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Thread: Career change

  1. #1

    Career change

    Hello, all, this is my first post here. Sorry if it's a little long. Im posting because Im seriously considering a career change into the HVAC profession (Im currently a degreed accountant). Being a number-cruncher in a big corporation has never sat well with meits always been only about making big money, for me. Ive always had much more of a technical mindset, and have always related much better with my blue-collar relatives than with my college-degreed relatives (or with the office crowd I work with). I even had an associates degree in electrical engineering technology before I was an accountant, and Id gladly still be doing that work if there were any money or abundance of jobs there.

    My thought is: I go to the community college for a year and get the certificate, and see if I can make it as an HVAC tech. My strong electrical background will only help me here (I've already learned about motors, electronic circuits, and three-phase, though it was long ago now). After a few years gaining experience, maybe I partner up with someone at least as experienced in HVAC (probably more experienced) to start our own business, where my many years of accounting and business experience will hopefully give us an edge. I think that at this point I have the training, experience, and mindset to be able to run a small business. I dont want to spend all my time in the office thoughI want my hands dirty, to spend time working outdoors (and yes, I know, in attics too, unfortunately). Its much more who I am as a person, I suppose.

    A strong interest I have in connection to all this is to be able to live in a smaller town, not chained to the big city (I'm in Houston) like I am as an accountant. That theres a major life-long dream, to live and work in/near the country. Its worth much more to me than making the big bucks at this point in my life.

    I know theres a steep cost to count here I have now doubt that that year of school work will be difficult, and for several years (at least) Ill be working for half what I make right now (but money is only so much of the overall picture, and I have my savings and have mostly bought my toys). I also know it's very hot (and very cold) work, at times.

    The big unknown for me is, as long as I make good grades and pass the tests, will someone hire a 44-year old newbie, even with the other things I bring to the table ? Or will most people call me "over-qualified" or think I've got a screw loose for making such a change at my age? Accounting interviewers obsess over that kind of stuff. Also, do y'all like your profession, as in, would you recommend it to others?

    I would greatly appreciate your input. Im going to go insane if I cant figure out some sensible kind of exit from what Im doing now.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    WI
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    1,094
    You will probably get a lot of replies that say you do have a screw loose, but I say, if this is something you want to get in to, then why not? I will say though, there are a lot of guys in this trade that wish they went to college and had a job in a cool/warm/dry office where they earned a 6 figure income. I am not one of those, but some days this job sucks. As for your age, I have known apprentices who were well into their forties, so it shouldn't be a huge disadvantage, but be prepared to answer questions about your loose screw. Good luck. Oh, and welcome to the site!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    San Antonio, TX
    Posts
    305
    I got a BAAS from Texas State via the Occupational Ed Dept.(awarded work-life credits substantially!) after working in several fields, mostly office equipment (8 years in Houston). While I was finishing at Texas State, I got interested in drafting (CAD) and did an internship doing it. Tried another outfit doing it and got VERY weary of it and office atmosphere.

    I was acquainted with a person who was in a family owned HVAC firm in San Antonio and decided to try the field. The firm's owner did not believe in the HVAC schools for the reason he'd had several grads come through his shop and they just didn't work out for him. I was 47 when I got on. I figured I could teach myself the trade quicker than going to a school, and with your background, bet you could , too. As you, I understood electricity and basic physics and chemistry, but I had no clue about how refrigeration worked when I walked through the door.

    Anyway, I spent the first few months there OJT and it was hot and miserable at times, boring at times, but I had the attitude of learning all I could every day. Started in June 2001, by the fall, I'd studied and passed the NATE AC certification, and was in a service van doing fall preseason checks and service calls here and there. I did ok, but the owner would not give a raise or any opportunity for commissions or bonuses, and I believed I was not being compensated fairly, so I left, after almost three years.

    Working for contractors is a challenge, I found. After over a year, I was very discouraged with the trade, and was ready to do something else. I was doing the paperwork to become an industrial tech teacher, then found an opportunity at a manufacturing plant nearby doing testing of equipment. I stayed at the plant until an opportunity for a field service position came up. I did that, traveled a LOT, until they had an R.I.F. on 6/30/08.

    With the resume' I'd accumulated, I had no problem getting offers. Had three strong ones within a few days, two were in areas I'd little to no experience with, and another was very similar. There are many sub-specialties in the trade, residential, commercial, heavy commercial, industrial, market refrigeration, controls. I will start Monday with Victoria AC, and will be learning boilers and chillers, heavy commercial iron!

    I'd say if you really like people and solving their problems and dealing with multiple personalities, residential might call to you. If you really like the hardware aspect more, commercial might be more to your liking.

    Man, I do not know what you would say to get over the attitude some may have regarding your accounting background! Although, the son of the first guy I worked with, one of his son's is the firm's accountant. He might have some insight for you.
    G T T

    In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Omaha, NE
    Posts
    1,561
    You're going to experience real culture shock going from the white-collar world to the blue-collar world and the loss of status. I don't think that most would survive the transition long-term. YMMV

  5. #5
    Thanks everyone for all the responses so far.

    Snewman, you make an interesting point, and this is why I threw my post out there, to explore all the angles before I leap.

    So I may clearly understand your point, by "loss of status", what do you mean? In whose eyes?

    I hope the culture shock you refer to isn't too bad, in my case. My favorite relatives and friends are blue-collar folks (and actually, I don't have any white-collar friends that I hang out with regularly). The blue-collar people I know are mostly modest, down-to-earth, good people, while a lot of white collar folks are much less so.

