Your enthusiasm for your once exciting career as an automotive technician may have worn thin for any number of reasons, but you should know you're not alone. Every year, at least 15,000 auto technicians leave the field. If you're thinking of joining them but still love cars and learning about advancements in the automotive field, realize that successful auto technicians have multiple options.
You Have a Strong Skill SetFirst, stop and think about all the skills you have acquired as a capable auto technician. You've learned the theory behind complex electronic and mechanical systems. You've developed the ability to analyze, troubleshoot and make repairs. And if you are like most technicians who work under a pay system based in part on productivity, you've also learned to apply your skills and knowledge quickly and efficiently.
New Ways to Use Your Skills in the Field
Before leaving the automotive industry entirely, think about using your hard-earned skills in the same field but in different ways. You have many choices.
- Customer Service Representative: In every shop, someone has to greet the customer, determine what should be done to service or repair that customer's vehicle, schedule the work and ensure that everything has been done correctly and on time. If you've got strong communication skills, you might want to consider this option.
- Management: From shop foreman to service manager, every shop needs people to keep the operation humming. Who better to do this than someone who knows the ropes? Ask your employer what skills you need to take on this role, and be prepared to study up.
- Sales: Many successful auto salespeople began their careers as technicians. The knowledge gained working on cars can be invaluable when selling them. Just make sure you have the requisite sales skills -- namely dealing with people effectively, handling rejection and being persuasive. Sales is not for everyone, but it can be very profitable.
- Teacher: Vocational high schools, community colleges, manufacturers' training programs, parts suppliers and test equipment companies all need people to train technicians in new technology. If you have excellent technical knowledge and communication skills, this field has exciting possibilities. You can be certain of one thing: Keeping abreast of all the changes will be a full-time job. As General Motors notes on its Web site, auto technicians will see more change in a decade than they have seen in the last half-century.
Or Make a Clean Break
Skilled auto technicians can transfer their skills and knowledge to many fields. With training, former auto technicians are now successfully working in such diverse areas as office-equipment repair, printing-press repair and aircraft maintenance and repair.
"We've seen some [former auto techs] get really good in computers and then go into that field," says Richie Longo, instructor supervisor at Porter and Chester Institute, which has campuses throughout New England. Others have gone into insurance adjusting. "It's not that big a change," he says.
Before Making a Major Change, Know What You Want
With numerous options, it makes sense to start the career-change process by writing down what you really like to do. Do not list job titles. Instead, write down the tasks you enjoy the most. You can then use this list to look for jobs that will allow you to concentrate on these activities. Remember, if you can find a job doing what you really enjoy, the effort you put into your job change will seem well worthwhile.