Tools of the Trade: Essential Hard and Soft Skills Every Electrician Needs
People in the industry will tell you: There are plenty of perks to becoming an electrician (with high pay being just one!). But being successful in the industry comes down to more than just electrical knowledge. A combination of certain hard and soft skills can help elevate you from an ordinary electrician to one with a stellar reputation.
There are a lot of basic technical skills that go along with an electrician’s job, including electrical maintenance, testing electrical equipment, and installing electrical systems such as wires and cables. All of these skills rely on knowing basic electrical theory, including currents, electrical resistance, and circuitry. Without this foundational knowledge, your career as an electrician is unlikely to get off the ground.
Messing around with electricity is no joke, so it’s vital that safety training is at the top of any electrician’s priority list. Each state has a different official electrical code that will cover all of the preparations, remind you how to secure the job site, and minimize potential hazards. Adhering to these safety codes every time without fail can help prevent everything from accidental electrocution to property damage to fire.
There’s more math involved than you might realize in order to become an electrician. Learning how to quickly and accurately read blueprints and electrical plans is very important. Knowing how to locate outlets, panel boards, and circuits is a big part of the job when working on houses and commercial buildings—whether that work involves installations, renovations, or just repairs.
Knowing the location of specific wires can prevent you from accidentally cutting into a live wire, as well as helping you know where to install certain appliances and fixtures to avoid putting too much strain on the electrical system—after all, no client wants to trip a breaker every time they run the microwave and a hairdryer at the same time.
You might not think you have to be particularly patient to succeed as an electrician, but it’s certainly a quality that makes any operation run much more smoothly. You never know when you’ll run into a difficult client (and you will run into a difficult client). It’s important to treat even the most annoying customers with composure since you are acting, for all intents and purposes, as the representative of your company. You may also run into a problem that is bigger than you had initially anticipated—and being able to pivot on a moment’s notice requires a surprising amount of patience.
While many people think of an electrician as an independent job with little human interaction, the truth is, strong communication skills are a must. Not only must you be able to understand exactly what needs to be done at a particular job site, but you must also be able to adequately explain different possible solutions to clients who likely have almost zero knowledge of anything having to do with electricity. Once you have a few years under your belt, you’ll also likely find yourself with an apprentice, to whom you’ll have to explain things in even more technical detail.
Working both solo and as part of a team
Whether you spend most of your time working by yourself or as part of a team depends largely upon the size of the project. Sometimes you’ll be required to work alongside colleagues or other workers in adjacent trades. Other times, you’ll be the only one on the job. Either way, you have to be able to adapt quickly and seamlessly from one project to the next.
Whether you wind up working for a specific company or roam from construction job to construction job, the life of an electrician can be a highly interesting one. Possessing an assortment of hard and soft skills will ensure you’re bringing the best possible qualifications to the table.