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Guest Message by DevFuse

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New Auto Tech Looking For Some Career Advice

Apprentice shop dealership career advice mechanic

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10 replies to this topic

#1 abe1990



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Posted 11 March 2014 - 03:48 PM

Hey guys,


I'm new to this and am hoping that I am posting in the right place.


After a 6 long years in College and too much time and money spent, I have started taking Automotive Technician classes at a local community college.  I absolutely love it and I really want to start a career as soon as I can.  However, I have no experience besides in the classroom (there is a garage too).  I know I'll have to start at the bottom (oil changes, changing light bulbs, cleaning the shop, ect.), but I'm trying to see how long I will have to be at that level.  


Ideally, I would like to become at an apprentice, but I haven't had much luck getting in contact with service/shop managers.  I talked to one at a Mercedes dealership, very briefly, and he said that he wouldn't put me on his oil change team until I spent about a year basically detailing cars there, and then it would be another year or longer doing oil changes before I would actually get to work in the shop with a mechanic.


I have always liked Subaru's and am very interested in starting a career there.  I have left messages/emails with a few managers, but have not heard anything (its been about a week).


Does anyone have any suggestions of where to begin?  What things are shop managers looking for in entry level mechanics that could help me stand out?  If you work in a shop, how did you start out?


If it helps, I just turned 24, I have a very strong work ethic, determined, kinesthetic learner, not afraid to ask questions, want to get my hands dirty, and catch on to things very quickly.


Sorry for going on and on.  Pretty much all of my friends and family have desk jobs so I'm kinda on my own in this hunt.


Thanks in advance for all your help.  

#2 heartless


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Posted 15 March 2014 - 06:49 AM

Do you have any mechanical experience at all? working on your own vehicle, family or friends vehicles, etc? That would be a "selling" point...


Have you tried talking to any good, local, independant shops?


a dealership probably wont hire you until after graduation, and even then you would probably have to go thru what you described...


and dont call and leave messages - go talk to them in person! Show them you are interested and motivated - calling on the phone doesnt do that.

#3 Dj7291993


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Posted 31 March 2014 - 09:37 PM

Small shops are probably a better place to start.  Get to know some local owners.  Offer to buy them lunch (or breakfast) and just talk to them.  Ask them about the business, what someone needs to do to get into the business, ect. Even if they aren't looking to hire someone, they may have some contacts who are.  BUT... you have to make a good impression first!!!  Also, pay really close attention to the electrical stuff.  There are all kinds of people trying to get into this business that know how to change parts, but if you can learn to like electrical, and get good at it, that will give you an edge. 


To be honest, two years isn't too bad at a dealer, as it will give you some time to start building your toolbox, so you don't have to do $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000 all at once.  The nice thing about finding a smaller shop, especially like a family business, is they can work with you a little more.  Plus, you get a more rounded experience working in a shop with only a few techs, vs one that has a specialist for everything.  That will be useful if you decide to try for one of the bigger places later on.  Just remember, the bigger the shop, the more politics involved.


A degree will help, but some decent projects on your own car can show them that you actually know how to apply it.  Something like stripping a harness for an EJ swap shows that you not only know how to read diagrams and follow wires, but that you understand the information they're giving you.


Lastly, make a good impression on your teachers.  Since you don't have much "real world experience", references are going to be your best way to build credibility.  And while a good word from your aunt on how nice you are is great, a good word from people in the industry, or even people you have done work for, is even better.  You should know enough from your schooling to be able to some brake jobs or oil changes on the side here and there.  While it's not really shop experience, if the customers are impressed with your work, it's going to speak to your cleanliness and professionalism.


Personally, I work at a small shop.  I had made good friends with a fellow usher at church who owned a shop.  I talked with him a lot, and made a pretty good impression on him.  He invited to come down to his shop sometime, so I did.  He showed me around, and we talked for a while after that.  He wasn't looking for anyone at the time, but without me even asking, he started calling some other shop owners he knew to see if they needed anyone.  It took some time, but about a month later, he asked me if I was still looking for a job.  He gave me the number of the guy I know work for.  At the time, he only had one tech.  So I got to shadow the main tech, and I'd do some stuff like brakes, oil changes, and water pumps.  After I had been there almost a year, he had to let the other guy go, so I am now the main technician.  We've got one other tech there now, and a service writer.  We stay pretty busy, and the shop's reputation is built on integrity.  My boss opened the place back in 1980.  One really nice thing about it is they treat me like family.  So, while there are definitely advantages to bigger shops, a small family owned place can be a pretty good place to work.  Lol, who knows, play your cards right, and they might just sell you the shop when they go to retire.


P.s.  ASE certification is big, so make sure you know how long until you can get certified, and let them know.  Certification is not only important to customers and parts houses, but it shows a commitment to your work.  I believe they have a new certification for maintenance tech that only requires one year of work experience.  And, for the main a series tests anyway, you can supplement 1 year of work experience for 2 years of formal education.  Definitely something to look into.


