home improvement career

What career advice do you wish you had been given?

It seems like every career starts out with a whirl of advice from well-meaning family, friends, or neighbors. But wouldn’t it be better to get it straight from the pros?

When it comes to what education you should invest in, how to present yourself to other professionals, and other questions that are specific to the industry, there’s really no one better to ask than those who have come before you.

Why We’re Asking:

Have you ever wondered whether you’re taking the right steps in starting your career? Even if you’re only trying to understand home improvement from a casual perspective, expert insight is always invaluable. They say that hindsight is 20/20, and everyone wants the benefit of hearing about a successful professional’s experience.

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

How can a person excel in your profession?

From schooling and training to recommended experience and learning, what steps do you suggest to someone looking to pursue your career path?
What credentials and schooling, if any, would you recommend investing in?
What are the pros and cons of your industry?
Any insider information that you wish you had known when first starting?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!

  • Steve Crossland, Austin Realtor 09/16/11

    No matter the business, I think some universal rules apply.

    1) It is better to get started now than to get started perfectly later.
    Too many get stuck in the starting gate, always getting ready to get ready to get ready, but never do they actually go. It’s better to start finding business and get to work than to obsess on your business card and other frivilous stuff. That can be handled later.

    2) Understand where your leads will come from and how to convert them.
    There are only 3 basic ways to generate leads: Advertising, Networking and Prospecting. Many new businesses have to Network and Prospect. These are time consuming but cheap. If you have money but not much time, Advertising is the best way to leverage leads.

    Whether you are a Remodeler, Realtor, Stager, Plumber – it doesn’t matter – if you are not tracking your leads by cost, source, conversion rate and value, you won’t have the information necessary to make smart decisions later as you grow. Eventually, through success and time, you want most leads to be referrals from happy past clients and organic internet traffic. That takes time to accomplish, but if you track your leads, you’ll see those leads sources grow over time.

    3) Spend time on Revenue Generating Activity
    This may seem obvious, but I know a lot of solo and mom-and-pop vendors who don’t allocate their time well. For example, a husband/wife plumber should NOT have the husband/plumber trying to answer the phone and schedule service calls during work hours. The wife should do that or it can be outsourced to an answering service. In other words, an $80/hr plumber spending 10+ hours each week on the phone doing $10 admin scheduling is a poor use of working hours. He should be working on billable hours. Nor should he be two-finger pecking in Quickbooks trying to type invoices. That can be outsourced while he instead does lead generation or actual billable work.

    I see many service vendors who are good at the work they do, but lousy at the business they own. This leads to the downfall of many.


  • Sohail Hassan @ One Stop Green 09/16/11

    Excellent question, especially now since jobs are such a hot topic in this country. ‘Green’ jobs in particular have been gaining a lot of press as the new ‘it’ job and everyone from contractors to plumbers are rushing to get a piece. The following would be my advice to anybody looking to get into the ‘Green’ industry:

    1) Make sure you have a Genuine interest towards the Cause: due to the volatility of the industry, my first suggestion for anyone looking to get involved in the ever expanding ‘green’ market is to be sure that they are genuinely interested and passionate about doing this type of work. Anyone just looking to make a quick buck will stand out like a sore thumb – their real motives will instantly be revealed and as a result, they will have lost all credibility. Therefore, only those who seriously believe in this movement and their ability to positively impact the environment will be able to truly prosper in this industry.

    2) While saving money and reducing energy usage is great, most ‘green’ investments are more expensive initially, but are beneficial for the overall long-term investment. Especially in this economy, this is a rather tough sell, so our market is targeted towards specific consumers. It will not be until ‘green’ really hits mainstream that everyone will wholeheartedly embrace the idea and general concept to make investments with the BIG picture in mind.

    3) Know your Market! Advancements in green technologies are being made every day. In order to keep up with the industry it’s important to maintain a rigorous schedule of research via online media outlets and even mobile applications that track news and developments within the industry.

