How to Get Hired in Construction

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Interviews for tradesmen on jobsites are usually about five minutes long. They might not consist of much, but there’s a lot more going on in that first exchange than you might think. The people who have worked the field and hired countless workers into the trades are looking for certain things in a new candidate. Aside from certain training or experience for particular jobs, here are the basics:

Firm Handshake – A construction manager recently told me, “I can tell whether a guy is going to be any good or not by his handshake. If it’s weak and frail and it feels like I’m shaking hands with my grandmother, I know he doesn’t have the gusto to work in the field.”

As silly as it may sound, men that work with their hands for a living are strong and proud and a simple thing like a firm handshake is often used to separate the men from the boys.

Dress – When you are trying to get that first job in construction, it’s not the time to show off your individuality, or display a t-shirt logo of your favorite band. Go looking like you’re ready to go to work, and look like the workers who are already out there.

Nothing says construction worker like a plaid flannel shirt, blue jeans and work boots. If you show up wearing sneakers and shorts and sporting fifty face piercings, you’re not going to be taken seriously. You can talk all you want about ‘keeping it real’ and ‘being unfairly judged’ but you’ll be doing it in the unemployment line. Pull your pants up, wear a belt, and remove your facial piercings. People who want to get hired show up looking like a worker who is ready to walk on the jobsite.

Attitude – A thirty year construction superintendent used to say this to me, “I’ll take attitude over experience every day.” That means you show up to every job like it is your first one, and work every day like it could be your last. There is nothing more irritating to experienced tradesmen than a young person who has worked a job or two acting like they are too good to do something, or thinking that they already know it all. If anything, you should downplay your experience while trying to express a genuine eagerness to learn.

As a foreman, the worst thing that a new guy could do was walk on the job and start telling me how much he knows and how good he is. Helping your uncle roof a garage once doesn’t make you a journeyman anything. Don’t tell me you’re great; show me, and keep on showing me every day. Anybody can show up and be a superstar for an hour. Tradesmen worth keeping are the ones who show up every single day, on time, until the job is done.

Work hard, show up on time, and treat everyone with respect. The trades are a funny thing and it’s a small world out there. The guy working beneath you one day might be the one calling you to work for him the next. The reward is that you’ll be working while guys with bad attitudes aren’t.

And finally, smile. Don’t ask me why. It just works, that’s all.

 

Photo courtesy of: International Organization for Immigration

How to Find a Construction Job

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Finding a construction job is a little bit different than other industries because of the fluid, constantly changing environments on construction jobsites. The changing manpower requirements of the industry can provide jobseekers with opportunities simply by being in the right place at the right time.

Looking begins just like it would in any other industry. Go to your nearest state workforce or unemployment agency, local union halls, check online listings on sites like WorkHands or Craigslist. Visit the construction offices in your area to fill out applications.

After you have done the usual job seeking legwork, you can (and should) start going directly to the construction projects. On smaller jobs, ask to speak with the foreman or superintendent. On larger projects, signs at the entry gate will direct you to the general contractor’s trailer. Go to the trailer. If no one is in the trailer, wait just outside the door until someone shows up. DO NOT wander around a large construction project.

At the construction office of a large site, ask if it is a union project. If it is, then you will have to go to the appropriate local union hall (i.e. Laborers, Carpenters, etc.) and apply there to gain access to the project. If it isn’t, ask to talk to the superintendent and leave them a single paged resume with your contact information on it.

Find out what time they start in the mornings. Go back several times a week (every other day) just before the start time and check in. Odds are that eventually they will need someone, or someone else won’t show up that morning. Being there and ready to work is the best way to show that superintendent that you are eager and prepared.

In 1958, the day my father got out of the Marine Corps, he stopped at a local construction site and asked about work. He started the next day. That’s how my family got into the construction industry and that remains, fifty years later, the best way to land a job – by being in the right place at the right time, when they need help.

 

Photo courtesy of: andjohan

3 Core Roles in The Welding Industry

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Within the general public and even, at times, in the welding industry, there’s a lack of understanding about what a welder does. A common misperception is that anyone who works with metals is a welder, but this is inaccurate.