Edit: Sorry for the wall of text.  Hope it some of it helps.

Edited by Dj7291993, 31 March 2014 - 09:37 PM.

#4 zombieforce


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Posted 03 April 2014 - 06:19 PM

As a former dealer tech (Audi and vw) I got my start in an independent honda acura shop. I showed the head tech my rear disc conversion I had just finished and it impresed him enough to tell the owner I was worgh talking to . Always go in and talk of o people face to face. Calling is weak and people can put a name with the face when they meet you. I worked in the dealer for 5 years and left to start my own company. I found out I dont like running a business and came back to auto but in an independent shop. It was rough and working for a dishonest owner was horrible. The shop I have been at for the last 2.5 years is amazing and I get to do all the subarus too! Pawn. Shops can be your friend tools can b had cheap and not just junk stuff tons of snap on and matco tools there. Remember that cash talks on tools and stay away from tools truck financing.

#5 belacane


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Posted 09 April 2014 - 03:56 PM

I'm a female tech with about a year experience in a shop (6 months as a lube tech, and I've been a tech for about 6 months now).


Firstly, I second what everyone else said. Go and talk to people face to face. Also, show them you've got grit and you're willing to 'put in the hours' (meaning put up with lots of frustration as you work through things you've never seen before, low pay at first, working through difficult things and not giving up, having a good learning attitude...etc.) I was originally a high school language teacher who fooled around with cars a bit in my spare time (and washing parts and holding flashlights for a vw restoration shop), and after being fed up with the education system, decided to see if I could get into the automotive repair business. I started by going from dealership to dealership and saying I wanted to become a tech, was interested in working on cars, told them what I had already done, and asked if they had a position. I got a lube tech position within two weeks.


As far as I understand, and in my own experience, classroom work (even with a shop), will only get you so far. Even in my short time as a tech, I have seen people who have all the book work done, but were stummped when it came to the actuall physical work. Even the ASE certifications require 2 years of experience before you can take the tests. There's nothing that will compare to hands on experience.


Dealer vs. small shop: I've worked for two dealers. One was dishonest and smarmy and withheld pay to mention a few. The other (the one where I'm currently at), has a lot more integrity, works with my skill level and makes sure that I have the opportunity to learn and grow. Although my title is officially 'technician', I see myself as an apprentice. Hardly a job goes by when I'm not asking the more experienced techs questions.

A lot of the jobs I take on are things I haven't ever done before, and usually I give a more experience tech part of the commission hours I'm paid for the job to walk me through it. That's one thing you'll have to get used to... I found it tough to make money in the beginning (and still sometimes do). Even with hands on experience, your education at work in a shop is not free. If you don't know something and another tech has to do substantial work to help you, be prepared to give him some of your hours on that job. The shop I am currently at is small though, and I do recommend starting at a smaller shop, whether it's dealer or independent.


Re tools: no one expects you to come in with everything, But they will expect you to have the basics. Any more experienced tech who's not an a-hole will lend you a tool from time to time. My rule of thumb is, if I have to borrow it more than twice, I put it on my list of things to buy. I also always make sure to return them promptly and in good condition.


How long you'll have to be at the 'oil change' level depends on a few things, but mainly I think it's your motivation, your attitude, and your shop managers trust in you. I left my job as a lube tech because I'd had enough of it after 6 months and wanted to learn more. I looked (not very hard, because the first place I looked turned out to be awesome) for a new place that would let me learn and grow and invest in me as a tech (while I invested in myself by wanting to learn and taking constructive critisism with a smile). One thing I've noticed about the automotive industry is that it's not full of the 'professional' b.s that comes with a lot of corporate office jobs. People come and go  (at least around here), for a million different reasons and it's less likely that someone will hold that against you. Of course ther are also the guys who have been around at one shop for 2384029348 years too. But my adivce is if you get a job somewhere, and you feel you're not working to your potential after 6 - 12 months as a lube tech, go where someone is willing to give you a chance and prove them right!

Regarding what the guy at Mercedes said, it may or may not be true. Sometimes they will start you as a porter...etc. and THEN become a lube tech. It all depends on the place. I think the higher end the car you work with, the harder it is to move up.


Lastly, good luck and keep us updated!

Edited by belacane, 09 April 2014 - 04:41 PM.

#6 abe1990



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Posted 09 April 2014 - 06:44 PM

Thanks a lot for everyone's help! I have gone to several dealerships and small shops to talk with service managers.  All of the small shops said that they would not put me on the floor unless I had at least one ASE.  Not even on a lube team.  Most of them wouldn't even talk to me.  Of the service managers I actually got to speak to at dealerships, I asked them what classes I should take and if they had any openings for someone like me, or what I need to do to get a part time job.  All of them said that I needed to get a bunch of classes, mainly electrical, before I could even work part time for them, EXCEPT Subaru. The manager there told me that I should take the classes that I am most interested in, and once I register, I should contact him again and try to get a job in the shop on the days I'm not in class.  I'm pretty excited about it.


