The rope access industry can be a very difficult industry to get started in unless you know somebody who knows somebody.
I am speaking from the point of view of somebody with 17 years of experience in this industry. If it can be done on a rope, at some point in my career, I have probably done it.
The most crucial part about entering into the rope access industry is landing your first job. Very few rope access companies want to employ you without experience, and you can't get experience without the job. This creates a closed loop and a barrier to entry.
It certainly helps when getting started, to know somebody already in the industry who can get you onto a good rope access Crew. Once you have got your foot in the door, if you follow some basic principles, the rest should be easy.
Key Principles for the new kid on a rope access project:
- Don't be a dickhead! This principle is an overriding high-end principle that can be used to guide you through life. How do you know if you are being a dickhead? Good question. If you have to ask yourself “ I am I being a dickhead?” then you probably are. Another telltale sign that you may be acting like a dickhead is when you hear “Stop being a dickhead” from another person.
- Listen Hard, ask questions, be certain. A major problem with technicians just starting out is they don't realise that they are useless. When I look back at my at skillset and mindset when I entered the industry, I realise I am lucky to be alive. If your supervisor is riding you constantly about safety, telling you to lift your back up and shorten your cows tails, be grateful. When I say “be certain”, I mean don’t do anything that you have not cleared with a supervisor and you are 100% certain that it is safe.
- Work Hard. This is obvious really but worth a mention. Be the first person on site with your harness on. Focus on progress. Try and see what needs doing and get on with it. Ask for tasks. Keep looking busy.
- Don't work too hard. Contradicting principle 3? No. This is important. Don’t burn out. You have to get up tomorrow and do this all over again. A light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Rope Access can be very physical. Your body will need time to adjust and strengthen. If you go like a bat out of hell for one day, you may be useless the next. Hydration, rest, nutrition and stretching are very important for your long game.
- Develop your skills. Do training courses. Watch youtube videos. Practice rope skills. Practice any skills that you think might be required of you. If you can't clean a window standing on your feet, you can't clean one hanging 100 metres in the air.
- Network. Your team and your supervisors are key to your next job. Make friends. Find out what they have done and how they did it. Find out what jobs they are moving on to. Get contact details. “Do you know any good lads looking for work?” I ask this question of my good staff in the hope they know other good staff. Be one the first people they think of and get the referral.
If you don't know anyone in the industry, there are certain things you can do to help your cause. Cold calling a business and drooling into the phone “ Haasitgaaainmaaaate? Got any jobs gaaaain maaaate? Probably won't get you too far. Here are my top tips to get the attention of a potential employer:
- Get a good CV put together. This is vital. Your CV is a marketing document, like an advert, it has to stand out. Good news is that to stand out is not difficult. Simply not having spelling mistakes in it might be enough to avoid the shredder. Unless you are particularly slick on a word processor get some help. You document should have the following
- A mug shot that doesn't make you look like a criminal
- Be no more than two A4 pages in total
- Have a brief opening statement
- List RELEVANT work history, most recent first
- List RELEVANT qualifications
- Have at least 3 references with contact phone number. Written references are old news.
- Put together a one-page cover letter for each individual company you approach. Make it personal. Do some research. Find out the mission statement and core values of the business and structure your letter appealing to those values. Again, get some help if this is not your strong point.
- Call the company first before sending your CV. Get the correct email address and the name of the person to send it to. Address the email to that person.
- Follow up. Allow a day or so to pass and make a follow-up call. Ask for the person you send the email to discuss. Don't be pushy.
- Follow up. Did I mention this? Do it again. Take a note of each time you do it. Leave at least a week between phone calls. If they say “call back next month” respect that and leave a month. Be persistent.
- Be eloquent. Enunciate your words. Take the marbles out of your mouth. If you suffer from nerves, write a script to read off.
Another issue that is often overlooked when entering the rope access industry, what is your skill set? Being able to put on a harness and abseil down the tallest of cliffs and buildings is one thing, but what can you actually do when you get into position. Rope Access is a fusion between trade orientated skills, rope skills and serious head for Heights.
Good Luck with your adventure in the rope access industry. May it take you to some of the world's most extreme and exciting working environments.
Director at Rope Access & Rescue