It’s not the most impressive weld. And in the greater scheme of things, a 1G certification for flux core welding on 1″ material is nothing special. But the weld test above is special to me because it’s my first weld test for an employer, my first chance to demonstrate a few of the skills I have developed in two semesters in the welding program at Western Iowa Tech Community College. I produced this weld shortly after completing my last final exam. (The photo was taken prior to bend testing; I didn’t have access to the test coupons.)
With a master’s degree in adult education, four years of experience in hospitality including a front desk supervisor position, and three years of related work experience in student development, I anticipated that at this stage in my career I would be accepting an assistant manager position in a hospitality setting. Those plans did not work out, but probably for the best. Instead of a salaried position in hospitality with unpredictable hours and significant on-call time, relatively low pay for the work involved, and a good chance at burnout within a few years, I have accepted a position that, despite being entry-level, pays much better without even accounting for 10-20 hours of weekly overtime pay.
I’m sure I’ll grow tired of long hours in the welding shop. The work can be exhausting and very dirty, and the work environment not especially sympathetic. And as one of my fellow welding students (who has decided, for good reason, to stay in school and study pipe welding) advised me, the welding at this particular job may become repetitive and boring. But I take pride in my work, which will become a valuable resource when times are tough and the satisfaction of laying down a nice, quality weld will need to be enough to get me through the day. And I’m in a fortunate position to have analytical, organizational, and communication skills that can help me advance as a floor supervisor, quality assurance technician, or occupational health and safety specialist.
I start my new job on January 7, almost a year to the day that I lost my job in hospitality, and with it, almost every notion in my head of a future in hospitality management. I’m 27, and I feel like I’m finally starting my career, after already starting over a few years ago and transitioning from student affairs to hospitality, and now transitioning from hospitality into welding and fabrication. I believe manufacturing will be a more sustainable career choice for me; if not, I have learned a few things about adapting to new work environments and expectations, coping skills I’m sure I will use again.
And when I miss working in hospitality, I can ask my wife to share stories of her day-to-day experiences as a front desk supervisor. I’ll accept living vicariously through her as she works tirelessly to provide a welcoming and hospitable environment for guests in Sioux City. It’s for the best anyway; she performs that kind of work with more poise, grace, and patience than I ever could.