Important Things to Consider for a Trade School Graduate

So, you’ve graduated from trade school? Congratulations are in order! After taking time to celebrate this hard-earned achievement, you’ll soon start thinking about next steps. While the logical move would be to start applying to trade school jobs right away, there are other important things to bear in mind as well. In this article, our editors will outline some of the important considerations for graduates of trade school programs.

Professional Certifications

Now that you’ve finished trade school, you may think you’re ready to begin the job hunt. Not so fast While a vocational credential is certainly valuable, it’s not always enough to secure a job in many industries and occupations. Some of the best trade school jobs also require a professional certification or licensure in addition to a degree or certificate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), certification requirements for trade school jobs are becoming increasingly common in the United States. In 2018, for example, over 43 million employees and contractors held a professional licensure to work in a specific vocation.

If professional certification in your respective field isn’t something you’ve considered yet, now is the time. The process of obtaining a professional licensure can be a complex and time-consuming one. In most cases, you can expect to take an examination that assesses your knowledge and skills in the field you desire to work in. Some trade school jobs may also require a criminal background check in order to obtain an official license.

Even if you find that your particular field doesn’t require a professional certificate or licensure, you may still want to look into any certifications that are available in the industry. That’s because these licenses can have certain advantages. They may make you more employable, for instance, giving you a competitive advantage over other applicants in your given vocation. Professional certifications in a specific field can also make you eligible for career advancement opportunities such as promotions and/or pay wages in the future.

University Transfer

Now that you have a trade school credential, it’s time to enter the workforce, right? Perhaps. You should know that there may be other options available to you, however. Depending on the credential that you’ve earned, your credits may be transferrable to a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year college or university. For example, if you’ve earned an associate’s degree, many of your general education credits may be eligible for transfer to a four-year degree program in the field you’ve been studying or a related field. Transfer from a community college to university is a common practice. According to U.S. News & World Report, almost half of all students enrolled at a four-year college or university began their higher education journey at a two-year community or technical school.

As you consider all of your options as a trade school graduate, keep in mind that you may not have to choose just one path. It’s not uncommon for graduates of trade school programs to begin working at an entry-level job to earn money and experience in the field while also pursuing an advanced degree. Many colleges and universities across the country offer flexible learning modes for students who work a part-time or even full-time job, including evening, hybrid, and even fully online bachelor’s degree programs.

Apprenticeships and Internships

Many students who graduate from trade school programs exchange their backpacks for tool bags, so to speak, in relatively short order. If you want to follow suit, one of the best ways to move quickly from trade school to the workforce is through an apprenticeship or internship. These two practical experiences for trade school graduates are similar in nature, but there are some differences to be noted. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, apprenticeships are typically longer, more structured, and lead to full-time employment. On the other hand, internships are shorter, less likely to be paid experiences, and often do not include a mentorship. While apprenticeships are often the more appealing option, be prepared to entertain both options as a recent trade school graduate. Whether employment after the internship or apprenticeship is guaranteed or not, the experience will provide you with a foot-in-the-door and some valuable professional references as you start your job search. It will also give you invaluable insight into your chosen career path, which can either solidify your decision to work in a certain field or occupation or help you realize that a career pivot is in order.

Professional Networking

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s all about who you know.” If you’re looking to join the workforce immediately after graduating from trade school, you should know that one of the best ways to find employment is to rely on your professional network. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ve built a network of people while enrolled in trade school who can help you in your professional pursuits after you finish your trade school program. These are your classmates, professors, and administrators who you’ve formed relationships with over the duration of your studies. Now that you’re a trade school graduate, it’s time to tap into this professional resource in order to find your dream job (or at the very least, gainful employment). Ask your cohorts and instructors for leads regarding businesses and individuals in your industry who might be hiring. Be sure to also request permission to list these individuals as professional references on any resumes or job applications that you plan to submit.

Job Placement Services

Many trade school programs come with job placement services included. This means that a school representative will act as a liaison between program graduates and local employers in need of trained applicants for open job slots. Some of the best trade school programs boast near-perfect job placement rates, meaning almost all of the program’s graduates find work in their field shortly after graduation.

Depending on the school you attended, the job placement services you’re eligible for may vary. At some technical schools and community colleges, students have access to a career services department where they can receive assistance with job searches, resume writing, and interviewing skills. Other schools may host career fairs where students can meet with area employers in person to discuss relevant job opportunities. In some cases, students may arrange internships and apprenticeships directly through their trade school’s job placement division.

