Recently, we put out a call to the Fine Homebuilding audience on Facebook asking them what advice they would give to someone thinking about starting a career as a tradesperson. We got great feedback from over 100 people in several areas of the industry, including carpenters, plumbers, general contractors, HVAC technicians, and more. We’ve shared some of our favorite responses at the end of this article.
Our #KeepCraftAlive (KCA) initiative advocates that jobs in the trades should be widely recognized for the valuable and rewarding work they provide, plus KCA teams up with SkillsUSA to raise money for scholarships that help students in trades schools learn the necessary skills to excel at what they do.
We hope that if you are reading this as someone unsure about taking the next step towards working with your hands, these words of wisdom from our supportive community of builders gives you the confidence to make a move. One of the best things you can do is enroll in a good trade school or find a smart, thoughtful mentor to help you learn the ropes; the students in the photo above were luck enough to find both (builder Mike Guertin is seen here instructing a group of construction students from Warwick Area Career and Technical Center on an actual home build).
After reading the highlights below, check out the complete collection of responses in the original Facebook post. And if you have advice of your own to contribute, comment below or in the original Facebook or Instagram post.
“Good enough is almost never good enough. Your reputation is your most important asset.” — Craig C.
“Find a knowledgeable mentor. Go through an apprenticeship with them. Work hard then work harder. Take pride in your work and yourself.” — James T.
“Do it for the art. Once you’re the best, you can set your own price. But, it’s going to take a whole lot of listening and a whole lot of shutting up to become the best.” — Jim G.
“The right tools for the job makes a world of difference. Respect your trade, respect your work, and have grit.” — Joseph Gonzalez
“1) Learn from the best, never stop learning. 2) start your own business. You will work hard but it will pay off. 3) Take business classes to learn how to run your business. 4) Never let anyone tell you that a tradesman is not as smart as a university grad. That is pure BS. Done both and they both take all brains you have. Best of luck, it will be the best thing you can do for your family.” — David K.
“If you do decide to go into the trades, regardless of the trade you do, always do the best job you can. Never shortcut anything and build it like it was your own!” — Scott H.
“Start taking care of your body early. Knee pads & suspenders for belts are important. Proper respiratory/eye/ear PPE are non-debatable. Really commit to finding a job where people are willing to teach you about the trade. Everyone generally has to do some level of ‘grunt work’ as they start, but it should be interspersed with learning new skills. If that’s not happening within a reasonable time frame, it’s not worth staying in the job.” — Chris V.
“Be honest. If something is out of your skill set, let customer know and then try and help find the right person. They will call you back for work you know how to do, just for being honest and helpful.” — Josh D.
“Square, Straight, Level, and Clean. Also, don’t be afraid to redo something not right. The amount of time put into redoing will not surpass the years of dissatisfaction with the work from the customer or yourself. If you do quality work then you will never need to advertise your service.” — Patrick B.
My father was a Master plumber, I’m a carpenter, these were his words to me 37 years ago.
‘Make damn sure you can read the square. If you understand the square you can build anything.
Give the boss 8 hours of work if you expect 8 hours of pay. Come Friday, put your hand out, if you’ve given him 8 for 8 then that’s your money, not his. Keep a journal of everything you learn…’ Those words have proven to be true for me.” — Thomas W.
“Find what it is you love to do and work to be the best at it. Life’s tough when you wake up to go to a job you hate. Working at what you love to do is what it’s all about, and if you are good at it, the money will find you.” — Kenneth B.
“Learn everything you can. Expose yourself to as much as you can in your trade and around the construction industry as a whole. Expose yourself to different ways of doing the things you want to do.” — William B.
“Get a subscription to FHB…can’t go wrong learning how to do a task in a more efficient manner.” — Tim S.
“Take care of your back and knees from the start… Not later when they start to creek!” — Taryn K.
“Be able to take directions, be able to take criticism, always keep an open mind to new ways and ideas.” — Brett S.
“The three things that will make you more successful than anything:
1. Learn from the best to master your craft. Even if you don’t have someone that works with you the information is readily available (Green Home Building Advisor, Fine Homebuilding Magazine, YouTube, Matt Risinger, etc)
2. Learn the interpersonal skills required to have good working relationships with everyone from clients to trade partners.
3. Learn how to build (or operate as a member of) an effective team! Dream Teams are worth their weight in gold; We’d bet anyone who’s worked with teams on both sides of the fence will attest to that” — Live Smart Construction