How To Be A Rockstar Apprentice

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Starting an apprenticeship can be intimidating, especially if you’re younger and don’t know what to expect. After all, you’re going to be among folks who are seasoned and experienced in the craft you wish to learn. I remember my first day on the job as an electrical apprentice well. Having been a mechanic prior, I was used to always having a heap of tools readily available. So, I show up with my brand-new tool pouch packed to the gills. I had channel lock pliers, screwdrivers, adjustable wrenches, you name it! My journeyman was a pretty good guy and took me aside: “hey, you’re gonna want to leave most of those tools here. You’re gonna be pulling wire all day.” It was a lesson learned before we even began work.

Nobody really tells you what to expect or how to prepare going into an apprenticeship, and you’re left guessing most of the time. Then there are the more subtle things like not showing up with brand new work boots, and a tool belt with the tags still on it. Over 15 years later I’ve had my share of new apprentices and can shed some light on what traits make a Rockstar apprentice. If that’s not enough, I also polled my Instagram audience as to what they felt made a great apprentice and that story is actually saved in my highlights if you care to check it out.

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  1. First, buy your clothing long before your apprenticeship starts. Want to spot the new guy? It’s easy when they’re dressed in brand new Carhartt from head to toe. Wear your stuff not only to break it in, but to see how it fits and how it feels. Knowing what clothing you should wear for the task or climate is key.
  2. Invest in essential, high quality tools. Ask a mechanic how much they have tied up in tools and they will likely give you a vague equivalent like “I could’ve bought a Corvette”. You don’t need every tool to start with but get the basics and the best you can afford. This will vary with each trade but find out what you will need and don’t skimp. The tools you use to make a living should be the very best you can afford, and they’ll likely pay you back many times over. I have a set of Snap-On wrenches that’s probably 20 years older than me and they still work flawlessly.
  3. Do not skimp on your boots. It’s pretty damned tough to be an eager and resilient worker when your feet are sore. Think of your boots like your tools, they’ll likely pay you back over time with rebuilds and resoles. Get the best you can afford (even if that’s not what you truly want) and upgrade when you can. After all, if you’re not in your bed, you’re likely in your boots. Don’t cheap out on either.     

A successful apprenticeship requires hunger, patience, and humility. The best approach is to act like nobody owes you a damned thing and nobody cares who you are. This is when you start to make a name for yourself and build a reputation. You’ll have good days and bad, work with great people and some jackasses, and you’re going to make mistakes. That’s to be expected from anyone learning, so own the mistakes and learn from them. Always report a problem as soon as you can even if it’s your fault because the only thing worse than bad news is bad news late. The best apprentices I ever had went on to lead successful careers, and these five traits were really at the core of their success. You have the opportunity to build and shape your future in a very real way during an apprenticeship. People will talk about you and recommend you based on your attitude and quality of work. Now get out there and kick some ass.