Career advice-slash-rant for young people interested in trades

AFAICT the purpose of bullshit jobs (and by extension bullshit education) is to paper over elite overproduction by wasting people’s time. A side effect of this is that anyone who does anything useful (e.g. nursing, trades, trucking) is expected to work 80-hour weeks to support these pseudo-elites. Worse, the lower middle class has a culture where they gladly accept this. That’s 40 hours of overtime pay baby! Truckers are the worst about this, but it’s that entire caste.

So, coding…you’re supposed to be coding 40 hours per week, but also learning 40 hours per week, while also working your side hustle for 40 hours per week, etc. And all because you just plain love REST APIs and always dreamed as a kid that you’d be making them. This gets into my advice column for young people. I tell kids this all the time in real life.

Every tradesman I know has ruined his body after about 5-10 years of working. Tilework, epoxy, HVAC, whatever. They’re all broken men just barely getting by through abuse of CBD oil, alcohol, weed, and painkillers. All coders burn out mentally after about 5-10 years in the trenches actually writing code. The ones who say otherwise don’t do the coding part anymore, they’re writing design specs and so on. The advice I give to young men I talk to is everyone is lying to you and you need to go into these things with your eyes open and realistic expectations. No one is making six figures in HVAC and doing cocaine in the back of the shop. That was a thing in the year 2000, but those days are long gone.

Today you’re going to start at 15/hr and there will be a hard cap around 25/hr unless you’ve got that rare cushy union gig from the old days. If you’re starting today, you’ll probably never see more than 22/hr as an HVAC mechanic. Sad but true. You need to be aware of this because YOU DON’T WANT TO BE 35 WITH A RUINED BODY stuck working hard physical 80-hour weeks for $22/hr with no prospects. You need to plan to go into management. Not want, NEED. And because of the elite overproduction problem, no one is going to promote you to management. You will not be inheriting anyone’s business just because you’re the top mechanic.

There’s a serious class bias against mechanics because of these middle and upper middle class people moving into these areas. Plus, as mentioned all tradesmen are shortsighted and abuse multiple substances. Mechanics are considered interchangeable cogs. Wagies. “Skilled labor” is not a term the middle class has any respect for. You do labor because you’re a dumb loser who couldn’t get into a better school. You can argue with the stereotype until you’re blue in the face but you’ll never convince your Xer boss that he can’t replace you with a Hispanic day laborer. It’s economically irrational and you don’t have to believe me, but most skilled labor bosses would rather go out of business than retain their best workers by giving them raises. It’s just polygamous alpha monkey shit, and what it boils down to is most white men want you not to reproduce so badly that they’ll burn society down to prevent it. The exception to all of this, as I mentioned, is if you have one of the few jobs that still exist for giant factories. Those guys do okay, but as manufacturing goes to Asia so do those jobs.

So the only thing left to a tradesman is to go into business for himself. This is where the white pill is. You aren’t going to become rich by competing with the local magnates, but you will never lack work. The magnates are still selling people’s time because it’s fundamentally a service business, and there’s only so many skilled worker hours they can bill out even in the most cynical case. And it’s a fundamentally local thing. A plumber will never have to compete with Chinese labor unless the Chinese labor comes to your town. The trick, then, is to go into your trade with the expectation of becoming a small-time entrepreneur. This means putting in YET ANOTHER 40 hours per week to learn business, sales, marketing, and so on.

Accounting especially. These things are not by any means common sense and weakness in any one of them can spell death for a small business. Hiring, especially, which we just talked about last week. So while you’re working for your local magnate to sharpen your HVAC plumbing auto mechanic skills, you also need to be writing down notes about the business you’ll be opening someday. Try to get your hands on copies of the spreadsheets and stuff that your company uses for purchasing, getting jobs, and farming jobs out to underlings so you don’t have to make them yourself. Copy the business plan and model if you can. Keep an eye out for underserved communities with good credit. You’re going to have to set up somewhere that’s hard for the magnate to get to and has low rents in the industrial district.

The other option is college, where the advice is basically the same. That is, if you’re doing a useful degree. For example, if you go to the engineering department of any company office in the auto industry, you’re going to find fifty Boomers, five Xers, and maybe one token Millennial. Never a Zoomer. Ever. Are there no Zoomers doing mechanical engineering degrees? Of course there are. And they’re all unemployed. We have a GLUT of engineers. And they’re all treated like wagies. Although I will say, I think mechanical engineers burn out a lot less than software or trades. Some protective spell cast by the pseudo-elites being intimidated by math and science degrees.

One note about mechanical guys: an issue with this protective spell is that elites who don’t understand your field aren’t going to understand why it should continue to receive funding or be done in the US. And engineering fundamentally assumes centralized organization to some degree. Optimizing a system assumes you aren’t building it from scratch like the Primitive Technology YouTuber. I have a lot of respect for redneck engineering, but optimization is lower on his list than getting the damn thing to work despite being made of scraps.

