Looking for Work in Cabinetmaking

A couple of useful tips for woodworkers on how to present yourself to prospective employers in a tough market. May 11, 2011

I need some advice from the business owners who frequent this forum. I am a highly motivated and experienced cabinetmaker with over ten years of verifiable shop experience. With the economy in its present condition, I am having a difficult time finding long term employment with a stable company. What are your thoughts on how I can better market myself to companies, other than just sending out my resume? I am in the Boston, MA area.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor H:
In the early 1970's I tried to find a job. Like many others (with more qualifications than I) it was pretty tough going. I ended up finally getting a job with the Park Service. The ranger informed me that he had received 300 applications for this position. Apparently I was the only person who took the time to learn his name and include a personal letter with my application.

In my case it did not take much to stand out. I was the only application that also had a paper clip attached to it. The point here is that you need to differentiate yourself. Treat your prospective employer like they were your customer. What do you think you would want to hear from a possible job applicant? Most of the applicants exhaustively list out their experience but that is not enough to differentiate yourself today. Act business minded and you will set yourself apart. Don't shoot yourself in the foot at the first meeting.

Wage discussion is a place that you can differentiate yourself. Most woodworkers ask for too much money to start. They do this because they are afraid that what they ask for on day one is what they have to live with forever. Both you and your employer know that you are going to flounder when you first start. Reflect that in your negotiations.

Recognize that what you are worth and what it costs to live are determined by two completely different factors. Cost of living is something you need to take up with your legislator. What you are worth is a fraction of what you can produce. Your employer needs to be fed and your company needs to have profit, else it will eventually end up on the side of the road like any car without enough oil. Ask your employer what he needs. Just like your employer asks his customer what they need. You have to stand out to be noticed and you have to differentiate yourself to get hired.

From contributor O:
Contributor H - you absolutely nailed it. If you do as he says you should get a better reaction from your prospective employers.

From the original questioner:
Thanks very much for the advice Contributor H. I feel as though I have the experience which I detail in my resume. Along with this, I present a portfolio of my work. The difficulty I am having is getting the interview. As you suggested, I have to differentiate myself. Would you and any others reading this thread suggest a "cold call" to introduce myself to prospective employers?

From contributor H:
You could possibly use some semantics to your advantage. Don't lead with saying what you are "willing" to start for. This can connotate that you are doing someone a favor. Declare instead that, given the state of the economy and the fact that it will probably take you a little while to learn the ropes you think you should start at X dollars and work your way up.

I hired a fellow recently who lead with the statement: "If you want a good craftsman and level personality, I'm your guy." He got this into his first sentence. This sentence was the entire first paragraph. It was surrounded with white context so graphically it stood out from the usual sea of prose.

I didn't necessarily hire him because of that statement but what he did say resonated with me enough to make me want to return his email. The level personality part was refreshing after the usual histrionics you sometimes encounter.