One thing holds true when it comes to jobs in manufacturing and warehouse operations: there are a lot of misconceptions out there. Plenty of people consider working in a warehouse a “dead end job” or think manufacturing is all about “doing the dirty work”. When that is simply not the case.
Sure, there’s often physical labor involved, but there are also lots of opportunities to acquire new skills and advance in your career, even if you’re starting from an entry level job. In most cases, it just takes determination and a plan.
Follow this three-step guide to get from where you are now to where you want to be in your career, no matter what your starting point.
1. Decide your career goal.
We talked to companies, hiring managers, and employees across all sorts of companies and industries to see what skills are needed to advance. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it can help show what some of the common career paths are for different industries:
|Start as a…..||Become a….||Can lead to…||How to get there||Tips|
|General labor/Warehouse associate||Shift lead/team lead||• Operations manager||Experience, good performance, and leadership skills.||Companies tend to promote from within for this role since they prefer someone who knows the company and how things work.|
|Machine operator||• Machine operator lead• Management||Experience, good performance.||Ask if you can train on the job once a week under supervision to learn new skills.|
|Forklift operator||• Load builder|
• CDL driver• Management
|Performance, ambition, training.||Companies will often offer on-the-job training.|
|Shipping & receiving||• Operations manager||Performance, attention to detail.|
|Start as a…..||Become a….||How to get there||Tips|
|Production Operator/Assembler||Production lead||Experience, good performance, and leadership skills.||Remember: this position is about people skills as well as on-the-job expertise.|
|Machine operator||Experience, good performance, training.||This position is a common candidate for on-the-job training.|
|Specialist (e.g. Welder, Fabricator)||Experience, good performance, training.||Companies will often pay for training to employees who demonstrate promise and/or guarantee a full time job upon completion of a certificate.|
2. Don’t forget about soft skills.
When it comes to getting promoted, experience is definitely the most important factor. But there are a LOT of other skills and qualities that employers look at when deciding who to promote. Here are the ones that kept coming up across all roles and industries:
• Customer service – Can you deal professionally with clients and your team? Do you exhibit leadership skills?
• Expertise – Do you have expertise in your chosen field or do you demonstrate the desire to continue improving your skills?
• Efficiency – Have you mastered the skills needed at your current position? Can you execute your responsibilities efficiently with very little oversight necessary?
• Company knowledge – Do you have a good grasp of what the company does and what is most important to its success?
• Responsibility – Can your manager count on you to show up and do your job?
• Attitude – Do you go above and beyond the minimum requirements? Do you demonstrate the desire to take on more responsibility?
3. Make a plan.
Okay, so you know where you want to end up. Now how do you get there? It can be overwhelming to, so the best thing is to make a plan.
- Decide what role interests you in your current company or elsewhere.
- Discuss your career goals with your manager/HR rep or career coach. They can help you understand what specific skills or experience you need to reach your goals.
- Make a plan to acquire these skills/experience.
- Schedule check-ins with your manager/HR rep to see how you’re doing.
- You can also consider getting additional training to advance faster. Sometimes companies will even pay for this.
Most important: don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed. Advancing in your career is really a matter of dedication and taking things step by step.
Just take Jason’s story:
“We have a guy, Jason, who started out as a temp worker on a project,” said Korin Coulter, corporate recruiter at Mallory Safety & Supply. “He did great, so we hired him on as a warehouse associate. Then he was quickly promoted to delivery driver, then to front counter rep. After a ton of success, we promoted him to customer service and inside sales within the company. Now he is one of our most-relied upon employees at one of our largest customers in Portland. His next goal: outside sales. There are a lot of different opportunities. A lot of different hats for the right person to wear and take ownership of their role.”
Takeaway: whatever your career goals are, it’s all about deciding where you want to end up and planning how to get there.