There are a couple of characteristics that a person will need to have in order to become a successful electrician.
We’ve interviewed electricians, scoured the forums at www.ElectricianTalk.com, and done research to answer the question, “What makes a good electrician?”
If you find that you don’t have all the traits on the list, don’t worry! They are aspects that you can practice and develop.
Many electricians start out very “green” and find that after a little while OTJ (“on the job“), they develop the traits necessary to become capable and respected workers.
Qualities Of A Good Electrician
Note that these are not the actual technical skills that an electrician needs to work on a job; these are broad-based personality traits and characteristics that will enable someone to succeed as an electrician.
If you’re looking to read about the actual technical skills that electricians develop over their apprenticeship and classroom training, check out our post about technical skills. We’ve got a detailed article about the knowledge you’ll develop OTJ and in class.
We’ll get to these first, because they’re very important. You don’t need a college degree to become a highly-paid electrician, but you do need to have a good head on your shoulders. Here are a few intellectual skills you should have:
- Mathematics and Algebra. As we stated on our homepage, you don’t need to be Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein, but you do need to have a solid understanding of the basics of algebra. If that intimidates you, have no fear—you can always go to a community college to catch up on your algebra. Community colleges are a great and (usually) low-cost option to help you bone up on your studies. Do an internet search for the name of your county and “community college” and see what comes up.
- Reading and Reading Comprehension. There will be blueprints, written documents, and memos on every worksite you visit. In order to be an effective electrician, you’ll need to communicate via the written word, and you’ll need to be able to understand written communication.
- Writing and Composition Skills. See last bullet point. Very often, you’ll need to communicate with many people at once via blueprints and reports. If your writing is confusing, the work will suffer.
- Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills. On every job site, you’ll need to take data, observe it, understand it, and make decisions based upon it. Can you assimilate new ideas and new goals into a project? If so, you’ll be in good shape.
You may be an electrician, but never forget: everyone who has a job is basically a business person. If there is money trading hands, there is a business behind it.
As an electrician, you’ll need to understand a few basic business concepts, and develop a few business skills. The basic business skills you’ll need are:
- Time Management. The ability to finish a job on time is a very, very valuable skill, and a difficult one to master. When a company has a job and makes a request for electricians, managers need to give an estimate of how much labor (and cost) will be involved. The ability to manage your time well and complete tasks on schedule will make you a VERY sought-after electrician.
- Working with a Team / People Management. Another incredibly valuable skill, and one that some people find very easy. As an electrician, you will constantly be working with other electricians and other tradesmen—and other business people all of stripes. Can you negotiate the personal relationships in a team scenario? If you can, you’ll do very well. “People management” isn’t something you’ll do as a new electrician, but once you’re well into your career, you’ll likely be called to lead others. Being able to manage a crew at a site is another highly valuable skill.
- Customer Service and Personal Service. Every single job has a customer who is paying for goods and services. Regardless of whether you are a union electrician or a non-union electrician, the customer needs to be treated fairly and with respect. If you develop your own shop, customer service skills become very, very important, because you’ll constantly be drumming up new business in your community.
- Clerical Abilities. It ain’t exciting, but a big part of business is being able to understand simple business systems. Knowing word processing, filing, basic accounting, and office procedures can be very helpful.
Many young men and women are surprised to find out how important social skills are to electricians. If you look back at the “Business Skills” section, most of them are simply social skills applied to a business setting. Here are some of the social skills that are good to have:
- Communication Skills. When you open your mouth, are other people baffled by the words that come out? If so, you’ll need to work on that. Workplace communication—being able to specify what tasks have been done and what tasks need to be done—is crucial. Luckily, there are plenty of sites that can help you become a better communicator.
- Active Listening. Being silent while others speaking is a big part of being a good communicator. Another skill that comes easily to some, and not-so-easily to others!
- Instructing. Electricians learn by doing—and by working with others. At the beginning of your career, you’ll focus on learning, but after you become a journeyman electrician, you may be asked to lead others through their apprenticeship. Being able to instruct them will help you, your worksite, and your apprentices.
- Observation Skills and Empathy. Being able to observe others and intuit what they’re thinking—and how they will react to situations and requests—is an incredible skill to have on a worksite, and it can make you a standout on a team.
Knowledge of Safety Codes
As an electrician, you’ll need to remember a LOT of safety codes and procedures. The National Electric Code isn’t a light read, and you’ll be developing a solid understand of the Code as you go through your career. This is another thing that gets easier the longer you’re in the game.
“Character” Traits and Ethics
Yes, you’ll be working to develop technical skills over the course of your apprenticeship. But those skills don’t mean much if you’re unethical. Here are some of the “character skills” you’ll need to get an apprenticeship, complete it, and make a living as an electrician.
- Dependability. This is, above all else, one of the most important characteristics that an electrician—or a professional of any type—must have. If you are given a job, can you be relied upon to get the job done, get it done right, and get it done on time? Can others depend on you to show up every day, on time, and contribute to the project you’re working? Can others depend on you? This isn’t only an “OTJ” skill, this is a life skill.
- Honesty. This one goes without saying. Be honest and ethical and operate with integrity.
- Endurance. Stay focused on doing a job, and keep your effort consistent over time.
- Patience and Self-Control. On every job site, there will be differences of opinion that occur, and let’s face it, there are some people who are just difficult to work with (or be around in general). Can you keep your cool, communicate effectively, and keep your mind on the job? If you can, you’ll do well.
- “Stick-to-it-iveness.” Can you be persistent when jobs get tough? Make no mistake—there are some jobs that’ll try to throw you! If you can persevere through difficult situations (and sometimes difficult weather), you’ll be an asset to any team.
Start Where You Are and Build
As we said at the start of the post, you don’t have to have all these skills and personality traits on your first on the job. Anyone who had all these traits would be the PERFECT electrician, and be sure—when you start out as an electrician, you’ll be far from perfect!
These are the traits that make an effective electrician, and you can build them as time goes on. Work hard, keep trying, and you’ll eventually find all these characteristics in yourself.