To have a chance at the best trade school jobs, recent graduates must stay in constant contact with their school’s career services/ job placement office. Instead of relying on a school representative to do all of the leg work for them, students must play a proactive role in the job hunt. After all, the more invested you are in the process, the better your chances of success finding a job.

Conducting The Job Search

If your school lacks job placement services or if you are unsuccessful locating viable trade school jobs through this process, then you will have to initiate the job search on your own. This can require an even higher level of commitment since you’ll be doing all of the searching independently. If your job-of-choice isn’t one of the trade school careers in demand right now, be prepared for an uphill battle, but remain optimistic. Whatever you do, don’t give up!

As you begin the process of looking for open positions in your vocational field, keep in mind that the search for trade school jobs is a bit less formal than the job search process in the corporate world. Thus, a good strategy is to visit local businesses in your industry and ask to speak to a manager. Be dressed to impress when you make this initial contact, and bring a resume with you. There’s a good chance you may be interviewed on the spot, especially if the company is desperate for new-hires.

While going door to door may be the best way to find a new position in some vocations, this isn’t the only way to find trade school jobs. In some cases, an online job search may yield more results. This is particularly true if you’re looking for a job in tech or business, for example, or if you’re looking to relocate. Some popular online job boards include Indeed and ZipRecruiter.

Preparing for the Interview

Depending on the type of trade school jobs you’re applying for, you may be asked to participate in a formal interview process. This process is more common for positions in professional fields such as business and law, for instance, but it can include other trade school careers as well. Job interviews can be intimidating and nerve-racking, so it’s best to be as prepared as possible beforehand. You’ll want to dress appropriately—for most trade school jobs, business casual is acceptable. If tools are required for the job you’re applying for, bring yours along; you may be asked to demonstrate your competence during the interview itself. Other items to bring with you include your resume, identification, and any professional licenses or certifications you’ve earned in your field.

In addition to preparing yourself and your documents for your trade school job interview, you’ll also want to prepare for any questions your prospective employer may have for you during this meeting. Mentally reviewing common interview questions and answers prior to the interview can help you to be more comfortable with the hiring process and keep your nerves from derailing your chances for employment. You may even consider holding a mock interview with a friend or practicing your answers in front of a mirror. Here are some of the most common interview questions you’re likely to encounter when applying to trade school jobs:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Do you work well with others?
  • What is your ideal work environment?
  • How would you deal with a conflict with a co-worker/ customer?
  • What are your professional strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why should we consider your application?
  • What are your professional goals?

Plan to arrive to the interview ten to fifteen minutes prior to the agreed-upon meeting time. This will give you plenty of time to find parking and compose yourself before meeting your potential employer. It will also ensure that you’re not late for your appointment.

Joining Professional Organizations

While finding a trade school job might be first on your list of things to do after graduating from a technical or vocational school, there are other items you’ll want to check off as well. One of these tasks is joining a professional organization in your specific trade. If you went to school for culinary arts, for instance, you’ll want to look into joining the National Restaurant Association and the Culinary Institute of America, for instance. If you’re in construction, you’ll want to apply for membership with the National Home Builders Association and the Associated General Contractors of America, for example. You get the idea.

There are numerous professional organizations and associations in every vocational area you can think of. These members-only groups are formed to serve employees and contractors working in a specific industry or trade. They provide professional development resources, information about industry regulations, and even discounts on tools and equipment necessary for work in the field. While membership with trade-specific organizations may cost you a small monthly or yearly fee, consider the expense a worthwhile investment that will yield infinite dividends throughout your career. As you’re applying for trade school jobs, you should also list any professional organizations or associations you’re affiliated with on your resume.

As a recent trade school graduate, you will have lots of opportunities to explore. This is an exciting time, but there can be a good deal of pressure as well. You may feel as if you’re expected to start a new job and begin earning money right away. Before you make your next move, though, take a moment to consider all of your options. Then, make your decision based on what you feel is best for your future, not what others may expect you to do. As your career progresses and you find personal fulfillment in addition to financial rewards in your new role, you’ll be glad you trusted your instincts as opposed to the opinions of others.

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Bambi Majumdar
Author

Melissa Anderson
Expert

Julie McCaulley
Editor-in-Chief