Spending time participating in the industry outside your usual job pays big dividends for you and your company. Stepping outside your sphere of influence exposes you to rapidly changing knowledge and opportunities. It also gives you access to industry professionals who are working on the same issues you face on a daily basis.
The easiest way to participate outside your company is to dip your toe into online forums. Web sites such as HVAC-talk.com provide instant access to some of the best minds and exposure to current HVAC happenings.
Online forums are usually free and easy to participate in. Most sites include straight forward sign up and log-in instructions that make it easy to be part of.
Forums offer access to hundreds of subjects featuring millions of posts from people, typically, in the know. You can post questions, comments, or ideas and follow the thread to see participants’ responses.
As you review different forums, take time to read several posts or topics before you join. Search for topics of interest to you and get a feel for the other contributors. If you like it, jump in; if you don’t move on. Either way, your exposure to the industry will widen your view and stimulate new thoughts that lead to action.
A few cautions; just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. Also, many participants “Calls ‘em like they sees ‘em.” Some don’t waste words if they disagree with your views. Search for and take away the very best these forums has to offer. That’s why they call it searching the internet.
Trade and Membership Organizations
Groups of like-minded HVAC professionals benefit from close associations through membership organizations. Besides producing a stream of valuable content for their members, effective membership organizations provide training events and conferences where you can rub elbows with others working towards the same goals as you.
A worthwhile membership requires something of you beyond dues. It should hold you to standards and best practices that improve you and provide ongoing advancement in your profession. Such organizations should uphold and support ideals that you can build into the culture of your career and company.
Seek to discover the membership benefits an organization makes available for you. The driver behind these groups is a commitment to improve the industry. Available benefits include training and certification, on-line websites and libraries, technical support and lead generation opportunities.
The key to making the most of a membership organization is to fully participate in the opportunities made available to you. Simply paying your dues is a waste of money. Discover new ways to participate and capitalize on the opportunity.
Trade organizations typically offer more of a regulatory or standard-based foundation for your career or company. Membership in these organizations can strengthen what you and your company stands for. This partnership should offer vision, ethics, and a mission you can follow.
Local chapter meetings offer an ongoing chance to associate with other trade professionals who face the same challenges and resistance you see daily.
Hobnobbing with competitors may stir some new feelings at first, as you wrestle with how to appropriately guard your company confidentialities. However, as soon as you figure out appropriate boundaries, you will gain relationships that last a lifetime.
Our industry demands so much of us, that we can become consumed by the daily tasks we face. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and fail to see beyond the horizon. The ability to rise up and see more is the primary benefit of industry participation.
Much of the work that drives the direction of our industry is accomplished through committees. Unfortunately few of us see ourselves in a place in our profession where we feel we are qualified to contribute content, opinions, or service to support committee participation. Well, I have news for you; this industry badly needs what you have to offer.
The reality is that such committees are in desperate need of people from our industry who have boots on the ground. Unfortunately committees that have no idea what actually happens day-to-day in our industry are crafting our fate. The regulations being heaped upon us are so detached from what happens when a real install job rolls out, that implementing those regulations is next to impossible.
One of the big secrets is that opportunities to serve on industry committees are offered in almost every trade group. Through these organizations we see what needs to be accomplished. Committee work is the mechanism that moves the needle in the right direction. Warning: the committee needle moves really slow. But slow and steady wins the race.
I would encourage you to contact your favorite trade group and discover opportunities to develop your career and influence the industry through service.
One trait we should all share in this industry is the desire to serve others. In my opinion, if you don’t have that burning in your belly, you could be in the wrong job.
Fortunate is the person who has developed a life of serving others. I have found participation in this industry is accompanied by the immediate reward of contribution, fulfillment, and satisfaction.
Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute -- an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. You can contact Doc at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, and downloads.