At The Construction Site – Electrician Career Progression. At the Construction Site is a series of blog posts I will be posting from my own experience and other electricians to provide first hand experience what it is like being a tradesman – the battles, the victories, the losses, and the lessons. This week, we have: Electrician Career Progression – At the Construction Site
I wrote this whilst still electrical contracting in London, UK before I sold my business to travel the world with my family.
During my apprenticeship I worked for three companies. I wasn’t sacked from any of them, I decided to leave to further my electrician career progression.
The first company I worked for was more of a building services company. They had some good guys who I still speak to today but also some really lazy engineers who are not good role models for impressionable young apprentices.
The reason I left that company was because I hadn’t even connected up a socket whilst working for them. In fact the only electrical work I participated in was re-lamping. I was more likely to have my hands in toilets fixing them and learning how to fiddle expenses and getting home as early as I can get away with.
When I handed in my notice I was spoken to by my line manager with the F-word many times in the conversation and he told to leave there and then. It suited me.
Onto the next opportunity
The second company was a specialist in power engineering up to 33kV. The work I done was incredible – panel building, bus bar installs, thermal imaging, containment, large cable pulling, jointing…. the list goes on. The experience was certainly there but at times I was not impressed how apprentices were managed.
It wasn’t a large company, but often apprentices were treated as labourers. I don’t mind doing anything but they had labourers. The labourers were doing electrical work! They also used to get me to work on a jobs far from my home but near another apprentices home and get him to work near my home where we could have just worked nearer our own homes. Again, I couldn’t care less where I worked but I felt that as an apprentice, you were not thought about much as everything was to suit the company.
“Dan, You’re not doing yourself any favours. You’ll never make it in this industry with the way you’re going”
I was clearly far more skilled and advanced that the other apprentices even though some had been doing it longer than me so I didn’t feel valued. I rang up my boss to tell her I’m giving notice and it was a similar reaction to my previous boss. She said to me “Dan, You’re not doing yourself any favours. You’ll never make it in this industry with the way you’re going” and told me to leave there and then. Was she right? Was I damaging my electrician career progression?
The ironic thing is that now I often tender for work and they are a competitor! **I now teach other electricians on how to grow their businesses!!!**
Is moving companies as an apprentice a bad thing?
I then joined my third company. The reason I joined this company was because they worked all over the country, mainly shop fitting, rewiring petrol stations, carried out a variety of work and seemed like a ‘team work first’ type of company. I was right and I loved it! I literally worked up and down the UK, learnt so much and met some great guys.
What I found odd about the company was that it had more apprentices than electricians. I think this was mainly because a few electricians left just before I started. I definitely had my work cut out to prove myself because there was a lot of competition! I think all my ex colleagues would agree that I certainly stepped up to the challenge. I climbed the company ladder quickly. Before no time, I was running jobs and had others working underneath me. Did it cause conflict? Yes, at times, but I was concentrating on my electrician career progression.
Be smart. Find ways to make your work more efficient. Aspire to be as knowledgeable as you can. Become an asset to those who need you.
I found a company I was happy with
I was clearly treated with favouritism by the company, but why shouldn’t I? I worked every hour under the sun for them; days, nights, weekends. I got jobs done quickly and efficiently. I was capable of tasks that some were not and I was willing to try new things that were outside of my comfort zone. I was also willing to work anywhere in the UK even at short notice where some were only willing to work locally and I wasn’t making ridiculous wage demands. Surely that is what every employer wants?
I always got the new van. If I wanted a new tool or plant that I felt I needed, I got it. I always got the good jobs. I got to work with whoever I wanted to.
The lesson here is that if you put yourself out there, make yourself available more than others and willing to go the extra mile, you’ll become very valuable.
The problem with that is when you are taken for granted. And it will happen!
Being taken for granted by my employer
Being taken for granted is a problem. A relationship between an employer and employee is a mutual agreement between both parties who both offer each other something in return for something. That relationship has to work both ways and each party needs to receive what they want from the relationship. When one starts to not play their part, the relationship suffers. So when an employer takes you for granted you need to remind them what you offer them. When you constantly put yourself out there, you are in a position to make demands. Please don’t ever be delusional with your role within your relationship as your employer will no doubt do a lot to keep you in work and to pay your wages but you need to gain from the relationship what you are looking for. It is two way!