About Aeoli Pera

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16 Responses to Career advice-slash-rant for young people interested in trades

  1. Xerox, engineer and used to be tradesmen says:

    Not a lot to argue.
    Became an engineer because body was breaking at 30yo.
    Consulting now, the business side is out of my ken.
    The only way appears to be going in with the intent to hang your own shingle.
    E-Myths and Checklist Manifesto are good reading. But they assume you haven’t failed yet.

  2. aiaslives says:

    > All coders burn out mentally after about 5-10 years in the trenches actually writing code.

    No, that’s the maximum amount of time you can fake understanding and writing code. Good coders and vanishingly rare and with the new `import` culture they’re even rarer.

    The impostors don’t “burn out”, most of them are in for the money and they’d rather take a management position at smallcorp than a good coding position at mediumcorp because they want that FAANG job so bad they’ll pre-emptively sell their soul for it. Most people in software don’t give two shits about it apart from the money it makes them.

    The people that do code “burn out” not from time but from liberal expectations, lack of exercise and the realization that life is pretty short but optimizing computers is eternal. There aren’t enough jobs for these kind of people because all the “coders” that get hired at bigcorp excel in passing the buck and *preparing* for the interview with their fast talk finagling and useless leetcode shit. It’s literally girlboss shit these days, there’s no integrity left anywhere. As the next crash happens, there’s going to be MAJOR shortage of open-source people managing the “major” libraries and all the hipster frameworks that do absolutely nothing except init a self-congratulatory wrapper around some basic shit. That’s when all the headgirl types will start shouting and all their teams will fail because it turns out that they had one guy out of a thousand maintaining the meat behind the import statements and hence doing the real job. And when the job cuts start because no one really needs that many coders anymore (did you know, android development is bullshit coding) there’s going to be lines of “overqualified” people asking for $150K to sit around and shout at the people doing the real work, and wayyy more people who are plain unqualified for anything other than managing expectations at techcorp.

  3. Xer from above says:

    Doing the math live on my phone:
    Dealership rates on mechanic $110/hr x 1kh/y = $110k
    Your top $25/hr x 2khr/y = ($50k)
    Health insurance $1.5k/mo = ($18k)
    Liability (boat electrician) = ($6k/y)
    Company truck $50k ~ $1k/MO = ($12k)
    10% for the Big Guy = ($10k)
    15% extra taxes = ($8k)
    Leftover jack on the table == $6k/y maybe $16k if you are the Big Guy

    Go back and look at those numbers above and see how much is sucked up by the FIRE industries.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >Doing the math live on my phone:

      There’s never a cheering section around when you really need it.

      • Xer says:

        I work with great tradesmen. But their IQ is 90-105; the ability to read and follow instructions is IQ100.
        The best advice is to join a union; then hunt down and kill all the grifters.
        They are really good at figuring out when someone is ripping them off; just maybe not how.

  4. Xer says:

    Fundamentally; to do OK in the trades:
    1. Show up when you say you will
    2. Do what you say you’ll do
    3. Clean up after yourself
    4a. Charge at least double to Jews and lawyers (their business isn’t really worth getting anyways)
    4b. Know your sherrif by name and the process for getting a mechanics lein (it looks bad when you chain the doctor’s boat to the yacht club dock)

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      Thank you for taking my request seriously. It’s…not been my average experience with internet commenters.

      • Xer says:

        Thanks for the encouragement.
        The rule of thumb was that 1000hrs was a bust ass year; 500hrs was lean.
        Live your life style for a lean year.
        Estimating isn’t that hard:
        Parts should roughly equal labor. If it is out of whack; you are doing it wrong. Nobody wants to spend $1000 to have a $100 thingy installed.
        Line item parts can get marked up 10%. This also gives customers slack to buy stuff off the internet without messing with your pocketbook.
        Bulk parts like cable and terminations can get marked up 100%.

        Small ops that work:
        Momma is the book keeper, parts orderer, and takes the calls…or…momma gets a corp job with health insurance. Wage rate is less important here its about flattening costs.

        • Xer says:

          IQ100 to 110; you can read instructions and communicate them to 80-90 IQ laborers. These guys are cool to work with; if a little flakey. Skilled trades get locked into what they know and won’t do whatever you ask of them. General labor will build fence one day and move pipe the next…as long as you genuinely respect them.

          IQ105-120 can work with tradesmen as a field engineer. I think civil has the best options for hanging your own shingle. Though electrical, alarms, building automation, HVAC, IT infrastructure can still do it.

          IQ120-140 is tough. You have a hard time dealing with anyone that isn’t an engineer without putting in a bunch of effort to bridge the gap and not trying to explain shit.

          Above that is out of my ken.

  5. guest says:

    Or you can just enjoy the decline.

    Why be working poor, if you can be just poor?

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