One of the benefits of networking with other professionals is adopting strategies that have worked for other people. I recently attended a Building Automation Workshop where I met Keith Otten, a young HVACR instructor from Southwestern Illinois College. He explained that employment is essentially an exchange of resources. You receive cash for the kash you bring to the job. The more kash you bring, the more cash you can receive. The kash that you provide is knowledge, attitude, skills, and habits. I really like this mnemonic because it highlights the fact that employment is an exchange of resources. If you come to the deal with nothing much to offer, you can’t really expect very much in return. So the next obvious question, is how do you go about building your kash reserves?
Traditional and proven ways of acquiring knowledge include going to school, reading, and field experience. Today you would have to add networking through social media as a source of knowledge. I believe that the most important aspect of the knowledge component is recognizing how critical it is to continue the search. One advantage of the traditional route is that you can document your attainment. It is far more difficult to document that you watched 1000 great YouTube videos. Further, most schools and text books have some type of review process, so the knowledge you receive is much more apt to be helpful.
Attitude is often part of a person’s personality. A positive, can-do attitude can often come through in interviews. So can a negative one. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard relating to attitude had to do with handling adversity. While it is true that you cannot control everything that happens in your life, it is also true that you CAN control how you react to the things that happen. By working to improve yourself and your situation, whatever that might be, you provide the framework for your own success.
Like knowledge, you can acquire skills by going to school. Unlike knowledge, skills require practice. You can gain knowledge about brazing by reading a book, but you cannot acquire the skill of brazing that way – you have to practice. You won't really get any better at brazing, no matter how many times you watch that YouTube video if you don't do some real world brazing. In school, labs provide that practice. In the field, job experience provides the practice that technicians need to become and stay proficient. Either way - to build skills you must actually do the work.
There is a famous quote by Aristotle “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” You become a skilled craftsman by practicing good work rather than bad. Acquiring knowledge, nurturing a successful attitude, and developing skills are all habits. By practicing these habits, you can build your kash reserves and start collecting more cash.