If you’re ready to upgrade your mechanical repair career, the Internet is packed with people and companies ready to help you out – no matter if your specialty is welding, automotive work, heating repair, musical instrument maintenance, welding, carpentry, heavy equipment operation, or any other skilled trade. Finding the right resources for your specialty – and distinguishing the useful ones from the not-so-useful – takes a little digging; but once you’re plugged in, you’ll gain easier access to new job openings, in-depth info on certifications, and plenty of other tools that’ll give you an edge on the competition. Read on to find out how.
Specialize your searches
It might sound overly obvious, but Google is your most powerful tool for tracking down groups, job boards and other websites devoted specifically to your area of mechanical repair. Try out some search terms like (just for example) "engine repair + association," "heavy machinery + Facebook group" or "HVAC + continuing education" to find out where tradespeople like you are sharing tips and expanding their knowledge base.
On the other hand, many mechanical repair websites offer libraries of "loss leader" information – complete articles that prove the site’s usefulness without asking anything from you. Unless you’ve got a solid reason for creating a member account on a particular site, stick to these kinds of free sites – this’ll help keep your inbox free of marketing clutter.
Get into a group
Mechanical tradespeople of almost every stripe have founded their own Facebook and LinkedIn groups – for example, the LinkedIn group Collision and "Auto Body Repair Professionals" hosts a wealth of ongoing active discussion threads; and the Facebook group "HVAC Hacks" gathers tips and tricks from technicians who work with heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Groups like these can be great places to expand your professional network, check the unofficial pulse of your industry, and maybe even contribute some wisdom of your own.
If you have trouble tracking down a group that’s focused on your specialty, remember that you can refine your search from each website’s search menu. LinkedIn and Facebook both offer advanced search options that can help you target group pages as opposed to personal pages, limit your search results to a particular geographical region, and so on.
As you scope out each group in your search results, a few quick checks can help you determine if it’s worth your while to spend more time there. Active groups will be filled with posts from a variety of people, rather than just one or two – and the dates on new posts will be recent and close together. Groups with only a few active members, and those where new posts only appear once or twice a week, aren’t likely to be worth your time.
Though you may already belong to a labor union, a professional association or organization that specializes in your specific trade can also connect you with resources you might never have thought to look for – not to mention with other technicians who can relate to the challenges you face every day. Joining an association isn’t just getting certified and staying accredited – it’s about staying plugged in to the latest news, technology, techniques and events in your field.
Almost every mechanical trade imaginable – from welding to watchmaking – has its own dedicated guild, nonprofit organization and/or trade association. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), for example, maintains a huge job board and a calendar auto engineering events; the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) helps connect piano owners with trained technicians; and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) offer certification, legal advocacy and other services for those tradespeople who help keep their grateful customers cool.
Joining a trade association is rarely free – but if you’re really serious about your mechanical repair career, membership in an official group is likely to pay you back over the years; both in terms of professional connections and access to insider info. So even if you can’t put up the cash right now, it’s still worth a few minutes of your time to Google associations and other organizations that cater to professionals in your field, and find out exactly what each one can do for you.
Check out your job market
If you’ve already got a healthy professional network, an up-to-date set of certifications, and an official organization or association to cover your back, you can take your mechanical repair career to the next level by expanding your job search. Whether you’re a salaried employee or an independent contractor, a host of new companies and clients await you online.
You might think of staffing firms as being primarily office-oriented, but quite a few actually cater to skilled tradespeople. Link Staffing Services, for example, focuses on finding work for carpenters, welders and painters – while Labor Finders scouts out all kinds of skilled trade openings on construction sites. Try searching Google for (for example) "construction + staffing agency" or "tool & die + staffing firm," and see if any staffing companies in your field might be interested in connecting you with new employers.
Even if you can’t find a staffing firm that’s devoted to your particular trade, job boards – such as those provided by ACT Auto Staffing and the MetalForming Job Center, for example – gather gigantic lists of open positions into search-friendly databases. Whether you’re in between jobs, looking for a pay grade increase or just taking a sounding of the job market in your region, job boards like these will connect you with the info you need – and maybe even the employer you’ve been hoping for.
Just as no two skilled trades require the exact same set of mechanical skills, no two tradespeople have the exact same career needs and goals. But the good news is that thanks to the Internet, workers in the mechanical repair trades have easy access to more tailored resources than ever before. So fire up your search engine and start poking around – you may be surprised to find out just how in-demand your specific skillset is.
LinkStaffing.com — Huge job board and staffing service for a variety of mechanical trades.
LaborFinders.com — Job database that helps connect skilled tradespeople with employers nationwide.
International Union of Operating Engineers — Trade union representing those who work on and around heavy equipment.
Visit our Career Research Center to learn more about jobs, salaries, and employment growth in various installation and repair fields, including automobile mechanics, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technicians, automotive body repairers, and diesel engine mechanics.