I got my start in the electrical trade back in the 70's. My dad was a contractor who built a lot of home in the 60's, 70's and into the 80's. His brother, my uncle, was an electrician.
In Shop class (back when it was Shop, not Industrial Arts), required as a sophomore in my school, the teacher (Mr. Baughman) spent about 2 weeks on electrical. He had a small, 2x4 framed wall made up with boxes here and there, and we were all required to wire switches, lights and receptacles from scratch. The only thing I remember about it was I was struggling to re-use NM that had already been stripped and spliced, and had to use old, worn-out tools.
After high school, I helped out my dad build houses and remodels/additions. After learning about drywall, framing, foundations, plumbing, roofing, painting etc., I decided the electrical trade was for me.
I took a job at a local contractor that specialized in updating older wiring in homes. I was laid off after 6 months, so I found work elsewhere. I wanted to get into commercial work, but the second job had me doing strictly residential work. Not that I disliked it, but I wanted to expand my knowledge and abilities. So after 3 years, I started looking elsewhere.
I found a firm that did very little resi, and did a lot of schools, hotels, restaurants and the like. I was finally in my element. I was in my 4th year of apprenticeship class (I tested out of first year), and soon was running jobs once I obtained my JW card.
A couple years later, I was working on a large doctor's office in a building attached to a local hospital. The entire second floor of this building had been gutted. Part of the hospitals' responsibility was to replace one of the heat exchangers that had gone bad, and they waited until the drop ceiling had been removed before they did so. While the hospitals' maintenance crew was working, I jokingly asked if they needed help.
They said they were in dire straits. I was told to contact their head of maintenance, who informed me they had just lost their chief maintenance electrician and needed someone who was licensed. I told him I was, and we set up a lunch meeting in the hospital cafeteria.
I found out the job paid $78k a year, with one hell of a benefit package. The other two applicants didn't impress the hospitals' HR, and I was basically offered the job right then and there. I was ready to call in to the office and quit when things went south.
Turned out, they needed someone with a Master's license, not just the JW license I held. I said I could have that license inside of 3 weeks, but they needed someone immediately and having the license in-hand was a requirement.
So it was then I decided to take the Master's test, just to have it should another opportunity present itself. The company I worked for sold out, and the new owners closed the business down. So I once again went job hunting. Over the next few years, I worked for 2 different companies, all the while planning on hanging out my shingle someday. I started buying tools and ended up better equipped than my employers. I passed the Master's on the first try in 1996.
In late 2001, I was working on a strip mall build installing the service stacks and tenant panels. After that job was finished, I was laid off for lack of work. But it didn't bother me. I had two new, large, custom log homes to wire, and things were looking up. Despite the tanking of the residential market, I kept busy and never bothered to look for another job. I was able to keep working on my own and found I liked not having anyone yell at me.
Then I got a call from one of the builders of the log homes I was working on. He was looking at a commercial job and wanted me to bid on it. So I met with him, and we went to the job site. Funny thing was, it was the strip mall I had just finished. And my ex-workmates were still there finishing it up. I bid the job and won it. It felt good to 'steal' my first 'real' commercial job after officially going out on my own from the company that took a dump on me.
Since then I've done a mix of commercial, residential and repair work. In the last 13 years, I haven't even considered going back to work for anyone. I have, however, kept in contact with some of the people and companies I worked with and for in the past. Some of the people have taken the same path I did, and we started a 'group' of small shops where we hire each other as contract labor so we all can bid on larger jobs and have the manpower to be on-site. We pay each other a straight, hourly rate with no bennies or unemployment. It works out great for all of us.
Although most of my previous employers have gone belly-up or simply retired and closed up, a couple of my old employers have either hired me back as contract labor, or to do specialized work that I have the equipment to handle that they do not possess. So it pays to not burn your bridges.
I still own and use some of the tools my uncle gave me when he retired in '98, and still have an optimistic outlook for the future.
My hobbies include astronomy, travel and photography.