What's next?
February 26, 2011 7:11 AM   Subscribe

So, what's next? How have you made significant career changes after investing in specialized skills and knowledge?

I've been an auto mechanic since I graduated art college in 2005. I've invested a lot of time, money, and energy into acquiring the skills, tools, and education that I needed to make a decent living.
However, circumstances have changed and, being a two income household about to change to a single income when my wife goes back to school, I don't really have a way of doubling my income overnight in this field.
Additionally, I'm not recovering so well from a couple injuries that my daily work aggravates. I think it's time for a change.
But there are a few problems:
I have no idea what to do next. I have a lot of interests and skills, ranging from art and design (a BFA), mechanical and electrical systems, tools and equipment, and firearms and marksmanship.
Also, my resume is really crappy. Due to the nature of this field and the economy over the past few years, I've had a ton of different jobs for not very long periods of time. Shops hire and fire as the work comes and goes and I've had to pick up jobs on short notice that turn out to be pretty terrible.

So, it's time to do something different and I don't even know where to start, let alone how I'd go about making the change. I've thought about starting my own business, like my own shop, but that requires a huge investment of money that I just don't have. Short of that, I'm kind of out of ideas.
posted by Jon-o to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know what kinds of qualifications are necessary for the jobs like this in your area, but you might look into instructor positions at technical colleges for mechanics-related areas. As more people have went back for additional training in applied areas, tech colleges have seen their student numbers grow quite a bit. I doubt it would double your income, but it's the kind of job that would allow you time to do other things on the side, if you wanted, and give you some additional authority for opening up your own business. I could also imagine with mechanical stuff you might be able to be some sort of individual classes too, with the former in teaching people to do things like change their own oil or do simple repairs.

With the economic environment that we've had, I'm not sure if having all the smaller jobs will really work against you, if it's something that can be reasonably explained. If you have a couple of people who can give you really good recommendations, that will help a lot.
posted by bizzyb at 7:24 AM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe get into auto design? I was a consultant for an automaker for awhile, and I had this impression that the designers would be hyper-educated, MFA/PhD types - while in actuality, they're typically graduates of auto-focused tech schools (not that there's anything wrong with that, just that the bar seems to be lower than I thought, and you're definitely over it).

With a BFA and some experience working on cars, it might be something to consider.
posted by downing street memo at 8:14 AM on February 26, 2011

Art and design BFA translates into "good fine motor skills, good hand-eye coordination, and attention to detail" so you want to play those qualities up; they are essential to a mechanic's job.

I don't know if art institutes have a good career-placement department, but the one at my small liberal-arts college was a [i]godsend[/i]. They had career counselors, placement assistance, and batteries of tests. Don't knock a good placement test; I took one called a "Skill Scan" that was a detailed inventory of all my skills and strengths and what I liked doing. Turns out my skills were in exactly the area I was getting my MA so yay.

The career counselor and skills tests can identify your strengths, give you guidance on writing your resume, and, very importantly, they might think of job titles you've never heard of, types of workplaces you've never considered, etc.

Get referrals (online, in person, testimonials) for a career counselor/coach; anyone can hang out their shingle and call themselves a "career coach." You want someone who actually knows what they are doing. Many colleges have career placement departments; even if you didn't attend Local State U they often offer their services to non-alumni for a higher price.

Also - are you on LinkedIn? It's not just for office worker types.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:24 AM on February 26, 2011

Customizing cars? Restoring antique/classic cars? Working for a classic car auctioneer? I think branching out with the knowledge that you already have would make more sense than starting from scratch.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:35 AM on February 26, 2011

One thing to look at might be whether there are any defense contractors or other builders of mechanical systems that need documentation. It sounds like you have the art skills to make diagrams and the mechanical etc know-how to understand the systems and work well with the designers. Search on things like "technical writer" "documentation" "manual".
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:01 AM on February 26, 2011

Service writer/manager at a dealership? Service trainer for one of the automakers?
posted by gjc at 7:35 PM on February 26, 2011

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