    4) If you are serious about getting into this industry, it is recommended, although not necessary, to attain some type of accreditation, LEED or other. Of course this is not required, but among industry experts, certifications mean that an individual has been tested and certified as a specialist in the field. Furthermore, most certifications can apply to various fields and is not concentrated towards a specific side of the ‘green’ industry.

  • Charlene Storozuk @ Dezigner Digz 09/16/11

    The first piece of advice that I would give to anyone considering becoming a Home Stager is to remember that it’s not all glamour as it sometimes appears on T.V. There’s a lot of physical work involved – i.e. moving around furniture, loading and unloading trucks etc.. The work doesn’t stop after staging day either. There are a lot of other behind the scenes tasks that must be kept up such as marketing, blogging, accounting, etc. A professional Home Stager wears many hats.

    Also, some people are under the misconception that it’s an industry that you can get into without much cash outlay. That is not the case. You’ll need enough money to purchase good quality inventory, rent storage space, obtain business insurance, purchase computer equipment etc. – the list goes on. It’s a good idea to have some money put away as a buffer, because business won’t fly your way as soon as you hang your ‘open for business sign’.

    As far as training, there are many schools out there, so be sure to do your research and find the school that is going to suit your needs best. Once you’ve decided on the training school that interests you the most, contact Home Stagers that have received their training through the school that you are considering (a lot of Home Stagers’ websites mention where they received their training). Ask them what their experience was with the school and if they were happy with the training they received.

    Home staging is a very rewarding career, but you must enter it with no false expectations or you’ll set yourself up for disappointment.

  • Lynn Schrage - The KOHLER Store 09/16/11

    What Career Advice Do You Wish You Had Been Given?

    I think there are four important skills that anyone can adapt in their home improvement career including effective listening, visualization, problem solving, and hand sketching.

    Good listening skills are important for any career. Begin practicing your listening skills in your course work. Work to apply the content you are learning versus note taking or memorization.

    The visualization skills that I’m referring are not about applying the latest 3D rendering software, but about your ability to see an environment spatially in your mind; understanding the build-out details before you lift a hammer; and helping your customer better understand the design concept before construction begins.

    As a designer or contractor, I feel our role is one of problem solver. We have new budget challenges, space constraints, and surprises behind the walls, so we need to have the flexibility and problem solving skills to adjust to these project nuances as they are uncovered.

    Lastly, practice your ability to sketch by hand. It is quickly becoming a lost art. Your ability to close the business will be greatly improved, if you can sketch and reconfirm ideas with your customer during the meeting versus promising updated CAD drawings in two weeks.

  • Bess Wyrick @ Celadon & Celery designs 09/16/11

    The flower and events industry has so many great opportunities for anyone who has a general passion for design, nature and working long hours! I fumbled into the floral world through an ex boyfriend who was a landscape architect and taught me about horticulture. I learned quickly about plants, design and eventually discovered my hidden passion for flowers. I read everything I could get my hands on about floral design and eventually started freelancing in the event world in San Francisco. I learned on the job all the tricks of the trade, I watched other designers and copied there technique, I was bold in playing with different materials and just allowed my creativity to guide me. There are floral design courses that can be taken at local botanical gardens, retails shops, and universities now.

    Being a florist is often “glamorized” as being in a shop and playing with gorgeous materials. What people don’t know is that we are up at 4:00AM gathering flowers from the farmers and markets, cleaning the flowers which are often covered in thorns, dirt, and bugs. We are standing all day long and lifting heavy buckets of water and boxes of flowers, we cut ourselves with knives all the time conditioning the flowers. This is a hands-on job where manicures will never look nice for more than a day! This job is labor intensive and keeps me in shape! We are lucky to play with nature everyday and manipulate flowers to create unimaginable designs that our show stoppers for our clients. We are designers, creators, stylists, florists, and dreamers! We love our jobs are are lucky to have found a passion in the floral world.

