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How to Advance Your Manufacturing Career in 5 Steps

How to Advance Your Manufacturing Career in 5 Steps

One of the great things about the manufacturing sector is the wide number of positions it offers. It’s also the perfect place to be right now if you’re looking for advancement. This is partly because a lot of the senior management is going up in age, which leaves tons of managerial and executive positions on the table. Younger talents with the ambition necessary now have plenty of opportunities to climb up the ladder and reach higher paying positions. Here are a few things that you can do to advance your manufacturing career.

Get an Advanced Degree

The best thing that you can do if you want to advance your manufacturing career is gain more qualifications. Technology is always evolving and you always have to learn new techniques. And there aren’t many fields where you will be punished more for being behind as in manufacturing.

There is constant pressure to improve operations, efficiency, and costs, all while maintaining quality. This is why manufacturers are looking for new talent that can understand these issues, and have the credentials to back it up.

One of the specializations that is in highest demand right now is lean and Six Sigma certification. Then you can move in a lean manufacturing engineering position. As a lean manufacturing engineer, you’ll be asked to:

  • Apply continuous improvement principles
  • Enhance manufacturing quality, cost-effectiveness, and reliability
  • Troubleshoot existing or new product problems
  • Design the work flow for better efficiency and security
  • Estimate production times, staffing requirements, and cost for new designs
  • Evaluate manufactured products
  • Prepare documentation for engineering procedures and manufacturing processes

If you want to work as a lean manufacturing engineer, however, you’ll usually need to have something like a masters in lean manufacturing. The good news is that you can get it completely online, as long as you have a foundation. Institutions like Kettering University, for instance, allow you to get your degree completely online in as little as 12 months. If you want to learn more about their program and what it has to offer, you can learn more about it here.

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Get a Mentor

Having someone in your corner that will show you the way is one of the best ways to increase your advancement opportunities. According to a study that was published in the Harvard Business Review, executives who had mentors were more likely to make more money early in their career. In addition, most attributed much of their success to having a mentor. Here are some of the benefits of having a mentor:

  • Improve your personal and communication skills
  • Develop management and leadership qualities
  • Increase your motivation and confidence
  • Develop a greater perspective of career opportunities
  • Expand your network

But to get these benefits, it all has to start with finding the right mentor. When asked how to find a great mentor, electrical engineer Danelle Au stated that it was important to know what to look for in one first.

One thing that was particularly helpful was having a clear idea of what type of mentor I was looking for.” She said. “I believe in having organic relationships, and if you don’t have anything in common with your mentor, it’s not going to work.”

You don’t have to stop at one mentor either. More and more are moving towards a “mentoring as a committee” approach. Why stick with one mentor when you could have 2 or 3 people within your organization rooting for you? Don’t hesitate to look at as many opportunities for mentoring as possible, and make sure that they are not only a natural fit, but also have a diverse set of expertise to help you fill gaps.

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Perform and Over Deliver

While a part of getting promoted does have to do with your personality and interpersonal skills, most of it will have to do with your performance. Employees who are able to constantly improve and bring results usually tend to stand out and jump in front of the line when it comes to promotion. You also have to be able to showcase how you were able to positively impact the company’s bottom line or enhance operations.

The good thing is that manufacturing is a field where improvements are quantifiable. Everything from product quality to yield, shipping time, defects and customer returns are so tightly monitored and controlled in a production environment. This gives you plenty of opportunity to compile a clear list of measurable achievements that will impress your superiors.

Build Rapport with Upper Management

We just mentioned interpersonal skills, and you’ll have to work on them if you want to put your best foot forward and understand the concerns of upper management. You can then start working on actionable solutions, and show your value to the company.

It’s also a great idea to build a solid relationship with your immediate supervisor. At the end of the day, they are the gatekeeper on your way up the ladder, and they’re in a prime position to sabotage your reputation if you get on their bad side.

When possible, seek their help, and try to talk about performance beyond reviews. Figure out the things that make them tick. And when it’s time for performance reviews, make sure that you go deeper than simply talking about your work. Go above and beyond and talk in terms of what you can do to help them succeed.

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Volunteer for Other Duties

Another great way to stand apart is to take on duties that weren’t directly assigned to you, or that other employees are not keen to do. Doing so will not only show that you’re a great team player, but will also show that you are ready for any challenge and for the next step in your career. These are all things managers are actively searching for in candidates for roles with greater responsibilities.

So, if you want to advance your manufacturing career, you’ll have to take the first step forward and work on becoming a prime candidate for higher positions. Whether it’s through education, hard work, or networking, always remember to keep your eyes on the prize, and have a good support system.

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