Since my first post, I have gotten a 120 piece socket set, torque wrench, 3 ton hydraulic lift and stands, and a couple other small things.  I bought these so after I read the chapters for my class in my text book, I go check out (if possible) what I have just read on my own car.  I'm actually pretty amazed at how much I have learned in the past 6 weeks.  My mid-term grade was 102.4% and I am at the top of my class!


Thanks again for all your comments.

#7 Crazyeights



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Posted 09 April 2014 - 09:44 PM

I started as a cashier at a service station in 1983. Now I am an ASE Master L1 Tech with over 30 years of experience . Keep at it, it can be a rewarding career at times. Mostly for me, the gift of knowledge that allows me to custom build my own cars to my specs... Keep your health in check while you go.

Edited by Crazyeights, 09 April 2014 - 09:52 PM.

#8 belacane


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Posted 10 April 2014 - 02:50 PM

Another piece of advice... strange, but true. If you really want an easier in, move to the deep south. If you can stand up straight, show up for work and have a valid driver's licence, you're gold down here ;)


But really, I'm not kidding about that. I find it's much easier to get hired down here, as there is a serious lack of good, solid, educated people who are also good employees.


As for tools, I'd add a nice set of wrenches to your collection, and also various pliers, various types of oil filter wrenches, a few socket extensions, screw drivers, and a tire pressure gauge (I invested in a good one from the get-go cause I knew I'd be doing a lot of it). Lastly, you'll also want a set of impact sockets and an air impact gun for tire work (you'll be doing a lot of that too at the start =p).


That's pretty much what I started with and I've added to it as time has gone by (usually after I have to borrow something twice, I add it to my list to get).


Congrats on your grades. Like someone else mentioned above, get to know your professor by showing genuine intersest and humility (very important in this field =P). Many automotive instructors have been in a field for a long time, and know people who might be hiring. Ask him if he knows anyone, even if it's just a porter job, and if he's willing to give you a recommendation.

Edited by belacane, 10 April 2014 - 03:37 PM.

#9 Dj7291993


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Posted 10 April 2014 - 07:58 PM

As for tools, I would recommend going snap-on for the ratchets.  They have a special around this time of year on a 1/4 and 3/8 drive ratchet that comes with a free screwdriver set.  Two things you don't want to go cheap on are screw drivers and ratchets.  Cheap screw drivers will twist and chips, which will get REALLY annoying.  Ratchets, the tooth count will make a big difference.  You can get away with decent sockets for most things, and you can get better ones as you go, but the ratchets make a huge difference.  And, like belacane said, an impact and some sockets.  Depending on where you go to work, most of the cars in shops now are going to be metric, so keep that in mind when buying your wrenches and impact sockets.  You want both eventually, but you'll probably use the metric a LOT more.


Two other tools I highly recommend are some magnetic trays and a magnetic pick-up tools.

3/8 Flex Head 1/4 Flex Head

#10 idosubaru


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Posted 11 April 2014 - 11:26 PM

Good job asking here - got some great stuff on the table already!


In person. 

Be consistent - stop in once a month or every other month (not annoying, just consistent and with poise) if you find a team, place, location that's a good fit/good team/convenient/etc.

Emailing, calling, or showing up once and never again are what every one does. Don't do that


General comment, but holds a lot of water.  I see this all the time, like everywhere across many sectors of business:

The better places to work are usually the hardest to get started in. The better the bosses, team, leadership, managers - the easier it is for them to hire and retain people. There's usually a long list of people wanting those positions.  


The places with the worst bosses, team, leadership, management are going to have the higher turn over and more openings and more likely to get hired on.  This fuels the high turn over rates, particular with a generation that's increasingly demanding and less resilient.


I can't tell you how many people I know that get excited about their first job and hate it. That's the norm.  Like a crazy girl - available for a reason.

#11 antid2



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Posted 22 May 2014 - 10:36 PM

i just recently got hired at a subaru dealership after moving here, i've never been to school or have any ase's, but i worked at a jiffylube for 2 years, (not the best place to work) but it was a start for me, just moving here, i walked to a few dealerships and most of them kind of just handed me a application and sent me on my way, but the subaru service manager asked me to come in and sit down with him, apparently he's just had a guy put in his 2 weeks due to moving out of state,  so it was perfect timing he said, so i'm starting off as an apprentice and they're going to send me through training for certifications later on i guess, so i'm not super experienced with the field and getting a job at a dealership, but it seemed working at a oil change place for a bit actually helped me get in rather quickly along with the timing thing, and to note..oil change shops are NOT hard to get a job at , at all...especially jiffylube. they hire anyone that has eyeballs and 2 hands, seems bad to work at a place like that but i got lucky and had great friends and teammates and my boss was great, just look around..and ask the people who work there what they feel towards their job.

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