During my time on my third company I felt I was being taken for granted. I was working 7 days a week, doing serious hours in the week, running multiple jobs and under pressure to complete jobs with not enough people. I was also slightly put out that I was on the same JIB wage as some of my colleagues who clearly were not as capable as I was. Why should I be paid the same as others who quite frankly could only handle half the amount of work that I could?
I was offered a job with a rival company. The money was similar but the change sounded intriguing. I spoke to my boss and told him my issues. I was in the position to force him to change a few things because I was an asset. To be fair, he made changes and we were back on track. I didn’t accept the other job and stayed where I was. Good choice in hind sight.
At the age of 19, I was working on a job on a petrol station in Somerset where we started the project 5 weeks late so we had to catch up, with not enough men and absolutely zero specification and direction from the client. We didn’t even have drawings! On top of that we were asked to work nights in Cardiff for a few days in the week as well as working weekends in London! Sleep? What sleep?
Experience is everything!
At the time I was still an apprentice and I was speaking to a guy on the job called Ian who owned his company working on the pump gauges. I was explaining that I’m exhausted but felt pressured to complete the jobs. He gave me some of the best advice anyone has told me. He said that I might be working silly hours a day but every hour is experience. Every hour at night or weekend is additional experience and often out of hours works provide a different experience to normal hours. So when I’m compared to my college mates who work 7 hours a day 5 days a week doing the same thing everyday and in the pub for 4 o’clock, I am gaining double the experience. He was in a similar position and due to experience he was able to set up his own company and is now the master of his own destiny.
From that day I totally looked at what I was doing in a different way. It is experience that allows you to progress! I’m not saying work yourself into the ground, but gain the valuable experience and knowledge and use it to push yourself forward. Be smart. Find ways to make your work more efficient. Aspire to be as knowledgeable as you can. Become an asset to those who need you.
Qualifying as an electrician is just the start of your career
Before I even qualified I started my City and Guilds 2391 Electrical Testing and Inspection course. I absolutely smashed my electrical AM2 practical exam. It was a doddle. The examiner even said to me as we left “It’s your birthday this weekend isn’t it?”. “Yes I replied”. He said “I am not supposed to give results before the official time, but let’s just say you can celebrate further for your birthday”. As soon as I qualified I sat my City and Guilds 2400 Electrical Design and Verification course and it hasn’t stopped there. I am constantly reading content online and looking to complete the next course which will further my career and knowledge.
The electrical industry is exciting and full of opportunity! The limits are endless. I highly recommend that anyone coming into the industry sees qualifying as the start. Once qualified, look to see what areas you wish to explore and enjoy and have an aim. Set goals and set aside some money (unless your employer is willing to pay), so you can complete additional courses within your chosen direction.
Find a niche in the electrical industry
You can progress into EV charge points, solar PV, fire alarms, intruder alarms, project management, contracts management, health and safety, construction, engineering, maintenance, training, sales, owning your own business…. The list goes on!
The more knowledge you have, the easier it is to understand and read a situation. It provides more opportunities and allows you to have choices. Keep on learning, read and watch educational and inspirational videos.
Life can be tough and full of questions. Wouldn’t you prefer to have the answers?
Electrician career progression isn’t handed to you, it is an attitude
I come from a council estate in Surrey. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like Compton, Los Angeles but I have been in many situations which I wouldn’t want my kids to be in. My experiences as a youngster certainly play a part in my drive, aggression and hunger. I have worked since being a teenager and I believe a massive part of being in the electrical industry is learning the right work ethics and attitude. Some will naturally have it but some need to learn it. Somebody needs to teach them!
I have never been afraid to stand up for what I think is right. I can be arrogant. I can be cocky. I am not scared of confrontation when necessary. I can be a nuisance. But I look out for others. I believe in teamwork and I have done a lot of growing up. I believe life is a long journey and you learn as you grow through experiences.
I have worked on some fantastic projects, some of which I am very proud of. My experience and knowledge has taken me places, but I am not finished yet, my career has just started! The electrician career progression continues.
Look out for more blog posts in my series – At The Construction Site.
#e5 #AtTheConstructionSite #electricalindustry #apprenticeships #danstheengineer
Originally written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer in Kent, UK and posted on LinkedIn on 14th January 2018. Re-written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer in Canggu, Bali, Indonesia.