Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, is a true account of the author’s experience, when as an experiment, she abandoned her city, her identity, education and professional qualifications for three months, and attempted to live on $7 per hour working as a Wal-Mart employee, waitress and maid in a new town.
As she soon discovered, it’s barely possible to survive on these wages – she had to work two jobs, was borderline homeless, had no insurance and no safety net. And perhaps not surprisingly, she was treated with very little respect in those jobs. In short, she experienced the worst of everything.
As a hydraulics specialist, you’re not likely to get caught in the poverty trap of the ‘working poor’ described above. But understanding the root of this problem is still very valuable, and can be used to your advantage.
The problem for the low-paid workers (those working “entry-level” jobs) described above is that they are a commodity. And unfortunately they, like most other commodity items, are bought and sold on price. Clearly, you don’t ever want to become a commodity and have your value to the marketplace priced in this way. And therein lies the solution for these people: do something to get out of the ‘commodity trap’.
This same principle still applies to some extent in specialized fields of endeavor. An attorney who doesn’t offer a unique specialization to the marketplace is just another attorney. An accountant who doesn’t bring a unique set of skills to the marketplace is just another accountant. And a hydraulics guy who doesn’t bring a unique set of skills to the marketplace is just another hydraulics guy.
Which means if you can at all help it, you do NOT want to be a common, garden-variety hydraulics guy: you want to be a specialist within the specialization.
For example, in my case, 15 years ago I observed that a deep understanding of hydraulic equipment maintenance issues was rare among hydraulics professionals (and still is), so I pursued it as a specialization.
Looking forward, the increasing sophistication and complexity of electro-hydraulics presents opportunity for specialization and to gain unique positioning (and higher value) in the marketplace.
Your specialization can also be machine or industry specific. For example, you could be a guru on Husky injection molding machines. Or the top-gun hydraulics guy every paper mill wants to hire. Whatever the specialization is, you get it by deliberately seeking out information and knowledge not widely sought or available to others.
The area of specialization itself is not so critical. What IS critical is that you know how to do something not everyone else can do. That way, you’ll never be treated (or valued) like a commodity.