Shop Talk: Nar­row Your Ca­reer Fo­cus

Hot Rod - - Front Page - By John McGann Ex­ec­u­tive Edi­tor @john.mcgann Fol­low us @ hotrod­magazine

Ire­cently re­turned from the En­gine Masters Chal­lenge, held this year in a new lo­ca­tion at Wiseco Pis­tons’ head­quar­ters in

Men­tor, Ohio. It was a sen­ti­men­tal trip for me, be­cause I grew up in Cleve­land about 25 miles away. I worked for a while in Men­tor at Clas­sic Chevro­let in the body shop, and that’s the sin­gu­lar job in my past I can point to that led me to where I am now.

At the time, I was about 25 years old and floun­der­ing in life. I had been in and out of col­lege and couldn’t fig­ure out what to do for a liv­ing. I had worked a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent jobs, rang­ing from jan­i­tor to parts-store counter per­son. I wasn’t happy. I knew I wanted to do some­thing with cars but hadn’t found the right fit. On a whim, I drove to Clas­sic Chevro­let and asked what po­si­tions were avail­able. Sure, there were plenty of deal­er­ships closer to where we lived, but my par­ents had re­cently pur­chased a Ta­hoe there and were re­ally very pleased with the ex­pe­ri­ence. Based on that, I fig­ured it would be a good place to work. I ended up get­ting hired as a de­tailer in the body shop. I liked that job quite a bit, but after sev­eral months, I wanted more. I spoke with the man­ager and was even­tu­ally al­lowed to work as porter, mov­ing cars in and out of the var­i­ous sta­tions in the shop. That job mor­phed into a sort of ap­pren­tice­ship be­cause, dur­ing the course of the day, I’d rou­tinely ask the body men and painters if they needed help with their work. Look­ing back, one might say that it was a self­ish ges­ture for a flat-rate tech­ni­cian to ac­cept free help, but the guys all seemed gen­uinely happy to share their knowl­edge and skills with me, and they were all re­ally good at their jobs. I learned a lot. Soon, I was mix­ing paint, mask­ing cars, sand­ing body filler and primer, and re­assem­bling cars after paint. I loved it, but I soon re­al­ized I didn’t want to do it for a liv­ing.

That re­al­iza­tion came to me one bit­terly cold win­ter day. I had just pulled a tired and ne­glected Chevy van onto the frame ma­chine for one of the col­li­sion guys. As I passed through the shop a few min­utes later, I stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of him com­pletely cov­ered with slush and rust from work­ing on his back un­der the van. He looked ut­terly mis­er­able.

That mo­ment was the turn­ing point for me. I knew I wanted to work with cars, but I wanted to build cars, not to do main­te­nance work or col­li­sion re­pair in a high-vol­ume, flat-rate shop. I left the deal­er­ship a few months after that. For a short time, I in­quired at some lo­cal cus­tom and restora­tion shops, but noth­ing came of it. I felt time was run­ning out and de­cided to go back to col­lege. I un­wit­tingly stum­bled into pho­tog­ra­phy, some­thing I hadn’t se­ri­ously con­sid­ered be­fore, and got ac­cepted into the pho­to­jour­nal­ism pro­gram at Ohio Univer­sity. Through­out my time there, I worked cars into as many as­sign­ments as I could. Shortly after grad­u­a­tion, I was of­fered a pho­tog­ra­phy in­tern­ship at Mo­tor Trend, and the rest, as they say, is his­tory.

I stopped by Clas­sic Chevro­let on the Satur­day after the En­gine Masters Chal­lenge was over. The shop was closed, but a few em­ploy­ees were clean­ing up, and they didn’t seem par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested to learn that I worked there 20 years ago. It’s un­likely that any­one I worked with then is still there, but I was hop­ing to talk with a man­ager just to say thanks and to en­cour­age him to foster a learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment with the kids who work there now. No, I never be­came an au­to­body tech­ni­cian, and to those guys I worked with at the time, I am prob­a­bly one of an end­less string of peo­ple pass­ing through their lives in the shop. How­ever, the flex­i­bil­ity the man­ager showed by let­ting me work that amor­phous porter/ap­pren­tice job was life-al­ter­ing.

Not only did I learn prac­ti­cal skills, I was mo­ti­vated to forge and shape those skills with my in­ter­ests and de­sires, send­ing me on the path that led di­rectly here.

I be­lieve much of our youth is spent fig­ur­ing out what you don’t want to do in life. Through process of elim­i­na­tion, we even­tu­ally nar­row down into a ca­reer that we do find ful­fill­ing. In an ironic twist of fate, Clas­sic is cur­rently hir­ing de­tail­ers. I en­cour­age any 20-some­things in north­east Ohio who like cars to ap­ply. If you get the job, who knows how it will in­spire you.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.