  • Ed Del Grande - - triple master plumber, licensed contractor and LEED Green Associate 09/16/11

    Q: What career advice do you wish you had been given?

    A: All my mentors missed this one when I first started my plumbing career in the early eighties. I also failed to see the “writing” on the wall for this important work skill that we all overlooked. Back then, before computers, just about everything in our business was done with a telephone and a calculator. By the late-eighties, computers along with the new “email” system started to replace many phone calls.

    By the nineties, it was painfully obvious to me that if a person neglected to learn good writing skills in their youth, they would be lost in this new world of emails, blogs, and websites. I worked hard, and eventually acquired enough skills to survive in this new world of the written word. But, even with my good fortune of writing a book and having a syndicated newspaper column, by no means do I consider myself an expert. All I can say is thank God for spell-check and editors! So, the advice that I wish I had been given, and that I’d like to share, is to get yourself into a good writing class ASAP. If not, that could “spell trouble” for your future career!

  • Peter L. Mosca, Green Realtor 09/15/11

    Speaking as a REALTOR and as a real estate consultant, educator and instructor, I’m proud to say that the REALTOR Association on all three levels of membership — local, state and national — provide an excellent array of educational offerings on any number of niche service specializations. That said, here are three suggestions if you are considering a career as a REALTOR: 1) Start as an apprentice. Show pride and commitment to the business, industry and association, and you shouldn’t have any problem finding a REALTOR willing to show you the ropes as they relate to understanding the fundamentals of the real estate transaction and of the parties involved, most notably buyers, sellers and investors 2) Get involved. Network. Volunteer and be an active member of your REALTOR association and the community as a whole, 3) Match your personality to your profession. There are any number of real estate specializations to choose from. Pick the one that best matches who you are as a person and become the best at that niche. Please note that I left out technology purposely thinking it is already a major part of your personal and professional lives. If it isn’t then add that to your list.

  • Steve Robinson/Axios Architecture 09/15/11

    This is pretty simple…learn how to present your ideas well. This is as important one-on-one as it is in larger client meetings or in front of a larger group. Learning to be compelling, articulate and concise is a real skill (one that I’m still learning!). Make presentations any chance you get…and don’t get caught in the trap of thinking others not listening is the problem. Naturally, it is part of the problem, but look at yourself and always be thinking of how you can better get your point across. When I was coming up there was a tremendous emphasis on creative and technical skill. Valuable…certaintly. Essential…absolutely. But you must communicate in a way that makes the results of your creative and technical skills tangible to others.

  • Jason Todd @ GreenHomes America 09/15/11

    What an exciting question to answer! When it comes to Home Performance, I can honestly say I love the line of work I am in and would encourage anyone interested in following the same path. There are elements in Home Performance that are like detective work or solving a puzzle and you get to provide hands-on solutions for home owners they really appreciate.

    Home Performance Contracting broadens the traditional definitions of the trades as most people understand them and is focused on improving existing homes for better comfort, health and energy efficiency. There is incredible opportunity right now since it is still a relatively young industry and it certainly feels good to be part of one that actively helps to reduce energy usage and improve the environment.

    Affordable Comfort Inc. is an organization that has promoted the Weatherization and Home Performance industry and has for over 25 years and is a great resource. They hold regional as well as a national conference every year. The website (affordablecomfort.org) also holds years’ worth of presentations from industry experts. Good for folks starting out, looking for a change or are always willing to learn.

    There has been an increase in the number of training providers available as States develop programs at the local level. I also have seen an increase in courses at the vocational level. Not a training organization, but a notable certification and standards organization the Building Performance Institute (bpi.org) its worth investigating.

    Of course like in most of the trades, one of the best ways to learn is under the wing of a successful contractor. The same goes for businesses such as HVAC companies who are looking to branch out into Home Performance, consider looking into GreenHomes America, it’s what we do.

    What I know now that wasn’t so clear ten or more years ago is that with so many existing homes needing help and new homes being built with the same problems there’s no mystery or puzzle to solve, Home Performance is here to stay.

