Forty-three years. Wow, that’s a long time. This was the response recently when an industry meeting attendee asked me how long I’d been in the business. His colleagues standing nearby immediately followed up by asking how I was able to do it for so long and how I avoided burnout.
Sometimes, I wonder, too. In 1976, when I was one of 13 pest control technology students at the State University of New York (SUNY), none of us had any idea how long this journey would be, what adventures we’d experience along the way, or where it might lead us. Pest Management Professional (PMP) Hall of Famer Dr. Austin Frishman (Class of 2002) served as the Gandalf to our group of Hobbits.
THREE PROFESSIONAL OPINIONS
Of course, the first person I shared these questions with was Doc Frishman. His response: “It depends. What are this person’s goals? What are they doing now? Where do they see themselves in three, five or 10 years? Is there room for creativity and growth where they are now? Are they enjoying their current work? What do they think they’d like to do in the future?”
I also asked Ralph Maestre, BCE, technical director of Magic Pest Management, Queens, N.Y. His response: “First, you have to look at this as a career and not a job. We’re in this for the long haul. I focus on what’s interesting about my job each day. Just yesterday, a guy brings me a bumble bee nest that fell through a ceiling at a customer’s home. Last week, a technician brought in an insect I’ve never seen before. The short story is that I’m learning every day in this industry, and I like that we have to be a student of the game every day.”
And I asked my SUNY classmate Lynn Frank, BCE, technical director of Suburban Exterminating in Smithtown, N.Y. His response: “I like that my work includes continued interaction with other talented people. Learning about and adopting technologies to our work is very interesting. There’s no substitute for the overall sense of accomplishment that occurs when helping people, through training or solving a customer’s pest problem. What makes all this easy for me is that I’m at something I trained for and love. Truly, it’s not work for me because I enjoy what I’m doing.”
The common thread for the three pest pros I queried? We all enjoy remaining current and constantly learning. Even in retirement, Doc Frishman remains a student of the game.
KEEPING BURNOUT AT BAY
Burnout isn’t on my radar screen. I just love what I do, so perhaps that, combined with the variety of the work, keeps the dreaded burnout at bay. Instead, I look to conquer hurdles. For example, five years ago, I was told “no one gets rid of spider beetles in a high-rise building.” Well, challenge accepted! The building was successfully remediated.
There’s no doubt that our work can be difficult and physically demanding. Crawling around in a hot attic to look for termites in August or a nasty crawlspace to solve a rodent problem can be less than fun. It’s hot, dirty, nasty, and many folks wouldn’t dare enter these areas.
FIND YOUR INSPIRATION
So how do we do it, time after time and place after place? One reliable source of inspiration that has helped me is thinking about the people who are relying upon me to get this work done. These folks may range from the home or business owner that has the problem, to the pest control company that called me to help. Maybe it’s the people of the company you work for, and your customers who are relying on you to do a great job.
Whichever source of inspiration you use to help you do a great job may be a personal choice, but having one to draw upon is beneficial to us all. Occasionally, I find myself having to do things most folks would rather not do. What helps me to do this is knowing that the homeowner is counting on me to do a good job. What helps me thoroughly inspect a bed bug situation is knowing that the people who live there will be bitten if any are missed.
Whatever helps you run faster and jump higher as you perform pest control work empowers you to be the best you can be. Remember, as long as there are bugs, we’ll always have a job.
BELLO is president of PJB Pest Consulting & Education based in Alpharetta, Ga. He has more than 40 years of industry experience. Learn more at PJBPestConsultant.com.