A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

The Pursuit of Happiness: One Aspiring Craft Professional's Approach on Achieving a Career in the Construction Industry

My name is Alejandro Velez, and I have 10 years in retail work experience and roughly five months of industrial construction experience. I have an associate’s degree in sociology and will have an Associates of Applied Science degree in Instrumentation Technology in December of 2015.

While working retail, I saw that I wasn’t getting paid what I was worth. After the ninth year, I made a decision to change my future, for myself and my family. Slowly, I did some research on various industrial careers. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to pursue since all I was familiar with was retail. After a few months, I made the decision to go back to school for an Instrumentation Technology degree. I was working an overnight shift and I was worried about how I was going to handle the work and school balance. So, at first I took only one class. Then two classes. Then three classes. Then four… Needless to say, I was incredibly busy, and I was relying on instinct when it came to work.

I left retail in January of 2015 for an internship. I was criticized and asked why I would leave a secure job for an internship that would last for only three months. As scary as it was to leave my comfort zone, I was more excited and grateful to have the opportunity to grow and gain experience in an industrial setting. When the internship ended three months later, and then I went eight months without work. It was frustrating but very enlightening. I was able to push the reset button on life. I focused on school, improving my relationship with my family, and I was able to de-stress in certain aspects of my life. “Certain” being the keyword. I was determined to keep looking for work in this chosen field even though it was hard since I had so little industry-related experience. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions. Interviews here and there but nothing. However, I wasn’t going to go back to retail.

To keep myself busy, I continued with school, got my TWIC card and Safety Basic plus certification, studied for my NCCER and completed an NCCER Electrical Level 1 course through Lee College. Eight months later, I was fortunate enough to be picked up for a two week turnaround project as a craft helper where I quickly got over my fear of heights. I lost about ten pounds and realized how fast two weeks can go when you work 7-12s. I was picked up for an Instrumentation and Electrial Technician internship while I was at the turnaround and started immediately after the project ended. Timing was everything! Now a month into my internship, and I’m already planning ahead. What’s my next step? Where should I apply? Have I updated my resume? How do I keep my income flowing?

So, why am I sharing my story? Everyone has a story, their own obstacles, their own goals and their own definitions of happiness.

My story is to remind you to ask yourself:

    • What are your goals? Long term? Short term? What do you want to accomplish in your life and career?
        • Goals must be attainable. Do not set yourself up for failure. Start off small and then go big. Only you know your limits, but just know in order to be successful, you must push yourself harder than ever before.
    • What are you going to do to achieve your goals? What are you willing to sacrifice?
        • When attaining a long term goal for the benefit of yourself and/or your family, why wouldn’t you sacrifice a little bit of time? Going to school for a year or two to attain a certificate or degree is well worth the sacrifice. Your family will thank you in the long run. A little bit of sleep loss won’t hurt you either.
    • Planning is everything, whether it’s for your next job, family time, date night, or school nights. If you fail to plan, plan to fail.
        • If you are not working in a permanent position, whether as an operator or technician, then you are probably going from job to job, long term or short term. So, what’s next when the job ends? Having a profile on a website that helps you get in contact with hiring managers (such as Construction Craft Professional) is a huge time saver while you are working, and/or when you can’t get out and about.
        • Although you’re balancing work, sleep, and probably school, don’t forget about your family if you have one. They want your attention too. If the hard work you're putting in to achieve your goals is causing aspects of your life to suffer, just remember it’s short term. Tough times won’t last but tough people do!
    • Remind yourself why it is that you are doing what you are doing.
        • On those days where you just want to give up, ask yourself: Why did you leave your previous career? Why did you want to pursue a career in the industrial field? Family? Future? Unhappiness with your previous career?
    • If you are not qualified to achieve you career goals, what are you doing to bridge that gap?
        • Colleges, workforce centers, and financial assistance are just a few tools that are there for us to help us to be successful. All you have to do is look. A few minutes of your day will go a long way.

I owe a lot to my family and my close friends. I am a positive person who always pushes to be better, but even Superman has his bad days. They believed in me when I certainly didn’t. They pushed me when I had no push left. All the time that I missed being with my family while I was in school or studying reminded me that what I am doing is not in vain. Don’t forget what you are fighting for.