  • Kerry Ann Dame @ Posh Surfside 09/14/11

    In the interior design industry, education is very important – expose yourself to as much history and architecture in person as you can. It is impossible to refine your eye for design in school, you have to get out and see fine things in person. Visit historic homes and museums, travel to foreign cities, and go to fine auction houses. Going to the Markets in High Point and New York is also a great education.

  • Lauri Ward@ redecorate.com 09/14/11

    Although I began as a conventional interior designer, after a short time I realized I was more interested in making a living helping people re-purpose and reuse what they already had, rather than selling a lot of new furniture. So, I founded Use What You Have Interiors in 1981, a previously unheard of approach to decorating.

    There was just one problem: there was no one who had ever done this sort of work before and, therefore, no one who could explain how to price my services, how to work in all design styles, how to redecorate a room in a couple of hours rather than in half a day. I had to figure out a brand new method to what I called “one-day decorating and redesign.” Oh, how I wish there had been a mentor to turn to for advice!

    My firm grew quickly and I started to receive calls from interior designers and decorators around the country who wanted to work for me or learn my techniques. I waited several years, until I actually had a real system that addressed all aspects of setting up and running a home-based redecorating business before I began training people, in order to offer the sound advice I’d always wished for when I was starting out.

    Today, I have trained hundreds of interior redecorators in the Use What You Have system, both in my New York City classes and through my firm’s online training program. Each one of the trainees has benefited from everything I have learned over 30 years – and the mistakes I’ve made along the way – so they save time, money and feel confident they’ll always have a mentor to turn to for advice.

  • Pablo Solomon, Green Designer 09/14/11

    Learn all that you can about everything. We live in a big interwoven world. Keep you life in balance, your values as a foundation and your goals in focus. Remember that in life it really is not the money–it is the lifestyle. Live you life and approach your business with passion. Give your best. Give respect and demand it in return. If you do not enjoy your life’s work as much as any form of play–find a new career.

  • Rob Jones @ BuildDirect 09/14/11

    The first thing that came to mind was the idea of the informational interview. I discovered this concept pretty late, and wish I’d been encouraged to engage in it when I was still in school. The informational interview is when you’re interested in a career and want the real skinny on what it takes to succeed in it. Then, you connect with someone in that field, and ask them directly.

    I think there is a wall of mystery around the idea of careers for a lot of students looking to break into an industry, no matter what that industry is. And where the right school, and the right program remain to be important, I think good old fashioned communication with those who have that holy grail of the working world – EXPERIENCE – is paramount. When coupled with internships, and apprenticeship programs, a half hour or an hour with at least one person in a field of choice can be a real spark of inspiration, or a signal to choose another career entirely.

  • Barbara Tako/Clutter Clearing Choices, LLC 09/14/11

    As a clutter clearing and home organizing motivational speaker and author, I fall back on the advice to “Do what you love” when helping people to excel in their profession. The question to ask is: Is my profession also my passion? When I am passionate about my topic, my audience/readers become enthusiastic and motivated too.

    If you are passionate about your profession, the next piece flows more naturally too: Be a life-long learner in your profession. I modify my presentations every time I do them. Every time I give a talk or write an article, I learn something for the next time. Learning helps keep things exciting and current!

  • Bill Riggs @ Riggs Construction 09/13/11

    When we’re in school, in training, or in our apprenticeships, all of the focus lies in giving you the knowledge to do your job. But regardless of what profession you are in, you are always in the business of customer service. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that we’re educated on but it’s one of the most important aspects of a career in residential construction. In remodeling, every action that each member of the team takes – from estimating and project planning to carpentry, roofing and painting – contributes to the customer experience and impacts whether or not that customer has an exceptional experience with your company.

    In your career, if you can consistently go above and beyond with the customer and wow them with your service and attention, that’s what will enable you to not only advance your career, but also to help build business and brand for the company – something that can make you invaluable to the organization.

