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Greener Grass - - Passion or Paycheck? Would it change if you changed professions?

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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Good article Gonzo! The problem with this trade compared to almost all others is every Tom. Dick, and Harry can call themselve a mechanic/technian and work on stuff. They don't carry insurance, have almost no training or none, have a few cheap tools, and hang on the cheapest parts they kind find. They collect the money and if there is a big screw up the person who paid them is SOL. We have worked on stuff like that where the mechanic didn't replace the stuff they said, sold used parts as new, used JB Weld to fix freeze plugs, and Right Stuff instead of a proper gasket. They put Bosh spark plugs in everything and generally have little clue as to what they are doing. If there is a problem they just disappear or refuse to do any warranty work. Other trades are more regulated. Most plumbers, electricians, carpenters, concrete guys, etc. can't get away with that stuff because there are government license, inspections, permits, etc. and often they are working outside or have a truck parked outside which an inspector sees or a licensed tradesman calls in. I personally don't want more government regulation but on the other hand it would eliminated some of this stuff.

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Gonzo, I think as an industry, we are very lucky to have so many passionate people. I wonder what would happen if we did not. Your passion shines through, as in all ASO members. We need to be thankful for that.


I also agree that on average, mechanics do not get paid what they are worth. And we need to be careful as we move forward. We need talented people, now and into the future. The most talented have goals and aspirations. Passion will drive them to us, but we need to take care of them.


Sadly, many shop owners are not making what they should either, for so many reasons.


Great article on a great subject!

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I often think about getting back in a big rig and head down the road. Made good money at it and didnt have near the hassle. And I think Frank may have hit it on the head. We ARE NOT considered professionals by most people. As I stated in a different post we constantly battle the less than qualified ships and their cut rate approach. You even have to be licensed to be a nail tech in a salon. Hell if I could just get my local govt to do their job half of these so called mechanics would be out of business. I used to think that an ASE master cert would set me apart...how many consumers know what ASE is? If I could get a job tomorrow that paid me more than I make now I would seriously consider it!

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