fitting that blew apart, and that last repair order you got that listed the customer’s complaint as: “Car don’t go.” You’ve had enough. You slam the screwdriver drawer shut as you say to yourself, “I’m going to quit. I’ll find another way to pay my bills. I can’t take this anymore.” Even the guys and gals coming out of technical schools wonder if this was the right choice. Most of them have the same worries: “Can I find a job? Will it pay enough?” Everyone wants to get out there and do what they were trained to do, and the road from just being a lube tech seems so long and narrow that the thought of changing careers creeps into the conversation.

I’m sure at one time or another we’ve all thought about trading in the toolbox for a cubical office job. There’s such an investment in training and tools that you have to wonder. “Is it all worth it? Is there anything else I could do? Is there greener grass somewhere else?” If you listen to some of these motivational speakers they’ll tell you, “Don’t follow your passion - follow the money. Your passion may be the thing you love to do, but money makes the world go around. Life’s too short to train and become an expert, go where the money goes, do what pays the best!”

Then the question is asked, “Is there any money to be made in this trade, or am I just fooling myself? Should I start thinking about a different line of work?” Anybody who’s been around a while will tell you the real money in this business is for those who have the knack and the temperament to deal with the ups and downs. If you’re the type of person who finds mechanical things fascinating, or an automotive related TV show entertaining, or an old restored ride rumbling down the road makes you strain your neck for a better view…well then, you’ve got a passion for things mechanical.

I’ve known a lot of guys who left the trade for one reason or another and then eventually came back to it. Now why is that? Why would you hang up your wrenches, and then decide to come back to it later on? I thought the pay was terrible, the working conditions were too rough, and the training was too much? It’s probably the same reason why you’re reading this. It’s in your blood. Cars, boats, trains, heavy equipment, etc… those mechanical wonders that make the industrialized world move progressively forward into the future are part of your make up. Ya can’t change who you really are. Money may change how you’re involved with all things mechanical, but I’ll guarantee you’ll still find room for them.

If you check the average income for technicians across the country the figures are simply appalling. Who in their right mind would invest thousands and thousands of dollars into personal equipment to repair something that needs such a highly skilled person to properly repair them? Only to be put at the bottom of the list of important contributors that keeps this society on the road? Yep, the mechanic knows that scenario all to well.

I tried to figure out how they arrived at these income figures. From what I could find out the national average is based on every facet of the automotive world. From the lube tech, tire shops, muffler shops, brake specialty shops, and various dealership/independent shops. I find their results rather misleading.

If they did the same analysis on the average salary of a chef they’d find the same huge differences between them as well. Just as it is in the automotive field there are different levels of compensation. The person who preps things in the kitchen is just as much a chef as the person whose name is on the door. So why are there so many variations in income levels?

Its training and your expertise that makes the difference, you’ve already got the passion for it. Gee, the three things some of those so called expert motivational speakers tell you to ignore. So if the main reason you’ve thought of changing professions is based on an average salary…think again… your passion may win out in the long run. Now all you need is that training and expertise.

This trade is like any other trade… with one exception. Not all you know today is going to help repair the cars of the next generation. You have to constantly learn something new. Training is what is going to make the difference; it’s a never ending pursuit of knowledge on new technology, procedures, and tools.

Just remember that passion that got you started. It’s still there. Learn as much as you can about your trade, learn it well, and be the best that you can be, that greener grass may be a lot closer than you think.

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great Gonzo, The wife and myself were just talking about this last night.. As I think it is time to look for another job. One of the first things that came out of her mouth was, why don't you try a totally different job! You are so smart you can learn a new career quickly..Ouch how can I do that? I am at the top of my game when compared to a lot of "mechanics" out there. Not to mention all the money time and learning I have put into this . Nope just time to look for another place to get my clothes and hands all greasy, I mean how could I live with out all the little nicks and cuts on my hands and the burns on my arms from those cheap metal caged drop lights? Why would I want anything else? That is my life solving problems that most can't.

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Great article, and great perspective. This business is in our blood. Even at 61, with more than 40 years in the business, the passion is still alive. I would like to see people in our business improve their pay compensation, and immprove working condition. But, I have to admit, we a better today than when I started.

 

Technicians and shop owners are a rare breed. We keep America moving. If not for us, the doctor can't get to the hospital, the lawyer can't get to the court house and the accountant can't make it to the office. Think about, everything around you got there because of some sort of transportation vehicle.

 

We may be underpaid and undervalued, but no one can ever dispute the tremendous value we bring to the world.

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I closed two months ego. Could not be happier.Should have done it 10 years ego.

It is the fear of the unknown that makes us do things we really should not be doing.

I earn now minimum wage. More than enough to pay all my bills.

Still got all my tools. The biggest problem now is working on my own cars with out a lift.

Can't seem to find a comfy creeper. :)

Gene.

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Well, I have been in this business for most of my life. And at age 59, I admit there is times I think about getting out. However, when I step back and reflect on the reasons why I would consider quitting, at the same time, I also reflect on the reasons I should keep on. For me, the reasons to stay in business far outweigh the reasons for quitting. What I find is that my reasons for quitting are mostly selfish in nature. Here is the thing, this business of auto/truck repair is largely a service oriented business. At the same time we are fixing cars, we are building relations with others, customers and vendors alike. I am one that tends to look at the big picture. And for me, my objective and goal in life is more than just making money, it is about relating to my fellowmen. And so, from that perspective, I value the relationship I have with my customers and vendors. Does that mean we always agree in every point? No but we find ways to work through the differences and move on. The technology of today's vehicles does not intimidate me at all. That does not mean that we are able to repair every problem the first time we see the car but with decent amount of training and access to good service information we can usually find our way. So, bottom line, to me, life is more than making money and having an easy life. We are created by our Maker in such a way that we function best when we serve others. Now, I know, there are some of you that will differ with me on that, and that is your right to do so, but your disagreeing with me does not change my life or the good business we have and enjoy. Actually, the reality of it is that if I quit my business, I am not sure I could find something I enjoy as much as what I am doing right now. So. I will keep on doing what I enjoy doing.

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