“What are you going to do when you get out?” This is the most asked question during my transition period. It is also a very stressful question when you are a person such as myself who wasn’t totally prepared to step right into another job. I assumed that people would be knocking my door down to hire me, which hasn’t been the case. I do have several job/career options available due to my experience and training.
Mechanic/Technician: The industry that I have the most experience in is the repair and maintenance of equipment. I am school trained as a Tank Mechanic, Turret Mechanic and Light Armored Vehicle Mechanic. I have also had the opportunity to work on and around a variety of other equipment types and at all levels of maintenance. Even though I am not formally trained, I am also capable of performing most mechanical repairs on automobiles and trucks. I invested significant time and money into attaining ASE Master Certifications in both of those fields along with several bus repair certifications. As I previously stated, my technical skills are somewhat dated, I have found that many of the facilities now use advanced computer automated test equipment. I am certain that I am fully capable of learning how to properly use this sort of equipment through “on-the-job” training. Convincing the person who needs his equipment repaired to hire a mechanic that needs to be trained is another story. There are many different repair venues that I am capable of performing in, although, some require additional training and/or certification. A significant investment in tools and equipment would be required up front. While I do possess more than a basic set of tools, I would still need to acquire a much larger tool box and several specialized items. If I decide to enter a different industry, I will still use the new tools, equipment and tool box in my home shop. I’ll discuss each option that is available to me.
Chain repair shop mechanic/technician: There are numerous positions available at any given time. The starting pay is somewhat lower than my basic requirement, but if the shop offers commission work, then this option would be very workable. There is good job security at the moment since the economy is forcing people to have their older cars repaired, vice buying a new one. This option would be good for a part time job.
Dealership repair shop mechanic/technician: Again, there are typically several positions available. The pay is higher, but the expectations are also higher. It would be much more difficult for me to perform to the standard they expect from the beginning. Stable working hours and decent pay are positives in this option. A mechanic/technician would also be able to specialize in a single vehicle make, vice having to learn many different makes.
Privately owned repair shop mechanic/technician: A shop with a good reputation and solid customer base would be required for this option. Again, with the added repairs people are having done to their older vehicles adds to the job security.
Smog technician: California requires that smog test techs be trained and certified. At the moment, I would be required to invest in a couple of classes to gain the California certification and also pass the ASE “L1” test. I would need to take a preparation class and study for this test, as I’ve attempted it a few times and was not able to pass. The pay and job security are top notch, due to the California smog reduction requirements. A technician with the capability to diagnose and repair smog related defects can certainly make a decent wage. This would require me to take numerous classes and obtain sophisticated test equipment (ie.. expensive).
School or transit Bus mechanic/technician: There is a School Bus barn around the corner from my residence. I would enjoy working there, as it is close to home and is a very small operation. One problem there is that the work is contracted to a large repair corporation, so the job security would not be as firm as other places. This type of work would be physically taxing, as much of the work involves heavy lifting, bending, reaching and applying high torque specifications. I feel that I would struggle to keep up in a heavy work environment, but would soon develop the required techniques to ease the work load.
Home based or mobile Classic Auto repair business: Repairing classic automobiles in this area is a very lucrative enterprise. There are a couple of shops in town that have a significant per hour charge. They have overhead requirements that a home based business would not have, such as rent. Business licenses and insurance are required for all legitimate businesses. I feel that I would have to market my business as “Mobile”, due to neighborhood zoning restrictions and the need to keep my neighbors happy. I will discuss this option in detail in a later chapter.
Law Enforcement: I have a strong desire to be a Law Enforcement Officer even though I have no formal training or experience in this field. This option would be a natural follow on career for me due to the similarities between them, such as uniforms, weapons, structured environment, rank and such. The pay and job security are good. I have applied at several of the local Law Enforcement agencies with mostly good results other than the economy slowing the hiring quite a bit. A typical hiring process begins with the agency advertising the positions and test dates. Some agencies require that you pre-register and have an invitation, others just tell you where and when to show up. A pre-screening questionnaire is required by most agencies, they ask you all sorts of questions concerning past crimes, drug use and behavior. A police officer candidate must pass a written test consisting of observation skills, reading and comprehension. Then a physical agility test typically consisting of a short sprint, an obstacle course, scaling a 6 foot wall and or fence, dragging a 140 to 165 pound dummy about 10 yards and a run between 500 yards and 1.5 miles is administered. Many agencies require that candidates go in front of an interview panel typically consisting of a senior police officer, a human resources person and a community representative. These processes are used to whittle down the applicants to a manageable number of candidates that meet all the basic requirements. Each candidate then is required to fill out a background questionnaire that asks if you have done any of a number of activities. The questions range from “Have you ever stolen anything in your life?” to the most disgusting sexual acts imaginable. The candidate MUST answer the questions truthfully, because this questionnaire is used as the basis for your polygraph test. A Law Enforcement Officer must be completely trustworthy and be able to convince the background investigator and polygraph technician that you are telling the truth, no matter how embarrassing the question might be. The polygraph tests are extremely stressful to me, I wasn’t able to sleep much during the days before each test. I don’t know why I stressed so much as I don’t have anything to hide and I disclosed all the awful things I did as a youngster. (For what it’s worth, I did pass both polygraph tests that I was assigned). During the background process, an average of 30 pages of information is required to be filled out. You will need to provide all of your immediate families names, home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, ten personal/business references, your previous addresses, schools and all of your previous jobs. California has a standard form available on-line, but each agency feels the need to modify the form to fit their needs. After all of this is completed, psychological and medical evaluations are conducted. Candidates that get through all of these wickets are then interviewed by the Police Chief before being offered a position. Candidates that have previously completed the Police Academy are ahead of the ball game, as that means the agency can put them in a patrol car almost immediately. Other candidates, myself included, are required to attend and pass a six month Police Academy and another 6 months of on-the-job training prior to being considered fully qualified to perform Law Enforcement duties.
Safety: I have seen many people injured in accidents and mishaps, to include myself! I have been assigned as either the Safety representative, Safety Non-Commissioned Officer, Safety Officer and Manager in most of the units I was assigned to. I have performed dozens of formal and informal investigations that are required to document the five “W’s” that apply to mishaps. I have also conducted many OSHA type safety inspections and completed the follow-up corrective actions. I feel that I have all of the qualifications required to perform as a civilian safety technician, but have been unable to convince the hiring machine to pull my resume. The first safety position that I applied for seemed like a perfect fit. That particular job site requires applicants to answer about 150 or so questions. The first 100 or so questions were basic duties that I have routinely completed in most of my safety related billets. The rest of the questions started asking about flight line operations and nuclear weapons procedures. I figure those questions got me screened out! I am very interested in the Safety Management field, and will continue to acquire formal training, regardless of the industry I end up working in. I will continue to use my safety related skills and knowledge regardless of whether or not I become a full time Safety Specialist.