If you graduated from the Pre-apprenticeship Training (PAT) Institute sometime in the last year, you probably know Christine Azevedo.
Christine is the Associate Director of Career Services at PAT. She works tirelessly with students to find them jobs after trades training.
Don’t know how to put together a professional resume and cover letter? Christine can help you with that.
Not sure where/how to look for jobs in your field? Christine will show you the ropes—and even send out your resume to companies who hire PAT grads.
She’ll even coach you on how to present yourself during interviews, and approach potential employers.
Christine is one of PAT’s go-to career specialists. So, when we decided to write a post on getting hired after trades school, she was the obvious person to talk to.
Here are Christine’s top 10 tips for landing your first job or apprenticeship.
Tip #1: “First, do your research and understand how the apprenticeship system works”
It’s amazing how many people begin trades training without a clear understanding of how the apprenticeship process works. Or, whether the trade they want even requires an apprenticeship.
For example, trades such as plumber, HVAC mechanic, and electrician require a certain number of classroom hours, combined with several years of apprenticeship.
You have to pass an exam to earn a Certificate of Qualification—and then you can apply to become certified and registered as a journeyperson in the trade.
Not sure which trade you want to pursue or anything about this process? Christine recommends checking out this page:
“You’ll get a good overview of how apprenticeships work, explore different trades, and learn about how to get money for your trades training, including government loans and grants…
Our Career Development team helps students with all of this, including finding sponsors to hire them for apprenticeships. But, it helps a lot if the student has a general understandings of the system before they start training.”
Tip #2: “Get your social media profiles employer-ready”
Did you know that 70% of employers look at your social media profiles during the interview process? Or that 43% keep an eye on your social presence even after you’ve been hired?
A lot of students don’t realize that hiring managers will actually look beyond your resume, to learn more about who you really are. Would your social profiles pass the test?
We’re guessing there are a least a few posts you’d rather not share with a potential employer, right?
Christine says to check your accounts before sending out your resume, just to be sure.
“The easiest way to do this is to research yourself online. Look out for any embarrassing photos that come up, or anything else you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see…
Check your privacy settings on social media, and remember: employers will be watching. They’re looking for the ‘real’ applicant behind the resume…your personality and character. Make sure they find something good!”
Tip #3: “Have your professional portfolio finished & ready to go”
Ever show up to a job interview and realize you’ve forgotten some important paperwork at home—like a copy of your resume? It happens way more often than you might think.
There’s nothing worse than being unprepared. When you’re competing with other trade school grads, every little detail counts.
From the way you dress and speak during the interview, to having all the correct documentation the hiring manager needs to see.
Christine recommends pulling everything together into a binder or folder. Something you can grab and go, when you get the call for an interview.
She calls this the “professional portfolio” and says it should include things like:
- Cover Letter
- Samples of work done in class (at least 2)
“Our Career Development team works with every student as they’re finishing up their trades program. We help them write resumes and cover letters, and put together a complete and professional job application portfolio. Being fully prepared for your interviews is so important. It tells employers you’re mature, serious, and ready to work.”
Tip #4: “Join a professional network associated with the trades”
This is standard advice for almost any profession. Why bother, you ask? Because you need to get connected to the people and organizations that relate to your trade.
Or, if you plan to start your own contracting business, look for associations that support entrepreneurs and business people.
This is an excellent way to make contacts, stay on top of important news, and find job opportunities.
Christine suggests starting with organizations like these:
Tip #5: “Start networking with other tradespeople”
This is where joining a trades organization, community association, or even an online group can come in very handy.
When you’re just starting out, you need contacts. You need people who can introduce you, recommend you, and connect you with jobs and opportunities.
In other words, don’t be shy. Christine suggests asking tradespeople you know or meet for advice—and if possible, find a mentor in your field.
Ask for a few minutes of their time, over the phone or coffee, to share tips and guidance.
And then ask them for some more contacts…people you can approach for advice or possible work. And when you follow up with one of those people, be sure to use the name of the person who referred you.
You have to take the initiative, and get your name out there.
“A lot of people hate the idea of ‘networking’, but the truth is, sometimes it’s all about who you know. If a company needs to hire a tradesperson, often they’ll start by asking around, and see if their contacts can suggest someone good. If you want to get recommended, you need to start reaching out, and making industry contacts.”
Tip #6: “Attend trade shows”
Attending trade shows is another good way to make contacts and learn more about your field. Christine suggests checking out events like:
Wolseley ONE Trade show (Plumber and HVAC vendors showcasing the latest products, and offering training/certification sessions)
International Builders Show (1000+ exhibitors display the latest in building products and technology)
FESTOOL Road Show (all about teaching, inspiring, and preparing people for careers in the skilled trades)
Tip #7: “Attend career fairs”
Career/job fairs can put you in contact with company recruiters and expose you to new job opportunities.
Plus, they often have workshops for things like interview skills and networking (most people need a little extra help in these areas).
Christine recommends checking out events like:
- Toronto Labour Fest (Skilled Trades Expo)
Tip #8: “Go deeper with your online job search”
This goes beyond simply searching job sites and emailing out your resume and cover letter. Christine says, if you want a competitive edge, you need to go deeper.
“Students should be looking up companies online, and checking the “careers” section of their websites for opportunities. Do an online search for plumbing/electrical/HVAC/etc. businesses near you, and see if they’re listing any vacancies on their websites.”
Another tip from Christine: Before you show up for an interview, visit the company’s website and look at the “About Us” section. Find out what the business is all about—their values, goals, history, and any areas of speciality.
These are important points you can mention during the interview. You want the hiring manager to know you understand their business. You’ve done your research, and are fully prepared to join the team.
Tip #9: “Invest in some business cards”
Yes, people still use business cards. You’ll want to hand these out at career fairs, trade shows, interviews, and other networking events.
Plus, it’s way better to pass someone your businesses card, than hand them a copy of your resume!
There are plenty of affordable printing services for cards, and you can order them very easily online. Christine suggests checking out Vista Print.
Tip #10: “Attitude is everything—stay positive on your job search”
Trades people are in demand in Ontario, but that doesn’t mean landing your first job is a piece of cake. It can take time to find the right fit.
Some PAT students get hired straight out of training. Others look around a bit longer to find that “dream job” or apprenticeship.
Christine says it varies by student, but she’s seen patterns in who gets hired fairly quickly, and who doesn’t.
“I find the students who contact employers by phone, and follow through with the steps I provide in the workshops, find employment sooner. Stay positive. With consistency and work you will find the right company…
A good trades school will help you get the ball rolling. At PAT Institute, we send out students’ resumes to our industry contacts, and help them with the online job search. We do everything possible to set them up for success before they even graduate.”
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