By Younas Chaudhary
In late November 1973, I arrived in Edmonton, Canada, during one of the harshest winters in the city’s history. I began my first job at a welding shop called Metal Fabricators. Just prior to that I was enjoying a happy time in Pakistan, hanging around with friends, watching movies, and loving life. Suddenly, I had to wake up at 5 am every day in the freezing Canadian winter, take three buses to reach my workplace on time, and work a grueling 8-hour shift before heading back home by those same buses.
This was not fun at all in my early twenties! We worked in a high-ceiling workshop with open areas building steel tanks and other steel vessels. We learned to weld steel joints in different shapes. The foreman sat in a raised shack and from his elevated perch, he kept a close eye on all of us.
With just $30 in my pocket and a family to feed, this was my only option. I had to take it to survive. I was the only brown guy among the white crowd, I knew little English, and I sometimes was the center of jokes as the others teased me about my broken English. There were some among them who worked little, but I kept quiet even though I was not internally happy. I did not complain about those who were not working.
I felt strange as I had a college degree. Being a low-wage worker in Canada hurt my feelings and ego. However, every day, I learned new things on the job that later helped and pushed me to be successful. I was trained to grind metal, how to clean a pipe, how to weld, and to build different kinds of steel vessels. This soon made me realize that every job has a level of dignity and presence that is cherished by the individual who learns it from someone else.
In different walks of life, I went from being a building maintenance tech, to a salesman, to a cab driver, and so on, as on-the-job training taught me skills that were precious in building my future career. I became disciplined and creative in doing my work and learned to be a problem solver. This has helped me a lot in dealing with individuals of different trades.
Today, many of us spend inordinate amounts of money hiring help when we can fix most things at home using common sense. Lots of people have no clue how to change a belt or motor in their home air-conditioning unit or even how to replace a filter in it. This is because most have been raised with the comforts of bookish knowledge and not real practical experience doing different jobs.
On-the-job training at home and in the field allows you to ask questions, understand problems, do it yourself, and teaches you to be a problem solver. In the long run, it also changes the perception people have of you as you become knowledgeable doing things rather than just talking about your skills.
Receiving training in the field made me quite curious. I started out in the oil and gas industry by buying and selling oil and gas mineral leases, but initially I had no clue when people asked or talked about a quarter section or a half section or other land related terminology. So, I spent a good amount of time learning and talking to various landmen who were kind enough to explain land related terminology to me. I should say I may have irritated some by constantly asking questions, but most of the people were willing to teach by showing me rather than asking me to read stuff from a manual.
A geologist named Dean in Wichita, Kansas, gave me a lot of on-the-job training about oil and gas leases, wells, exploration, production, rocks, formations, and so forth. Dean was a kind man who was willing to share his knowledge with me. He was patient, and not once did he get irritated like some people who ask: “Why don’t you understand?”
Having learned several skills from people on the job, my philosophy in my business has always been to share knowledge, be a good guide, and delegate work. I agree that we can rely on bookish knowledge for our self-pride and educational attainment.
Though, I feel that using common sense, consistency, and humility in teaching and learning from others and passing it on to others is a key to all our success. And, once you get on-the-job training from someone, make sure that you share your expertise and knowledge with others so that they can be lifted as well. Blessings.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.