    So always remember, while your skills are very important, your ability to provide exceptional service to the customer is just as crucial.

  • Kris @ HouseBuying Tips 09/13/11

    Without a doubt I wish someone had told me back in high school to get a part-time job in the field I was considering as a career. Any career can sound good on paper. They did to me. But you won’t know for sure if a specific job or career is the right match for you until you actually spend a few days doing it!

    Unfortunately trial and error is not a method that most young people like to hear. But once you become an adult it’s hard to do. And it’s certainly not a learning strategy taught in any school I went to. But it should be. In high school every kid should have to do some type of internship. Same in college. And same in any type of business or vocational training school.

    Not that this is a perfect method. And maybe putting the responsibility on schools is wrong. So then go out and get a part-time job on your own. At least you’ll have some job experience before you enter the workforce. Part of knowing what you want to do when you grow up is knowing what you don’t want to do! Better to know before you spend time and money on career training.

  • Wayne Caswell, Modern Health Talk 09/12/11

    KNOW YOURSELF and your interests, innate talents, and how you relate to others. Schools generally do a poor job of guiding students into fields that best suit them. The military does better at that, so that may be an option. Another option is the book, “What Color is My Parachute,” but my two favorites are tests that you can take online: Meyers-Briggs and MAPP.

    MEYERS-BRIGGS – I didn’t learn about this personality test until I retired from IBM, and it was an eye opener. It helped explain why I could be the opening keynote speaker at a conference and have hundreds of my peers eating out of my hand but was often unable to get management buy-in to projects I felt important. You can find free versions of this test online.

    MAPP – Motivational Assessment of Personal Potential examines innate talents. A free version is available online, but I recommend the $30 version because it gives more insight and maps your talents to the top 10, 20 or 50 job titles as listed by the US Department of Labor, including descriptions of salary ranges, working conditions, and skills & education needed.

    CHANGE is occurring at an increasingly rapid pace in this technology-driven world, and even if you are not in the tech sector like I was, you’ll need to keep up. For many, change also means and end to life-long employment. I was lucky enough to work at IBM for 30 years and retire with a pension, but these days people change jobs and entire careers every 2-3 years, each time needing new or different skills. So the point I’d like to make is the importance of life-long learning, whether in a trade school, community college, or university. That increasingly means, for ALL careers, you’ll need basic PC and Internet skills.

    SKILLS & EDUCATION – My brother is an exception to the above, and so are many other skilled tradesmen. He’s a highly skilled cabinet maker at the US Capitol in Washington, and he makes a good salary with good healthcare and a good retirement package. He also has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration degree. So one suggestion I’d make is to invest in both marketable skills and higher education. New statistics show that certification from a trade school can sometimes yield higher salaries than a 4-year college degree, so I wish our nation would put more emphasis on vocational training and apprenticeships. I also recommend mixing fields. If you like working with computers, don’t just go into information technology; mix that with interests in other fields like medicine, architecture, etc.

    • Wayne Caswell, Modern Health Talk 09/12/11

      ENTREPRENEURSHIP – Because of the increasing pace of change in this world, working as an employee makes you reliant on someone else for your education, advancement, healthcare, and retirement more than at any time in American history. One way to get control yourself is to start a business and work for yourself or freelance, but few schools prepare students for that. Colleges instead prepare workers for corporations. They mostly don’t prepare people to compete with corporations. If you go the entrepreneur route, you’ll still need to find a mentor, be flexible and prepared and responsive to opportunities that present themselves, and invest time in building a network of supportive contacts.

  • Jill Banks @ Happily Better After 09/12/11

    I think this is true for any career, but even more so for professionals in service industries: join professional organizations and networking groups. It can get expensive since most professional organizations (particularly the national ones) require you pay annual dues, but the resources, education, and connections can be invaluable.

    You should definitely join an organization in the field in which you specialize, but check out others like local chambers of commerce, groups for women or minorities, or referral groups like BNI so you can interact with a variety of potential referral sources.

