What is this career about?
A career as an automotive mechanic is about identifying and solving problems. People will come into a shop, perhaps not knowing what’s wrong with their car. Your job is to listen to them, figure out a list of possible issues, and then go through systematically and do what needs to be done to correct them. All the while, you will need to take things like safety and cost effectiveness into account so that your customers are getting the best possible experience from your shop. If you have an analytical mind, like working with your hands, and have a passion for cars, this career is a great place to apply your skills.
How to succeed?
The first step toward success in this business is to understand how cars work, and what repairs need to be done to solve the most common problems. If you have not yet received formal training in this regard, you should pursue this as soon as possible. There are many public vocational programs that teach simple automotive repairs, everything from how to change a tire, to how to replace engine parts. This training is a vital part of your career, so do not skip this.
Next, you should have a good mind for solving problems with only partial information. If a customer comes in and tries to explain a thumping noise they’ve heard, you should be able to make a mental checklist of what could be causing that noise, and then know how to take the next steps to determine the actual cause. This can be time consuming, so patience is also a must in this field. Customers can be demanding and impatient, and your ability to work well with all sort of people will help you to stand apart from coworkers.
As you consider whether a career in the automotive industry is right for you, you should also be willing to learn about the industry. Cars are changing, and the standards and regulations which you will be held to are also changing. You need to keep up with best practices and legal regulations, all while doing what is best for both your company and your customers.
How to succeed?
First and foremost, you must have a desire to help people. This goes for any aspect of the job. Flight attendants help keep people comfortable and safe mid-flight, baggage handlers help people by getting their belongings to the desired location safely and efficiently, pilots help people by flying them across hundreds of miles of distance as quickly and safely as they can. If you have this desire, the rest can be learned on the job.
You should have a high school diploma or a GED. Other schooling may give you an edge, but is not a necessity to get started. Still, some of the discipline that is taught in a school setting can translate to success in the air.
Finally, you should have a positive outlook. This is a job that can be frustrating at times. People can get stressed out on an airplane, and even though it’s not your fault, there’s potential for them to treat you as if it were. Being kind and patient are key virtues that set great airline employees apart from good employees.
Who should apply?
Most automotive shops require applicants to be at least 18 years old. Most states have labor laws that prohibit minors from using much of the heavy machinery that mechanics need, so it is a rare thing to see people younger than this in a shop.
Mechanics need training. This may be provided on the job, or, more likely, you will need some sort of formal training before you begin. This can be provided in high schools through vocational programs, or you might need to find an instructor on your own. Much of this is guided, hands on, training, which is perfect for your resume as you begin to apply for positions once completed.
You are also required to have a valid driver’s license and, if required in your state, certification for the repairs that you will make. The National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence offers different certificates, and you will need at least one of these to secure a job as a mechanic.
Do keep in mind that there are many career paths here. There are mechanics, of course, and there are several different kinds at that. Some focus on just lube and oil changes, while others go into more advanced repairs. There are tow truck drivers, customer service specialists, automotive parts sales representatives, and management roles across the board. An interest in a certain type of car or other automobile can be helpful in getting you a more pointed direction for your career, but starting at the lower levels and working your way upward is really the best way to figure out where your interests are, and forging a career from there.