And I have to say, it's not something that will be missed. I've gained a fair amount of insight into what the labor force looks like out there, and while I won't go as far as to say I've seen it all, I will say I've seen enough to offer a few tips to anybody looking to join a crew for the year.
And I'd like to offer a few tips for anybody who thinks that a career, or even just a job, in the landscaping industry is for them.
1. You're not special. OK, maybe you are, but your prospective employer won't know that until you demonstrate what makes you special. Expect to work. Hard. You will be lifting stones and heavy wheelbarrows and 80-lb bags of mortar and concrete. You'll be digging. And sledge-hammering. And moving materials. That's what we're paying you to do. If you want the job, then don't think you're above the work.
2. A few basics -- fix your alarm clock. Make sure your car runs. And has gas. Make sure you don't have to drop your sister off at work unexpectedly. Call your boss if something comes up, but don't make a habit of it. You're not in high school or college anymore. You're in the real world. Skills to pay the bills is good, but it takes more than just skills. It takes maturity and responsibility.
3. Be respectful. And own it. When you show up to your interview, or get ready to go to work, give the impression that you can be trusted and that you respect yourself and the ones around you. Those teardrop tattoos on your face won't put the homeowner with young children at ease. If you smoke, don't expect to smoke on the site, in proximity to neighbors and young children. The neighbors really don't want to hear your R-rated rap lyrics at full blast. Or hear you continuously dropping f-bombs. Do what you want at home on your own time, but when you're at the job, you're representing me and the company.
4. Remember this -- labor expense is one of, if not THE, biggest expense a company incurs. For every hard-earned dollar you receive, it's far more out of your employer's pocket once you factor in unemployment insurance, workers compensation, etc. If I'm shelling out that kind of cash, you'd better be earning it. Because if/when I need to cut expenses, it's the slackers on the crew who are the first to go.
5. Play the game. I'm not one for busy work just for busy work sake, but I'm REALLY not one to pay you for doing nothing. If you don't have something to do on a site, then find something. I've always been big on telling my crews there's always something to do on a site. You finished moving the bricks I asked you to move? Great. You better not just be sitting around waiting for me to tell you something else to do. Find something to do. Pick up a broom. Organize the tools. Empty the trash. I may re-assign you to another task once I see you're done, but I'd rather ask you to put down the broom than find you sitting around playing on your phone. If nothing else, pick up a tool so at least you look like you might be busy. Nothing looks worse to the public than a crew of guys sitting around blatantly doing nothing.
6. Learn. Ask questions. Show an interest or commitment. One of the first things out of my mouth at any interview is the fact that I'm not looking for guys who know how to do everything, but rather for guys (or girls) who are responsible, trustworthy, dependable. I can teach the skills, but the responsibility and interest can only come from one place -- you.
7. Think. It is quite rare that any project or task goes exactly as you plan. Yes, the planning process is important to help eliminate surprises, but they will still happen. And when they do, the workers who can effectively solve the problem will be the ones that get recognized. Figure out what the best way to conserve materials is. Think about how the job you're doing could be done better with a more appropriate tool. Think about the impact any task may have on tools, supplies, the surrounding area of the yard. If one cut creates a tremendous amount of debris that needs to be cleaned up and uses up material that could have been used more efficiently for other projects, then it probably wasn't a good use of time or materials. As the boss, I'm thinking two or three steps ahead on just about anything I'm doing. If you do too, it will certainly leave a favorable impression.
Truth be told, these tips go a lot farther than just looking for a job in the landscaping industry. It's a good blueprint for getting (and keeping) a job period.