    It takes a while to build the relationships that turn into referrals, but if you show up regularly and share your knowledge with other the members, you’ll find that you’ll be top of mind when someone needs, or knows someone who needs, your services.

  • Dawn Ohnstad, Realtor, Coldwell Banker Burnet 09/12/11

    When I became a Realtor in 2004, there were a couple of shockers as the ink was drying on my new license, which I was not prepared for, and I wish I had been. Additionally, there are some things that need underscoring as you get started. So, if you were my son or daughter and were asking me for my insider tips on being a Realtor, they would be these:

    1) IT IS COSTLY TO BE A REALTOR: Be prepared to spend money, more than earn money in the first year. There are “desk fees” to allow you to be part of a company, MLS Fees, Association Fees, cost for Continuing Education, Technology Fees, E&O Insurance, forming of your own LLC and the cost of your own health insurance. You will need excellent IT equipment. A computer, specialized real estate software, a smartphone and an iPad. You will need to have another source of income while you get started and the expectation to earn anything like a decent living which would support a family in anything less than 3 years is not realistic.

    2) PROSPECTING FOR CLIENTS: Although you learn about the need for this in real estate school, it is like childbirth….they don’t really tell you how hard it is in advance….they let you find out for yourself, and then you don’t really tell others either since no one told you. I am telling you…..this will be the focus of your life, much more than the pretty houses or the real estate knowledge you have worked so hard to acquire. The “selling” you will be doing will be about selling your own expertise, as much as selling actual homes.

    3) SECRET SKILLS NEEEDED: There are no classes which prepare you for dealing with the angst and suffering which has become a harsh reality for so many homeowners you will be meeting. They are meeting with you, quite often, under the most stressful of circumstances. I have had to learn to manage my words and be mindful of this. Kindness is key. They will pretend that they are calm….but there will be times when you wish you would have gotten a degree in psychology so you would really know what to say. You will be the one they are depending upon to help them when there is not much help possible. If you are in real estate just for money, and do not have a heart for being a comfort then this is not the time to begin a career in this industry.

    4) GET IT IN WRITING with CLIENTS: For some reason, the “old guard” have run their businesses without signed contracts with clients…especially buyers. This is the most frequent cause for deals that go badly for the agent. My belief is that the Buyers Rep Agreement and the Exclusive Right To List Contracts give you the tools to avoid misunderstandings going forward. Agents who fear asking for this kind of commitment from people they work with are just avoiding having to find out whether or not the client is totally sold on working with them. Why would you not want to know this up front??? Signed contracts a must. Learn from the start to make this an absolute.

    5) GET IT IN WRITING – NEGOTIATIONS: Until you have a signed contract for the property with all contingencies met and removed…you do not have it sold. Never call it “sold” until the cash changes hands. Never allow a charming opposing agent to get you to say “done deal”…if it is a true deal, then signatures will not be a problem.

    6) BROKERS: Hang your license with the biggest broker in your area. I started with a small one and although there were great agents there, a large brokerage is night and day in terms of networking opportunities for your buyers and sellers needs. I mean, this is a flat out “no brainer”.

    7) OTHER AGENTS: There will be some agents who will want to deal with you in an adversarial fashion. They will be rude, pushy, insulting and demanding. Be professional no matter how far they push you. Do not lower your standards of conduct to theirs. Do everything in your power to win them over while you accomplish your goals on behalf of your clients. Agents who have good experiences with you will build your reputation in the industry. You will run into them again someday and best to keep all bridges intact. Having the trust of other agents is a valuable tool. This is a tough one at times, but, very important.


  • Terry Peterman @ Electrical Online 09/12/11

    We’ve had a couple Plumbers weigh in here, so time for the pitch for new Electricians. It has been said that if you start as an Electrician, and happen to fail the first year’s technical training school, they will let you try the exam again, or they will just give you a Journeyman Plumber Certificate! That’s the story among Electricians, and I’m sure Plumbers have their own little jabs back at us!

