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Keys to Success – Find a Mentor
When I started in the field, I was a 17-year-old helper with one year of tech school under my belt. In other words, I knew nothing. As I've mentioned before, a few experienced techs took me under their wings at different stages, but the most influential was a guy named Dave Barefoot. For whatever reason, Dave decided to share everything he knew, and he was exceedingly patient with my mistakes, busting my balls all the way.
Even now, I call people smarter than myself like Jim Bergmann, Bill Spohn, and Jeremy Smith when I can't get my head around something. You never grow out of benefiting from having helpful people to call when you need an extra brain to work on a problem.
Here is a quick tech tip about finding a mentor from a tech I hired at my previous employer and just recently reconnected with. Grant “Rusty” Hayes is a smart guy, and he benefited from some of the same great mentors I did when I was coming up. Thanks for writing this, Rusty.
The greatest asset I have found early on is finding someone who is willing to teach and asking them to mentor you. This may be common knowledge, but I’ve found that many techs hoard their knowledge or don’t have patience enough to help an unlearned tech.
No matter if the person is a co-worker or not, find someone you can call in a pinch and talk to when you don't understand something. At the same time, cultivate a love for reading, especially the installer documents and the material shipped with the units. There is a lot of good learning material in those documents, and they will help you learn how that particular system is intended to operate. This will keep you from abusing your mentor with every little thing, and you may find you have something valuable to add to the conversation.
Having someone to call to help you without being made to feel you're not learning fast enough is valuable and can prevent you from feeling this may not be the profession for you. I would suggest someone who isn’t a co-worker for a mentor only because it will prevent any talk among other techs on something you may never live down if you make a mistake. Trust me, you will make mistakes, but never being able to get past the mistake can hinder your confidence and growth. Of all the things I’ve learned, finding someone with a teacher's mindset who wants to help others is by far the most valuable tool I’ve used over the years. Don’t lose heart; always learn and grow in the HVAC profession or whatever you're doing or want to do. This is the best advice I have for anyone new to the trade or profession. Sometimes, the best way to find a mentor is just asking.