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Got Talent? training, dedication, and more... to really shine, you got to have talent.


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Got Talent?

There’s something to be said about having the skills needed to be a modern day mechanic. A true mechanic and not some guy just turning wrenches in a bone yard or playing around in his home garage. The skill of a talented mechanic is something that is accumulated over years of bending over a hood, but it also can be taught by a skilled teacher at a tech school, too. However, all the years of experience and all the training in the world can make you a pretty good mechanic, but you need one other thing, and that’s talent.

Red Skelton once said to his young protégé, “Talent is something you’re born with. Even if you are standing behind a brick wall, your talent will come through.” That protégé was none other than Johnny Carson, the King of late night television for 30 years. The same thing applies to the art of being a proficient, modern mechanic. Just like in any other field you can go into, you have to be able to take the knowledge you’ve inhaled from school or OJT and be able to apply it to the work you’re doing.

Some very talented people work in this field, and it’s not hard to tell who they are. Repair shops all over the country are looking for mechanics, and there seems to be a never ending shortage of them, but what those employers are really looking for is talent. Talent, isn’t necessarily something that can be taught, it’s something that comes natural. You can gain the talent if you don’t already have it, but it may take quite some time to develop those skills. Advanced classes help, OJT helps, and a whole lot of afterhours dedication doesn’t hurt either. As the old saying goes, “A good mechanic is never out of work.” Very true, however that old saying should actually be stated as, “A talented mechanic is never out of work.”

Everyone has some sort of talent, some sort of skill that separates them from the pack. For some, it’s an odd ball skill that gets them “15 minutes” of fame on the local news, while others have something they can turn into a career. Singing, for example has always been considered a “talent”, that’s a fair assessment of a trained singer’s abilities. But I think singing is more of a gift and ability combined.


Most people who can carry a tune are either born with it or find out in later life they have the talent for it. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of somebody suddenly developing that perfect soprano voice by accident. Even though I can’t sing a note, I still blare out my favorite song in the shower, but I know I don’t have the talent for it. If you’ve got what it takes to become a singer and you’re going to go to a prestigious school to develop those skills, chances are you’ve already got the singing voice. It’s not like you’re going to “learn” how to begin to sing when you’re there, you already can. The school just brings out the qualities of your talent. As for me, it would be a waste of time, it’s not my talent.

For the mechanic, there’s no doubt a natural ability is something a lot of talented mechanics carry with them, and their abilities are only enhanced with continual schooling. But, there are a lot of guys and gals who love cars and things mechanical and want to work in the field as a mechanic, but lack the ability to actually perform the job. This is so evident with a lot of weekend wrenchers who attempt to repair their own cars at home. It could be from a lack of a few basic skills, or a lack of mechanical abilities… or it could be they don’t have the talent for it either.


I hear it all the time from people who come into the shop to have their car repaired after they’ve spent countless hours swapping parts and pondering over a repair manual. They all say the same thing, “I do all of my own work.” Well, I seriously doubt they could actually do “all” their own work. More likely they’ve managed to change a few spark plugs or something. I’ve been at this trade for several decades and I can assure you I can’t do it all, and I don’t see how some weekend nut spinner with zero training in today’s cars could possibly be able to do it all either.


Sure, if you are one of those people who have two left feet, I’m sure in time you could learn to dance, and if you’re one of those people who can’t remember, “Righty tighty – lefty loosey” you can acquire the needed skills to become a top notch mechanic, too. But, there’s something to be said when a person finds the trade or skill they have their own natural ability in and their talent shines through. Ask most any tech college teacher and they’ll tell you the same thing, “Not all the students in here will make it to graduation.” Nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just that “talent” part of it is exposed in the early stages of becoming a full-fledged mechanic. You either got it, or ya gotta learn it, or you may never get it. Then again, it might a good thing you found out early that this trade isn’t cut out for you, and looking into a different career might be your best options.


Even though this trade still has a lot of heavy lifting, lots of grease and grime, and way too many scrapes and bruises to count it’s also one that the fair sex is taking notice. There’s some real talent in a lot of the gals I know in the trade. I find it rather amusing that nearly all the gals I personally know who are mechanics don’t have a problem asking for help when they get stuck on a problem or need a bit of extra muscle. But, the guys, well… I guess there’s a bit of that machoism about it that makes a few of them a little less likely to ask for help. I’m positive that in the future even more women will be in the trade, and I think that’s a step in the right direction to bring more respect to this trade as well.


If you’ve been in the trade for some time, male or female I’m sure you can spot a talented mechanic when you’ve talked to them for a bit, and I’m sure you can also spot some socket jockey trying to impress you with their past conquests rather than actual talent. I know I can. I always refer back to the old saying, “It don’t take me long to look at a horseshoe.”


It is a trade that needs more talented people in it. The cars are getting more and more complicated, and merely changing a couple of parts doesn’t make you a mechanic any more than me a singer because I sing a cappella style in the shower. The question is… got talent?

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Great article and 100% correct. Sometimes we spend too much effort to bring out in someone what's not in them to begin with. Give me talent, the rest we can teach.


Great stuff Gonzo!

Thanx Joe.

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Speaking of talent, I can say there were many in my place of work that had it. Most are gone now for various reasons,(retirement, moving on to other more challenging jobs,etc) the business changed over the years, which I am sorry to say. Boy,I can say we had some talent back in the day. There were guys that could take a piece of crappy working equipment, modify it and make it work much better. Yes that was in the day when the company designed their own equipment, now everything is pretty much bought off the shelf!

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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