Do You Have What It Takes?

Not everyone has the talent and personal characteristics to become a skilled trade worker. Too many high school counselors think the trades are for people whose academics are not good enough for college. It reveals more about their ignorance than the intelligence of the students they point toward the trades. 

If you’re thinking about a trade career, you need to ask yourself if you have what it takes. For starters, here’s a half-dozen basic characteristics of a skilled trade worker. 

  1. Mechanical aptitude. Do you enjoy taking things apart to see how they work, fixing things when they break, working with tools? As a child, were your favorite toys erector sets, Legos or other toys that enabled you to build things? Do you enjoy reading magazines like Popular Mechanics? Do you love do-it-yourself household projects? If any or all of these describe you, you’ll do well as a trade worker. 
  1. Intelligence. Despite what so many school counselors think, dummies cannot succeed in the skilled trades. You need to be above average in math and read well enough to understand complex technical manuals, blueprints and instructions that are often written in complicated engineering lingo and legalese. Advanced computer skills are increasingly important. 
  1. Hard worker. Lazy people cannot succeed in the trades. Whether a trade worker is on a construction jobsite or in a customer’s home repairing broken equipment, it’s hard to goof off. There’s no office door to close and take a nap. What’s more, the output of a trade worker is easy to measure. Unproductive ones don’t last long. 
  1. Passion and pride. One leads to the other. Passion for the work you do leads to pride in what you produce. Top trade workers love to show outsiders the results of their labor and how well equipment works after they install or fix it. 
  1.  Good attitude. Trade work involves interacting with other members of a team. On a construction jobsite you will cross paths with people from other trades, foremen and job superintendents, architects, engineers, inspectors and others. Arguing with them will get you laid off or relegated to the most onerous duties. In the service trades, your success will depend on how well you work with dispatchers and other office staff. Most important, you will be face to face with customers each day. They are always right – even when they’re not! Getting along with people is important for a trade worker. 
  1. Eager to embrace the new. The trades constantly evolve with new tools, equipment and technology. It’s easy to become too comfortable doing things the way they’ve always been done and resist new techniques that boost productivity and lower costs. The best trade workers constantly embrace better ways to get a job done.