What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

After almost twenty years with my last employer, the last seven years establishing what was once the premier independent trade training facility in New Jersey, I decided to go my own way. In the midst of what is being called the “Great Recession” I decided to forego a regular paycheck and start ESPCO, Inc.

As you may be doing as you read this, I questioned my sanity several times through the process of deciding what I wanted to do next. I immediately did what most people would do and that was to solicit full time employment with manufacturers and their local representatives. I began getting interviews and quickly realized that after almost 30 years since my last real interview, the world had changed and I wasn’t prepared.

The first thing that smacked me right between the eyes was the “interview” itself…..my memory of my last interview 30 years ago was it being rather “lite”. I remember it being more social than anything else and the reputation I established in my previous employment proceeded me so there was little to discuss other salary and starting date.

The interview process now is just that….a process.

In one company I interviewed with a Human Resource Manager as well as someone called the “Hiring Manager” before I ever got to the department head to which I would eventually report should I get the job. I was surprised that even in smaller, privately owned companies, the interview has become a process with multiple levels and highly technical in content. I found myself being quizzed on the attributes of “indoor / outdoor reset” by the CEO of one company and the three methods of solar collector attachment to a roof by another!

I’m not complaining…..in fact, just the opposite….I think this is all good. Clearly companies are not willing to give someone “a shot” just on their social skills any more. Companies are faced with new challenges in this economy and also with new liabilities that weren’t evident and / or didn’t exist 30 years ago. The “process” has been refined to a point where, should you actually be offered a job, you can feel gratified that you made it through the process and the company can feel assured they made the right choice.

Okay, so you may be asking….”did you not make it through the process Gerry”?

Well, I can say in more than one insistence I did make it all the way through to the job offer. In fact…..in one case I accepted a very generous offer from a highly respected local representative firm…..it was a territory sales position similar to what I did previously before becoming a dedicated trainer / instructor. The problem was that as I left their office after accepting the position I should have been fist pumping and yahooing all the way home……but I wasn’t. I actually had a sick feeling because I felt like I gave up my dream, my passion. The job had virtually no “training” element to it….at least not in the sense that I have become most accustomed, (a classroom type setting). I am much more effective, (and comfortable), when I’m in front of an audience of 100 or more than I am when in front of one person, (clearly this fact is material for an article in psychoanalysis but I will leave that up to the medical professionals). After a couple weeks agonizing and debating the pros and cons of the position I ultimately declined the offer, (this is when my wife started questioning my sanity). I immediately felt relieved…..well, for a few hours anyway.

Ultimately, I know I have made the right decision…..and this is why.

I don’t want to get too spiritual or “out there” with this but I do believe I am here to be an educator. I believe my talent lies in my ability to research a subject, create an interesting, informative and fun, (I have to have fun), curriculum and then present it to an audience in a manner that is interactive, effective…..and again, fun! I need to continue my journey striving to be the best HVACR instructor I can be….anything less is just that….less, and not what I want and / or need.

So that all said here is the moral of my tale……education should never stop…..must never stop! The past seven years I have trained thousands of HVACR technicians and I neglected my own education. I was so busy doing what I was doing and enjoying a certain degree of success that I forgot to expand my own horizons by taking on new subjects and applications outside the scope of my previous employer. I am now taking the time to take classes, (boot camps in some cases), on subjects such as geothermal and then sitting for testing to become “certified” by an appropriate governing body as an installer. I have also solicited favors from friends, (previous students of mine in several cases), who are already installing geothermal systems and I am offering myself as a working member of their crew so I can get the “hands-on” experience I need to ultimately conduct a class myself on the subject.

Remember too that “all work and no play makes me / you a very boring guy”…

…so don’t forget about you……. do something…..learn something that is for you and you alone…..not work related. My whole life I dabbled with learning to play the guitar but never really had the discipline to follow through for any length of time. Well, that all changed about three years ago when I got serious about it! I study each week with a very accomplished instructor and although I am my own toughest critic, it brings me moments of great joy when I play something that I sounds good to me…..and that’s what it is all about! Ace Frehley need not worry….I don’t figure to ever be a threat, but as frustrating as the process can be sometimes it feels good to work through it and at the advanced age of fifty, still be able to learn and continue to move forward.


Thanks to you all for your continued support!

Now sign up for one of my classes!

PS – Wanted….drummer and bass player for classic rock outfit…..must be a KISS Army member and know complete KISS catalog. Make-up not required.