There are times when something that appears obsolete can open doors to other opportunities. There is no place in which this is more apparent than in a career path. Take mine, for example.
While in high school I had no doubt about my intended occupation. My career focus was to become an avionics technician, a guy who works on aircraft electronics. Eventually, I’d establish my own avionics shop for the then-burgeoning field of private aviation.
With this goal in sight, I set up my curriculum. Electrical/electronic courses at the local community college gave me a formal foundation in electronics, though they were mainly a review of concepts I had already learned by building electronic kits and experimenting with circuits in my basement workshop.
Then the next step: 18 months at a noted aviation technical school. There, the instructors showed how my electronic training applied to aircraft: for radios, navigation, radar, autopilots, instrumentation, and more. I received my FCC license with radar endorsement and as much FAA certification as there was at the time for avionics.
The day of my graduation I received an unforeseen present: a nationwide gasoline embargo. Private aviation disappeared virtually overnight. The embargo tripled and quadrupled aviation fuel prices. People who owned planes quit flying. Today, I joke I was the first person to graduate with an obsolete career.
Oh, there were still avionic technician jobs out there, but far fewer than before. A glut of technicians hit the street as shops closed and dozens of applicants tried for every opening. Salaries fell, as people would accept less pay just to obtain work. I came to the conclusion I had to change occupations. I never regretted it.
In the intervening 35 years, I’ve served as a quality-test technician for a phone industry UPS maker, a design engineer at an industrial control and instrumentation shop, and an instructor at the local community college. Today, you see me here, as an editor for MACHINE DESIGN.
Change is inevitable. What was once a great career path may end up being a dead end. Gone are the days when father and son worked the same job in the same plant. Neither the jobs nor the plant have survived.
But, if my experience is any indication, a seemingly obsolete career can open paths to other opportunities. Those who hit a career dead end shouldn’t be afraid to try other fields. For example, I found all that aviation electronics and instrumentation training applied just as well to industrial instrumentation. If one door is closed and locked, you shouldn’t be afraid to try another.
If you have a career path story you’d like to relate, I’d like to hear about it on machinedesign.com.