Hustling Work, Part 2

Hustling Work With Confidence

apprentices find construction jobs

There are no two ways around this: Rejection sucks. But that “No” isn’t the end.

Everyone, at some point or another in their career, has faced “No”. Finding work within the construction industry is very different from the everyday job hunt. Unlike jobs where you send in an application and wait to hear back, finding a job in construction means persistently showing up, and putting your best boot forward to show the contractor you are ready to work.

Back in December, we wrote about How to Hustle Your Next Job. Read on as we dive more in-depth on pushing past rejection during the job hunt.


Have a Gameplan

1. Before you even start, be sure to refer to the active job site list or dispatch report (this can be found online or at your council office or local hall).

2. Choose a couple of job sites that are within close proximity to each other and within your scope of work. 

3. Be ready to be on the job site at 5:30 AM, hit one project after another until you find work or run through your entire list. By grouping sites together, you can hit multiple jobs before work starts for the day. By being early you show extra initiative.

Dress to Impress… No, really!

It is a common saying to dress for the job you want, not the one you have–and it is true!

When you show up on a construction site looking for work, you should show you are ready to work. If the foreman or superintendent gives you a yes, you might not have time to run back to your car to change or grab your tools.

Your appearance matters. Ripped or dirty clothes will not win you points with the foreman, treat your clothes with the care and respect that you take with the tools and materials on the job.

When you arrive on the job site, you should be wearing:
– Your bags
– Shirts with 4 inch or longer sleeves
– Long work pants
– Sturdy work shoes or boots

Along with your bags, you should also have your PPE (personal protection equipment) on hand. This includes:
– A hard hat
– Safety glasses
– A pair of protective gloves
– Hearing protection
– A high visibility safety vest with reflective striping

Additional PPE may be required depending on the job site and scope of work, so be ready to hit an industrial supply store if need be.

Also: Remember to bring your lunch!

You Are Your Application

Leave your deer-in-the-headlights-look behind and walk with confidence to the job shack.  There is truth to the saying “Fake it ‘till you make it.”

Consider how you present yourself normally. How might you change that when presenting yourself to an employer? With this simple exercise, you have already begun the process of conditioning yourself to become the person that you want to be on the job.  

Be your own advocate: when you talk to the foreman, let them know what you are capable of. List your experience: work pre-apprenticeship, training, volunteer, and military experience are all relevant. If you have no previous work experience, you still have value. Let them know that you can follow orders and push a broom. Show them that you are serious about working on their site.

Responding to “no, we aren’t hiring”

More often than not, you will hear, “No..” The natural response is to ask yourself what you did wrong (or what you could have done better). Keep in mind, this answer is a business decision, do your best to not take it personally. You need that energy to keep on hustling.

There are a variety of reasons you may not get the job: they have the workforce they need the project is not ready for your scope of work, or perhaps the foreman is having a bad morning.

As soon as you hear that “No,” leave your info on the signup sheet and include your name, email, and phone. Ask if they have a name and call back number you can check-in with. Then pick yourself up and head to the next job site.

When you have depleted your list, be ready to start again the next day.

Protip #1: Here are some clothes to avoid when coming onto a job site:
– Shorts or sweatpants
– Ripped clothing
– Tennis shoes/sneakers
– Shirts without sleeves
– Loose or baggy clothing
Open-toed shoes/heels/sandals

Protip #2: Namedropping can be an important key in landing your job. Hit up a journeyman you know from your local hall or who might have taught you. They can possibly point you to work and be a great reference. Tell the foreman who sent you and provide a phone number if asked.

Protip #3: A voicemail can make or break your work opportunities. Be sure your personal voicemail greeting is brief (employers will not listen to long messages), avoid nicknames so they know that they have the right number, and be professional.

Protip #4: “It can be jarring at first,” recalls Rep Heather Mayther, “I think typically, women tend to gauge the situation more sensitively because we don’t want to create tension. Sometimes it’s appropriate to hear a ‘no’ and come back two or three more times in a week until the super gets tired of seeing you and puts you to work!”

Protip #5: If someone fails to show up, calls out, or is late too often, your perseverance could net you a chance to prove your worth. Job sites have a strict deadline, and they schedule out the time needed to complete a job by the number of hours worked by people on hand. When they fall short of those numbers, they need to be able to make up for that lost time.

Next Steps

Hustling work takes time, and it can be draining to pop back up from rejection. If you really want the work, you have to keep showing up. You have to make a nuisance, you are actually practicing persistence. When you keep showing up, you show grit, and the strength to take on the hard work that makes up this industry.

If you feel you have exhausted your resources, reach out to your Council office and ask to speak with a representative in your area. Ask if any contractors are hiring. They can give you a list of job sites to hit up, so be ready to follow instructions to a “T”.

Get Involved

As you look for work, consider networking at your local union. Your local union meeting is a great place to make connections and learn what work is happening in your area. 

Peer-based groups within our union like Sisters in the Brotherhood, Veterans in the Brotherhood, and Carpenters in Action are other great venues for industry information.


Remember, the more skills you have the more employable you are. Check with your training center to see if there are additional skills training or classes that you can take to deepen your skillset.

Did You Know?

UBC started on job sites across the country.

Our founding president, Peter J. McGuire worked tirelessly on the job sites across the country with his fellow Carpenters to organize the union. In 1881, he organized a Chicago convention to form a union. Representatives from 11 cities joined him and they produced a constitution and structure. Learn More

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