    Seriously though, with any of the trades I would advise that you are mechanically inclined, and have the skills and the interest in working with your hands, and a desire to understand how things work. You should also have good grades in (or at least not a genuine hate for) math, physics, and a logical thinking type of mind. You will be surprised how some of that seemingly useless information you are forced to learn in High School mathematics such as trigonometry, figures into understanding the fundamentals of electricity.

    Most areas use an apprenticeship program for training electricians. This involves getting hired by an Electrical Contracting company, and after some probationary period to determine if you are a good fit (from both employer and employees perspective), you get enrolled in the program. Here in Alberta Canada, we have a very good apprenticeship program that turns out some of the best and most highly respected and recognized tradesman in the world. The program involves 3 years of working in the trade for 10 months, tech school for 2, with the final year of 9 months of work, and 3 months of tech school for a total of 4 years minimum before you can earn your Journeyman Electrician certificate. After 3 years as a Journeyman Electrician you can move on to a Master Electrician by challenging an additional exam that is very focussed on the electrical code in the design and installation aspects, allowing the Master to sign for and be the responsible person for an electrical permit on projects of any size.

    A career as an Electrician can be very rewarding. The most attractive component of apprenticeship is that you begin earning a wage right away, and most areas have some financial assistance programs available to help you through the months that you are in tech school. The wage usually starts at about 50% of the standard Journeyman wage, and moves up to 60, 70, 80, and then 100% upon completion of your 4th year.

    The negative side is that if you just stay and work in the trade as a labourer, you top out in your wage earning after only 4 years in to your career. However for more ambitious individuals, the sky is the limit on progression as you can move in to supervisory roles, management, or starting your own business.

  • Cindy*Staged4more 09/12/11

    Having been in the business for almost 6 years and seeing stagers coming and going, I would recommend a LOT of homework before you dive into the profession.

    You should do some market research to see if home staging is a viable career in your area and if you can be self-sustainable just by working as a stager. (Home staging schools will always tell you yes, it’s very easy to start your business doing what you love. While that is true, it does not necessary mean that you will make a living wage.)

    Most stagers go out of business because they don’t understand how to be profitable or their business models were not realistic. You should also work for a home stager for a little bit to see if this is an ideal career for you. TV shows generally only show you the fun part of being a stager. There is a strong difference between being a hobby stager and a career stager. And most people confuse the two. Then the career can become a very expensive hobby.

    So do some extensive research before you start! And NEVER buy inventory without booking a job first!

  • Paul Abrams, Roto-Rooter Corp. 09/12/11

    People who like to use their hands and don’t want to sit behind a desk but like variety in their work can excel as a plumber. In today’s higher unemployment and changing economy, plumbing is a more stable career. Skilled plumbers are always in demand.

    One of the issues facing the industry is a negative perception of trade jobs and so fewer people want to go into plumbing. However, plumbers are still needed and they play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our society and lifestyles.
    A licensed plumber has at least a year of experience as a licensed journeyman (or up to 10 years, depending on state requirements). Master plumbers can supervise and guide the work of plumbers who are just starting out. What can high school grads expect to earn by learning a trade? A journeyman can earn between $28 and $32 an hour (up to $64,000 a year). That’s a pretty nice wage for a person in his or her early twenties.

    Roto-Rooter, North America’s largest provider of plumbing and drain cleaning services, says there is a shortage of skilled and master plumbers. This economy is affecting the career paths of people of all ages whether just starting out or having to start over, and the plumbing industry is time-tested trade with advantages for many different types of workers.

  • Lindsey @ Unique Home Solutions 09/12/11

    What a great topic! We are very open-minded about our potential employees in regards to prior experience and education. Because we offer initial and follow-up training programs therefore prior experience is not necessary, it is the character of the applicant that is most important. I would advise candidates to keep an open mind to the company’s techniques and systems.

