Cold calling: Tom's story

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So many people aren’t happy with their jobs and I don’t want to be one of them. In ten years' time I don’t want to be sitting there going ‘why am I working in this job? Why didn’t I just do what I wanted?’

I hate sitting in the classroom at school talking about books or science formulas, how is that going to get me anywhere?

That’s why I’m trying to find a plumbing apprenticeship because I know that’s what I want to do.

Week one

Today I went to see my careers adviser at school. He wasn’t much help actually. He let me use the phone, which was good of him. But he didn’t really think I could get a plumbing apprenticeship, he kept trying to tell me maybe I should try something else.

He said I didn’t have any of the pre-reqs for me to get an apprenticeship in plumbing - like I don’t have my driver's licence yet. I don’t really care about that, I reckon my best chance will be to just call every plumber out there until I get a job.

I went through the Yellow Pages and the newspapers in the careers office to find job vacancies. Made about 10 calls today, didn’t get very far.

I’m going to sit the test for a pre-apprenticeship course next week, hope it goes OK. Only 24 out of 600 people get chosen. Doing the course gives you some experience and you’re more likely to get an apprenticeship if you’ve done it.

Week two

I’m trying to sound confident when I’m on the phone. My dad said I have to ring up and sound like I really, really want this apprenticeship. He’s a mechanic; he made more than 400 calls when he first started out. He said I have to let them know how much I want it and I’ve got to make it easy for them, like say I can start anytime and I’m happy to do work experience first so they can get to know me, and it means lower pay and less time for them.

Made about 30 calls this week. I did alright. One guy offered me an apprenticeship but he’s based in Shepparton and my family lives close to Melbourne. I don’t want to have to move house to get a job.

Sat the pre-apprenticeship test this week too. It went alright. You could use a calculator so I got through most of the maths stuff OK.

Week three

I keep getting hung up on all the time. Whenever I call it seems like a bad time. What are these guys on about? If they’re too busy to take my call they must be earning enough to take me on as an apprentice. I keep thinking if it’s this hard for me it must be this hard for a thousand other guys out there making call after call.

One thing that seems to work well though is when I call up and say I want to do work experience. I don’t say anything about doing an apprenticeship and then plumbers are a bit happier to talk to me. I figure that if I can at least get some work experience or even part-time work with a plumber then maybe they’ll see that I’m alright at it and let me do an apprenticeship with them.

This guy today was making up excuses about his business and wouldn’t give me a chance. He said something like 'Nah, you can’t be an apprentice with us ‘cause you’re not 18, and you need to be 18 ‘cause we send the apprentice out to pick up a slab for all the boys at the end of the day'. Can’t believe he said that to me.

Week four

Found out I didn’t get into the pre-apprenticeship course. It was never going to be easy but I still really wanted to get in.

A good thing happened this week though - I had an interview for an apprenticeship with one of the plumbers I called up last week. I didn’t get the job but they kept me back for almost an hour after the interview to tell me how I could improve my interview performance for next time.

They gave me all these tips like when you go into the interview room you’re supposed to shake hands with everyone who’s in there, not just the boss. And you’ve got to a have a good, strong handshake - that’s really important, it’s the first sign you give of how keen you are for the job. I went in dressed in a suit and tie and the guys told me never to do that in a trade interview. You’re not supposed to look too pretty they said.

I haven’t been doing too well with the cold calling so I decided to look at other ways I could get an apprenticeship. I called up the Australian Defence Force and asked to join the army. They set up my medical and physical tests and as long as I pass those I can join the army and they’ll organise a plumbing apprenticeship for me. It seems too easy after all the other phone calls I made.

Week five

Lately Mum and I have been stopping to talk to plumbers when they’re pulling out of people’s driveways. This hasn’t been working too well.

This morning Mum met a plumber completely by chance. She went to the doctor for a check-up and she recognised one of guys in the waiting room as a plumber who often works nearby.

She started chatting to him about what he did and told him how I was looking for work. It turns out he’s just fired someone who wasn’t up to standard and he said he’d give me a go. Mum and him swapped business cards and I called him as soon as I got home. I’m going to start working with him next week. Finally I can quit school, I can’t wait.

Week six

This is my first week on the job. I’m covered in crap from head to toe but I love the work. I have to go and sign all the exit forms at school in a couple of weeks. Then in four months’ time I’m joining the army.

I didn’t expect it to be this hard to get an apprenticeship but you just have to keep trying and go 'well, I don’t have a job yet, I better pick up the phone and make another call'.