Words From the Wise for New Welders
We asked our advisors and one of our co-hosts for some advice for new welders. If you are new to the welding industry, looking for a career in skilled trades or interested in starting a welding career and small business, this should be helpful advice from these professionals. There are so many companies looking to hire welders and so many welding jobs available all over the world.
Advisors from Top to Bottom: Dale, Cliff, Chris. Our co-host, Paul at the bottom.
Dale Spilker is an advisor to Weld.com and a welding instructor at T.H. Badger Technical School (Arcadia High School) on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Here are some key points he has for new welders.
Point #1 - Take the chance
When an opportunity arises jump on it! This doesn’t just mean when applying for a position, but it can be something as simple as volunteering to do a job no one else in the shop wants to do. To take this premise even further when a job opportunity presents itself to you do not be scared to apply. With my students I find them often picking one thing out of a job posting and telling themselves, “No, I can’t apply for this, it says I have to do such and such and I suck at doing that.” Remember your welding skills are valuable and can always be honed or tailored to fit a particular job or opportunity.
Point #2 - Don’t let someone else’s negativity become your negativity
It’s often in the welding world (really every world) you're going to work around people from all walks of life with various opinions. Positives and negatives come from all individuals and companies. For whatever reason the negative minded individuals tend to find the “New Guy/Lady” first. Keep your head on straight and remember you're getting the opportunity to weld every single day, oftentimes over 8 hours a day. Use this opportunity to better yourself instead of letting the negative overcome you.
Point #3 - Attendance is everything
You don’t have to be the best welder in the shop to be successful. If you're the welder that shows up every single day on time ready to work, then you become one of the most valuable employees. Remember as a welding supervisor once told me “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail".
Point #4 - Expand your knowledge
Take the extra time to learn from the people around you. As a welder it’s extremely valuable to know how to fit your own joint no matter how complex or simple they may be. This may be a no brainer to some, but it would probably surprise you how many welders within several industries can’t even read simple measuring devices or use them effectively.
Point #5 - Motivation>Money
Throughout my career I’ve never been motivated by money. Sounds pretty ridiculous I know but hear me out. I have never taken a position within my career with money in mind. The thinking behind taking a position always focused on what I can gain personally and professionally by taking the position. Surprisingly money has always followed. If you look back at my experience and my resume you see experience within a lot of different industries that have all helped me become a better welder. Most often this varied experience makes me more valuable to a company opening the door for wage negotiations when appropriate.
Point #6 - Stay engaged Listen to the people around you and engage them in conversation. A Lot can be learned from the people around you and their experiences throughout their welding careers. The same can be said about engaging people in the company that are in leadership positions, if you ask valuable questions, you can expect valuable answers. With this said, the questions you ask are oftentimes how people in a higher leadership position will remember you.
Cliff Danis, a new advisor to Weld.com from (DSISD) Delta Schoolcraft Intermediate School District in Michigan. These are the 3 key points he says are most important for new welders.
Point #1 - Humility
This is a new trade. Your skill set does not define who you are. Doing the hard job, the unwanted task, or the simple repetitive monotonous assignment that no one else wants to do to doesn’t show you that you are unskilled. It proves that you’re willing to do anything asked of you to get the overall job done. Be the person someone else can rely on.
Point #2 - Persistence
This trade will not come easy. Things will be hard. Concepts will take time to grasp. Sticking with at first may be a challenge but success will come. Not instantaneously but gradually and giving up before you reach your goal just to move forward isn’t doing yourself or anyone around you any good! Stick with it! You will get there if you keep pushing!
Point #3 - Coach-ability
You may make big strides, or you may struggle. Both will happen at some point! When someone asks you or shows you a way to get something done, take their advice! Often the correct way may be a combination of new and old techniques! Dismissive behavior towards someone who is taking the time to show you something isn’t for their sake it’s for yours! Show them respect and try to grasp what they’re saying. Chances are they know what they’re talking about! Respect goes a long way! Often the best guy on the job site isn’t the best welder, but the person who can listen and show effort.
Chris King, Director of Skilled Training and Campbellsville University in Kentucky has a lot of experience teaching and creating welding curriculum from scratch. He has taught at the high school and college levels.
He says the most important things for new welders are the following points:
Point #1 - Stay humble
In the welding industry there are an abundance of people that will tell you what they can do. Be the one that lets their work do all the talking. In the end, it's your quality of work that makes you money, not your opinion of your work. Be confident without being cocky. Arrogance and over inflated ego will ultimately hold you back.
Point #2 - Never stop learning
When first starting your welding career, no matter where you end up working, there will be people that know more than you, can weld better than you, and do more work. That's okay. LEARN from them. Never be afraid to ask questions. Also, take every opportunity to be cross trained in other areas. The more you know, the more valuable you will be to the employer. That's how I also became a machinist. I was always curious. I couldn't stand walking by those machines every day on my way to the fab shop and not know how to use them. I hated depending on someone else to machine the parts that I needed. I took every opportunity to learn until I could do any machining job that came in. Eventually I was put on call both as a welder/fabricator and machinist. I was never laid off when work got slow. When others with more time would be sent home, I was still working... every time.
Point #3 - Set high personal standards
Never get in the mindset to just do enough to just get by and get a check. Set high work standards then work to satisfy yourself. It should be that if you go home every day satisfied with your work then your employer will be more than satisfied.
Point #4 - Learn and understand the technical aspect of welding as well as the hands on
In order to advance your career, you need to have a deep understanding of not only how to make the welds but also understand what is happening while you are making the welds.
Point #5 - Be dependable
When it comes to other people’s money, they expect you to be dependable. The biggest complaint I hear from the welding industry is that there is a lack of "soft skills". Show up on time, every time! Stay off your phone when on the clock. Do the work that has been assigned to you. I will end with a direct quote from an administrator from the local 1076 Millwright union I just met with. "I would hire a C+ welder with a good attitude and work ethic over an A+ welder with a bad attitude and not dependable, 10 to 1". Read this one again...
Our co-host, Paul Sableski, also has some advice for new welders. He was asked, "What are some things about safety in the industry that new welders should know?" He said, "Safety is the priority! Always protect your eyes! If you wear glasses, get frequent eye exams, at least every 2 yrs and update your work glasses to keep your eyesight sharp and healthy. Also, purchase good welding lenses or if you go automatic, buy a reputable helmet that offers good features and that works well!"
When we asked him to think about things that he knows now that he wishes he would have known when he first started welding, he replied, "All the tricks and tips that you learn the hard way when first getting started!!" We think this is something that everyone can relate to. Of course, you want to know how to not make a mistake before you make them, however, encountering those mistakes or issues and then learning why they happened and correcting them...that's what makes you a better welder. Experience is something that can't happen at the push of a button, as a welder you must be constantly learning. Whether it's learning about new materials, new equipment, new technology, etc. there is no one who knows everything.
We also talked about some shortcuts that welders take that they really shouldn't be taken in the first place. Paul says, "Don't take shortcuts, they always get you in the end! Plan your work properly, have all your PPE, Tools, abrasives, wire, gas, etc. to properly do the task!" We all know how much of a pain it can be if you don't plan properly, especially with so many supply chain issues right now.
There is a common theme among all this advice from these wise men, experience is everything. You never stop learning and to be the best you must be open to that continuous learning and the process that comes along with it. You have to show up on time, be willing to work hard and grow every day.