Should I Stay or Should I Go? – Navigating Your Electrical Career

By: Dave Varga | Aug 04, 2020

In today’s electrical construction industry there are so many opportunities available. It is fairly easy to leave a company today and start with a new company tomorrow. A couple of generations ago it was quite common to stay with an employer for a long time and sometimes even your entire career. Depending on your career goals, it might be in your best interest to stay. Or, maybe you should go? Let us take a look at an example and you be the judge.

Should I Stay?

To stay with a company or to go really depends on where you want to take your electrical career. Let’s talk about your everyday electrician. This is the guy that is looking for a permanent job. He would like to work for a local contractor and not have to travel out of town too far. He wants his standard forty hours a week and likes his occasional overtime to help pay some bills. He is pretty happy working the same type of commercial jobs and is a pretty good pipe bender. He puts in some hard work, takes his one-week family vacation every year and looks forward to the annual holiday party in December.  His goal is to simply be a good worker, have steady employment, and one day retire from that one company. This is all good if that is your ultimate goal, and there is nothing wrong with that. We have all seen this guy and the other guys similar that simply enjoy running pipe and pulling wire. Those guys are not interested in a foreman position and are happy with just forty hours a week. Some guys are perfectly fine staying with one company and the employer loves that too. However, that guy is, in many ways, at a disadvantage. What happens in twenty years when there is new management and that guy doesn’t seem to get along with them? He is hard headed, been there for so long that he is not going to put up with any big changes. He decides he is moving on. So, twenty years later he doesn’t have a journeyman license, he is limited in his commercial type work, and he knows no other type of company procedures, systems, or personalities. After twenty years, this person is going to have to take a step back to hire on with another company. His twenty years at one company is impressive of the fact that he is dedicated. Other than that, he is limited in his knowledge of other types of electrical work, so he is not well rounded for his many years in the trade.

Should I Go?

Let’s take the same guy and give him a little more motivation and a goal to master his trade. This guy is a go-getter and is working hard to get his journeyman’s license. He works for a local contractor and has been performing commercial work in the area for a few years now. He likes the company, but he really wants to wire some of those big custom homes in the area just for the experience. He easily finds a job with a local residential electrical contractor and learns the ins and outs of the new home business. Just five years into the trade and with some other electrical courses on the side he is able to pass his journeyman test. His employer is impressed by knowledge of commercial and residential and quickly puts him in a service van. While in the service van this guy is seeing all kinds of different electrical work. After three years in the service van, he decides it’s time to go back to a commercial contractor and complete some larger jobs as he studies for his upgraded license. After just three years on the job being a lead man, he is promoted to foreman. Soon after he obtains his limited electrical license. One day while looking through the local help wanted ads, he sees an ad for a general foreman with a state license. He applies for the job and is hired. He is now just eleven years into the trade making good money and now even learning some industrial type work. Through the next nine years he completes many large industrial jobs and even obtains his unlimited electrical license with the help of online and in-person electrical classes and various test preparation studies. Twenty years into his career the company has changed its management team, and he is not happy with the change. Fortunately, this person is very employable because of his well-rounded experience and electrical license. He has no worries as he ponders his next career move.

I have personally worked for over twenty-five different companies in my career. I have wired everything from custom homes to data centers, grocery stores to industrial facilities, I have been an estimator, project manager, service department manager, electrical inspector, and commissioning agent. I have found that one distinct advantage of working for various contractors is the knowledge you gain about all types of electrical installations. I currently hold thirteen unlimited electrical licenses thanks to my curiosity of the trade and dedication to continuing education. If you want to do more in your career, head to to continue your education. It’s never too late to start!

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