home improvement career

Career Advice for the Home Improvement Industry

Every industry has its tried-and-true methods of jump-starting a career. From engineering to accounting and science to the legal space, there are countless resources for those looking for advice.

However, what about the home improvement industry? It’s little talked about and a lot of home professions don’t require the same collegiate training path, so how do those interested in exploring this fulfilling and hands-on industry get advice? With the help of our Blog-Off experts, we break it down…

Plumbing

• Start with a good trade school or an apprenticeship. After a few years of apprenticing (time varies by state), the Master Plumber and 2 other certified plumbers can state in writing that you’ve been trained so you can be eligible for the state test. Once you pass, you will be a certified Journeyman Plumber. Most states have laws mandating plumbers are Journeymen, or else they must always work with a Master Plumber by their side.

• Determine if you have the necessary characteristics. Being able to spatially visualize a room and how plumbing relates is important. Same goes for an aptitude and interest in algebra and physics.

• Decide union vs. non-union. As with many contracting trades, there are both union and non-union members. Determine which is a right fit for you and explore state laws/requirements concerning unions.

“Schools generally do a poor job of guiding students into fields that best suit them. [So] Know yourself and your interest, innate talents, and how you relate to others.”

- Wayne Caswell, Modern Health Talk

Electrical

• Don’t hate math or physics. Mathematical and logical thinking problems are frequent in electrical work. All those seemingly useless math problems from grade school actually have a place in this trade, so if you aren’t interested in it, it might not be a good fit.

• Consider your career goals. If you plan to stay a laborer, you tend to top out in your wage earnings after only 4 years into your career. However, if you choose to take on supervisory roles, management or starting your own business, sky is the limit.

Interior Design

• Find a mentor. Mentors can teach you tricks of the trade and you could potentially help them expand their skill set by teaching them skills that weren’t relevant when they started.

• Don’t jump the gun. Don’t ever buy inventory as a stager until you book your first client!

• Self-learning goes a long way. Educating yourself is super important in design, especially as it relates to history, architecture, and design styles.

Realtor

• It is costly to be a Realtor. Be prepared to spend money, more than you earn in the first year. Fees and insurance add up quickly, such as “desk fees,” association fees, E&O insurance, and your health insurance. You also need top-notch IT products to effectively stay in touch with customers and the market, such as computer, cell phone, and apps.

• Selling homes isn’t your main job. You will quickly learn that prospecting and keeping customers is the #1 job responsibility of a Realtor. You will be selling your own expertise more than selling an actual home.

• Be prepared to be a therapist. No one tells you how much psychology comes into play when being a Realtor. Home buyers, especially first-timers, are oftentimes at a very stressful and emotional time in their life when buying a home, so be prepared for sugar-coating, coaching, and therapy sessions.


“Expectations to earn a decent living [as a Realtor] which would support a family in anything less than 3 yers is unrealistic.”

-Dawn Ohnstad, Realtor, Coldwell Banker Burnet

• Contracts with home buyers during the purchasing phase are crucial. A lot of veteran Realtors work on word-of-mouth and trust, but in this day and age, loyalty is no longer enough to ensure a smooth working relationship.

• Choose the biggest broker in town. While you might want to support a smaller broker, the networking opportunities available with a larger broker for your buyers and sellers are endless.

• Never burn bridges with other agents. No matter how pushy, rude, demanding, or insulting other agents are, never wipe that courteous smile off your face because you never know when you’ll need to have that bridge intact for future jobs.

General Career Advice for all Home Professions

• Join professional organizations and networking groups. It can get expensive with dues and fees, but the resources, education, and connections will be invaluable. It takes a while to build relationships that turn into referrals, but if you show up regularly and share your knowledge with other members, you’ll find that you’ll be the first they recommend.

• Consider taking a placement test. Taking tests such as the MEYERS-BRIGGS personality test or the MAPP (Motivational Assessment of Personal Potential) to explore your talents are an interesting way to gain new perspective on your goals.

• Get a part-time job. Part-time jobs during high school or college in the field you are interested in is invaluable. It will give you valuable insight on your interest in the job.

• Consider informational interviews. Information interviews with professionals already in the field are a great way to learn more about their role and industry. Since you aren’t pressuring them for a job, many professionals are happy to talk about their careers.

• Understand where your leads come from and how to convert them. You can advertise, network, and prospect. Network and prospecting are free, but time consuming. Carefully consider if time or saving money is more important to you.

• Keep track of your prospects and the methods you use to obtain them. You should be keeping track of their leads, cost, source, conversion rate and value in addition to their contact information. This will help you make smart decisions and allocate your energy toward the most valuable prospecting tool.

• Do your homework. Conduct market research to see if the trade you are interested in is a viable career option in your area. If it’s not, you need to decide if you are okay with earning a living wage with the help of a supplementary job.

• Network. Especially at the beginning of your career, never undervalue the importance of making connections. Conferences and trade shows are a great way to distribute business cards and meet a lot of people fast. The same goes for building your personal brand via social media.

• Learn how to communicate. Whether it’s with clients, networking, or meetings, you’ll need to express your thoughts clearly and in a compelling manner. Consider taking persuasive writing and public speaking courses/training to improve your skills.

• Volunteer. This is a great way to get your foot in the door, especially since most people are unlikely to deny free help.

• Stand out from the pack. Always consider getting special accreditation to help you stand out from your competition. This can help improve your brand and give you a competitive advantage.

• Know your market. Read industry news, magazines, websites, and more to make sure you are on top of industry trends. Nothing is worse than having a customer know more about a hot topic than you.

• Further education goes a long way. If you plan on running your own business, consider taking business classes to make sure you are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to manage a successful business. Some examples of important classes include accounting, finance, and sales.

• Customer service is key. Customer service is very important, so look for ways to improve your interaction with customers during training. One way to do this is to work a part-time job on the side in sales, such as at your local hardware store.