The welding industry encompasses a broad spectrum of positions and skills, but typically includes a helper or apprentice, a welder, and the fitter or fabricator. Depending on the product of each particular industry or business, each of these positions will be encouraged to develop a specific set of skills and standards of quality to be effective for their role.

Here’s what each role encompasses:

Helper – A welder’s helper prepares material and brings fitted parts to be welded. With supervision, a helper may do grinding and weld preparation; they’ll typically be supervised by a fabricator or welder. This is usually the least technically skilled position, but helpers are learning to weld by being in a welding environment and directly observing fabricators and journeyman welders.

Welder – The job of the welder is to verify drawings and/or instructions from a supervisor on which standards or process are applicable, determine settings on equipment, identify the metal or metals being joined and essentially manipulates a molten puddle of metal to join metal, typically on a molecular level. This is the position that will generally have the most variation both in technical skill level and in salary. For instance, fast-paced manufacturing of a single product of no specific standard or minimum in-house quality control, welding the same items throughout the day with no changes required will be considered low-skill welding. Pressurized vessels, aircraft manufacturing, gas/petroleum industry, or certain types of structural welding will require a welder to be keenly aware of specific standards and parameters of quality, maintain documentation, have very accurate eye-hand coordination, at times weld in awkward positions, and to be aware of surrounding safety issues. These are considered highly skilled workers with pay to match their abilities.

Fitter / fabricator - A fitter/fabricator typically has good welding skills combined with the ability to interpret drawings and blueprints, familiarity with tolerance standards for particular fabricated items and is very proficient with welding symbols. A fitter/fabricator often has machining skills, too. They’ll generally be responsible for correct lay-out, checking that parts are formed or cut to correct dimensions. They often work in conjunction with a helper and welder to assemble a particular item and hold it together by tack welding and bracing, then pass the item onto the welder for welding.

My experience in the past few years has been that more companies are preferring that the fitter/fabricator will also take on the job of final welding. Though each of us in the welding industry may not be a “welder” or have the same level of skill, we should all be aware that we each play an important role in the process of fabricating an item, providing a workforce for our industry and providing income for our families.

 

Photo courtesy of: JFKielyConstructionCo

Making a case for resumes in construction

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Some people will laugh at me when I talk about having a construction resume. The time honored tradition of the industry has always been to walk into a contractor’s trailer, shake the superintendent’s hand, and ask for work. The old timers would hire you based solely upon your handshake most of the time, or tell you they didn’t need anybody just then.

Here are the three reasons why anyone seeking work in the industry should have a single paged resume:

Conveying Your Contact Information What I failed to mention about the time honored industry hiring tradition was the part where the superintendent scribbled your phone number down on a piece of scratch paper and tossed it onto his cluttered desk. In half an hour it was lost in the shuffle. When he found it again in a week, he didn’t even remember what it is. Providing the contractor with a sheet of paper that includes your name and contact information might be the key to surviving the inevitable paper shuffle and getting hired.

Listing Special Skills The industry is changing. Even some union contractors have started interviewing candidates. Workers need to keep track of their safety and skills training, as well as highlighted projects and experience to provide to potential employers. Having a very simple resume to hand to the contractor signifies that you are a professional in your field. When the first round layoffs arrive, that image might be just the thing that sets you apart from the other hardhats and keeps you working.

Setting Yourself Apart Even if you don’t have any work history, a resume can still set you apart from a lot of other construction applicants just by letting the contractor know a few very simple things about you. Here are some things to include (if they apply to you):

  • I have my high school diploma or GED.
  • I have a valid drivers’ license. (CDL is a an even bigger plus)
  • I own a car.
  • I do not have any felonies.
  • I can pass a drug test.
  • I live nearby.

It sounds funny, but having a car, a valid license, and being able to pass a drug test, are the three major hurdles that construction employers face with new hires. Those three simple things can genuinely set you apart from the rest of the crowd. Letting the employer know these things before he asks about them will put you one step closer to getting your foot into the door, just like telling the contractor about your work history and safety training will help you keep it in there.

 

Photo courtesy of: cityyear