    Thanks again, and everyone please keep the responses coming. This is good!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Omaha, NE
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeerHuntR View Post
    Snewman, you make an interesting point, and this is why I threw my post out there, to explore all the angles before I leap.
    So I may clearly understand your point, by "loss of status", what do you mean? In whose eyes?
    We have social classes in this society just like every other society. White-collar people - professionals, etc. - are on a higher social ladder rung than hourly blue-collar. It's just a fact of life. A guy going in to a high-dollar store in his work uniform with dirt under his finger nails isn't going to get the respect and attention that someone more refined looking is going to get. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, managers, etc. don't usually socialize with "underlings" although there are exceptions, of course. If your circle of friends is blue collar then you might very comfortably make the transition. When I was a kid just out of high school I worked in the engineering dept. at an industrial pump manufacturer for 4 years. I was just a clerk, but I interacted with engineers, salesmen, secretaries, production managers, etc. When I quit to go back to college, I was hired back the next year into the factory (blue collar) just for the summer. It just wasn't the same because I wasn't "one of them" anymore. I was just a factory rat. YMMV

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Western NC
    Posts
    2,504
    Be prepared......

    We work in the worst imaginable working conditions. For extremely hot attics to rat and snake infested crawl spaces. We hardly ever deal with customers that are in a good mood. And the mood only gets worst whenever the bill is written up.

    We are dedicated to what we do and strive to get better at it everyday. We have more tools than the local Autozone and continue to buy more on a daily basis.

    Summers are extremely long. Winters are long. While spring and fall consist of playing catch-up and doing prevenative maintainence. You're never guarenteed your hours. They change everyday. Some weeks you work until you drop and then other weeks are dead and your home early. We are expected to run calls all hours of the night and work at any time.

    We have to deal with the heat to cool. Long days with hard manual labor. Working off ladders, working in tight spots, working in dark spots. Carry everything you own everywhere you go etc...etc...


    The list goes on and on. I am not tryin to make us look good nor make you reconsider. If you really want to make the move, go for it. We could always use more in the field. Just be sure it is what you want to do. This job isn't for everyone. It takes only the finest breed of super-retard to want to do this work day in and day out.


    I say get your certifications and go for it. Or try getting a job with a local HVAC company as an installer while you get your training in school. That way your sorta ahead of the game so to speak. Keep an open mind and hit the ground running. Don't be afraid to ask questions and don't be afraid to admit defeat. Be honest with yourself and others and you should be alright.


    Good luck, let us know and keep us posted. We're here to help.
    I fully support the military and the War on Terrorism.


    If you don't know, then don't do. If you don't know and still do, then be prepared to pay someone else a lot to undo what you did and then do it right.

    If you do know, then do. But do it right. Otherwise, you may not be doing it long.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    OZ Aka SW Florida
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    1,830
    I will stay out of this one.., I don't want to poison his mind for another point of view......GOOD LUCK..
    Refrigeration...Finding the Wright Wrench to pound in the correct..Screw

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Louisianna
    Posts
    88
    you could go into automation and probably trane carrier mcquay etc... you'd be in the field and working with hvac..... with your electrical degree and allllllll

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    new jersey
    Posts
    338
    hummmmm,
    the pros????????????????????
    the cons: hurting back,busted knees,16 hr days,2 sick days, no vacation.
    i should have been an accountant.LOL

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    St.louis metro area
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    315
    Quote Originally Posted by DeerHuntR View Post
    A strong interest I have in connection to all this is to be able to live in a smaller town, not chained to the big city (I'm in Houston) like I am as an accountant. That theres a major life-long dream, to live and work in/near the country. Its worth much more to me than making the big bucks at this point in my life.

    I know theres a steep cost to count here I have now doubt that that year of school work will be difficult, and for several years (at least) Ill be working for half what I make right now (but money is only so much of the overall picture, and I have my savings and have mostly bought my toys). I also know it's very hot (and very cold) work, at times.
    I have no idea how much you make now but if you are making the "big bucks", you might want to do a little research on the expected pay for an entry level tech. You might be surprised, but you will probably be working for a lot less then half of what you make right now. Also, most entry level techs will probably have to start their career working for a small family owned business which will not offer nowhere near as good of benefits as what you probably enjoy right now.

    I'm not trying to discourage you. If you're tired of your job and want to try something different, by all means, do it. I'm just trying to give you some things to consider before you invest any of your money or time.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Omaha, NE
    Posts
    1,561
    DeerHuntR,
    What about the possibility of transitioning from accounting to specializing in something like cost accounting in building construction. It's not exactly hands on but you'd still be involved in the projects and could probably work it into construction management, overseeing the project in every aspect somewhere down the road. Just a thought.

  13. #13
    Snewman24,

    Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I've thought about all those kinds of angles. During a 5-month job search last year I applied at some construction-related companies for accounting/analyst work, and I inquired about a few cost accounting positions elsewhere. Nobody would talk to me. It's okay, though, because it's still all office work, and the office is what I want out of.

    Accounting is a tricky and unforgiving profession - whatever industry you work in and whatever area you specialize in, that becomes who you are as an accountant. It's hard to move around after a few years, and that's what I ran into last year.

    At this stage, put me in a van and send me around a service area, seeing new people and places and situations everyday. I got some of that back when I was an electronics tech, and those are good memories even if I didn't make much money back then.

    Thanks again, everyone who has replied. I appreciate it.

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