To a firefighter named Cupcake

Yesterday, I was thinking about Cupcake’s situation. He is a fresh implant into the college system and like many young people he is interested in many things. How do you pick an education goal when you haven’t decided on a career path?

On my path to a career in engineering, I did not take the typical path. My highschool days were spent partying. After that, my aspirations were very minimal. At twenty, I happened across a job as a subcontractor where I assembled bicycles, wheelbarrows, garden equipment, and all types of things sold by Home Depot and Walmart. The company was small, especially in my area. Our district covered 4 towns and included one Home Depot and 4 Walmarts. After a few months of hard work and lots of partying at night, I lucked up with a role of District Manager. In this role, I had to manage a group of 3 steady workers and any other help that I could muster up for odd days of a heavy workload. The job was fantastic for me as I could do virtually whatever I wanted and make an extra 10% off each worker’s pay per week, which would net me (in the ballpark of) an additional 150 to 300 bucks per week. I stayed with that company around a year and a half before they left the area, due to Walmart changing policies regarding product assembly. Walmart decided to use their own employees for assembly. Leaving just the Home Depot and only enough work for myself, it only lasted another month.

Soon after this development, I visited my cousin for the weekend. He lived in a college town. The city was great for several reasons that I won’t get into at the moment. During that weekend, with no preplanning, I landed a subcontractor position for assemly work while visiting the local Home Depot. I didn’t even go back home for two weeks. I bought new tools and began to work and sleep on my cousin’s couch. I enrolled in that area’s technical college where I began a course in drafting. Over the course of the next two years of living in that town, I only passed one class out of the around six that I took. I was too busy working sixty hours a week and chugging beer and liquor every night. It was a heck of a time.

When that ship sailed, I moved back home for a bit. I did most of my work in the construction field. Out of all the odd jobs, I can remember being a helper for a general contractor, door installer, storm door installer, commercial garage door installer, landscaper, electrician laborer, newspaper delivery, pizza cook, pizza delivery, cable tv installer, satellite dish installer, and who knows what else. I would estimate myself to have had in the ballpark of 27 different jobs before I decided to seriously apply myself to school. But even then, I loathed the idea of “real college”. I even tried another technical college halfway through that time. With all honesty, I don’t remember EVER going to class, not even once; and still to this day, I have to get the transcript from that school when I apply to other colleges.

I waited til I turned 29 before attending school. I heard about one of my cousins who was in the welding course at the tech school and enjoyed it. There was much hype about the amount of income that it could provide.

In the welding program I did not exactly have a ‘golden arm’. I enjoyed the work a great deal. I spent an average of twelve hours a day at that school for a full year, working my arse off in the heat and hovering over a hot flame, while sweating profusely. With plenty of practice, I learned the art of welding and developed an area of specialty with TIG.

With a mere three months left to go in the course, I picked up a drafting class. I had always enjoyed drafting. I took drafting for three years in highschool, where we only did drawing with pencil on paper. I figured with a couple courses of creating blueprints under my belt, I could achieve a forman position in a weld shop.

In the end, I finished the welding course and kept going for drafting. By the time I got within six months of completion of my Associate’s Degree in Drafting, I was put on a list of recommended students for work at a local aerospace company. I then got my first contractor position at that company and stayed for almost two years before I was laid-off for no good reason.

Now I work at a different aerospace manufacture who specializes in a niche market. I get to design fixtures for use by welders. One of the main reasons I got this job is because I have a background of construction and specifically welding. Because the engineering work I do is directly related to welding, it looked great on my resume. I am sure it had to do with my excellent interview as well.

I will wrap up this story by saying that if I had not tried every type of work under the sun before I attempted school, then I would have not known what I did not want to do for the rest of my life. Not to mention an understanding of various types of construction and a love for assembly (and a hatred for those who created assembly schematics). I believe you should get out and try different things until you figure out that you hate or love different jobs and allow these trials to lead you toward your dream job. I am still on that path, searching for new avenues, and I love the work I do.


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