    I would also advise those interested in working for our company or any home improvement company with a good reputation that we are very professional and we expect our representatives to be very professional. We are also an employee owned company, so we understand the importance of great customer service; therefore a great first impression would be for the candidate to talk about their own customer service methods. A good customer service representative is not always easy to find so if you have what it takes it is well advised to stress that.

    An education is very honorable and those who are bettering themselves in this way put them toward the top of the list because they showed their hard work ethic by earning a degree. But that is not everything we look at, if you have a positive, can-do attitude, hard work ethic and an openness to learn, that is all it takes.

    If you fit the characteristics above, go into the interview with a smile on your face and be yourself.

  • Linda Benninger, Atlanta Plumbing Plus 09/12/11

    If you want to become a plumber, the best place to start is with a good trade school if you live in states like New York or Pennsylvania. Here in Georgia, the best way to start is as an apprentice.

    An apprentice works for several years as a helper to a Master Plumber who can teach not just the basics of plumbing but also the special little tricks that can only be learned on the job. A Master Plumber also ensures that the apprentice learns to plumb according to Georgia Plumbing Code. After 3 years of apprenticeship, if your Master Plumber and two other plumbers are willing to state in writing that you have been trained and have the skills necessary to become a plumber, then you become eligible to take the State test to become a Journeyman Plumber. This is not just a good idea, it’s the law. In Georgia you must have at least a Journeyman Plumber’s license in order to do plumbing in a home or business without a Master Plumber by your side to oversee the work. This law was written to protect homeowners from shoddy work that results in water damage to the home and to protect the home’s residents from health issues as a result of coming in contact with sewer water that has turned septic.

    After you have been a journeyman plumber for another 2 – 3 years, you can become eligible to take the test and become a Master Plumber yourself. This doesn’t mean you are done with training, however. New products and services are being developed for the plumbing industry every day. You have to be willing to take time out from your daily work to attend training classes and seminars on a regular basis to keep up with your trade. And, the state mandates a certain number of continuing education classes per year to maintain your plumbing license. For these reasons, Atlanta Plumbing Plus schedules at least 2 – 3 days of technology training classes per month for our plumbers, plus the state mandated classes.

    Beyond technical skills, it is also good for you to have extensive training in customer service. You will be going in to the homes of a wide variety of people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds but with one thing in common: They are under stress and anxious about the plumbing issues in their homes. You need to be able to take care of the customer and the customer’s home in a way that helps the customer to relax and trust that you will do a good job at a fair price. At Atlanta Plumbing Plus, we hold customer service training classes at least once a week to keep our plumbers sharp on this very important topic.

    Finally, if you want to work for yourself one day, you need to take some accounting classes. I’ve seen too many good plumbers knocking on my door looking for a job because they tried to work for themselves but didn’t understand things like overhead, fixed versus variable costs, aquisition costs, etc. So they ran their small businesses in to the ground. At Atlanta Plumbing Plus we spend time educating our plumbers on the basics of accounting so that they can see the big picture and not just their own small slice of what goes on in a well run company. It’s all part of making sure we have well-rounded employees who can take care of our customers in a professional manner.

  • Jill Valeri@The Welcome Home 09/12/11

    It depends on your profession and your goals. In my case I am an interior decorator. As such I believe that a balanced combination of education and experience in decorating is only part of what I need. As a sole proprietor, I also need to know how to market my business, develop a lead source, manage my web presence and balance my books.

    I also firmly believe in seeking out a mentor. Finding someone who will offer you the benefit of their experience and help you avoid some of the pitfalls. This can be a mutually beneficial relationship since the less experienced professional may possess skills that were not needed when the more experienced person was first setting up their business.

    An example is how I can benefit from being mentored on things like setting my rates, managing project schedules, dealing with stalled projects and developing better leads. In exchange I can offer web site design, SEO and marketing.

    If I could start all over again, I would get a mentor from the beginning. There is no replacement for the knowledge gained by actually being active in your profession.

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