When it comes to diversity, it’s hard to top the manufacturing industry. From heavy equipment to bakery equipment; from steel tools to plastic toys; from woven cloth to aged wine; every manufacturing niche requires its own materials, skillsets and processes. Jobs can be highly specialized, such as being an expert on operating a specific kind of production equipment or more horizontal, such as being a production engineer, production manager, or supply chain specialist. Opportunities for professional advancement can include gaining marketable expertise in new manufacturing technologies, such as robotics, taking on team leadership roles, or moving into management and executive roles.
Assembling your own list of go-to resources for up-to-date info on your industry can take a bit of skill, too – but once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll have no problem staying on top of the latest job openings, staying in touch with your peers, and staying ahead of your competitors. Here’s a quick set of tips for getting started.
Search with care
Have you ever wondered whether anyone’s taken the time to create a website or discussion group devoted to your particular manufacturing trade? Even if no one’s publishing a glossy magazine for people who craft the kinds of products you do, at least a few sites and groups are almost certainly out there waiting for you.
Start your search for organizations, professional associations, trade guilds and other groups with a simple Google search. Plug in some search terms like (for example) "elevator manufacturers Facebook group" or "bakery equipment manufacturers association" – substituting your own product or process of choice – to get an idea of where the others in your precise manufacturing specialty are hanging out online.
Get socially connected
The advanced search functions on Facebook and LinkedIn will come in handy for you, too – they include drop-down menus to help you target group pages (instead of personal ones), focus your search on your own geographical area, and even limit your search to groups that include people you know. As with Google, the best way to start is just to plug your specialty into the website’s search box, then refine your search from there.
To cite just a few examples, the Facebook group "National Association of Manufacturers" provides regular updates on events and news throughout the manufacturing industry, the LinkedIn group "Electronics Manufacturing" hosts discussions for those who craft circuitry, and the LinkedIn group "Furniture Manufacturers" connects furniture craftspeople with others around the world.
Some Facebook and LinkedIn groups in the manufacturing industry may require you to submit a request to join – but this is often just a formality, and it’s certainly no reason to be shy. Just click that "request" button, and many admins will gladly grant you access within a few days. Many groups, however, will allow you to join and start posting right away.
To determine whether a particular group is worth your time, scan through the most recent posts and check for a few telltale indicators: Is the page regularly updated with new content? Is it coming mostly from just one or two people, or from a wide variety? Are the comment threads active, or do most posts just get a few Likes instead? Narrow your results down to a few groups with active members, and you’ll get a much better return on your time investment.
Find power in numbers
In addition to Facebook and LinkedIn groups, a dizzying variety of trade associations and organizations serve professionals in the manufacturing industry – and many exist to help those working in specific niches, too. For example, the Industrial Fabrics Association International supports and educates those who craft textiles and other fabrics, while the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers serves those who create our trusty ovens and washing machines.
Though many associations and organizations require membership fees, they pay their members back with services like public advocacy, legal advice and tradeshows. As you look through the pages of associations and other trade groups, bookmark those that offer member benefits that particularly appeal to you. These resources can come in handy as you build your career within your own manufacturing specialty.
Assemble your job-search strategy
With the support of others in your niche, and the strength of a trade association at your back, you’ve got all the tools you need to strike out in search of the manufacturing job of your dreams. When it comes to the job search, two basic types of tools are available online: Staffing firms and job boards. Both have their ups and downs, and both may come in handy at various points during your search.
Though some staffing firms serve broad sectors of the manufacturing industry, others focus on tighter segments. The staffing agency JMJ Phillip, for instance, specializes in the supply chain, manufacturing, and IT sectors, but their recruiters work across all areas of the industry – while Executive Decisions Search Group connects skilled craftspeople with employers throughout the retail and consumer products industries.
Manufacturing-oriented job boards offer a similar set of choices between diversity and focus. Managing Automation, one of the top trade publications in the manufacturing industry, provides a job board that spans many segments – while Abrasivesmall.com caters to (surprise, surprise) workers and employers in the abrasives industry.
As long as your resume is up to date and your skills in your craft are well-honed, there’s no reason not to call up a few staffing agencies and discuss your options – provided, of course, that they offer privacy policies. Same goes for browsing the postings on job boards. If nothing else, you’ll gain a clearer sense of the salary range for positions you’re interested in – and learn more about the employers offering open positions in your area.
Getting started with your manufacturing career upgrade is a snap – but following through on those goals takes persistence and discernment. But if you set aside a little time each day to learn more about your slice of the industry, you may find that the resources you need to move onward and upward are just a few clicks away.
ManagingAutomation.com — Trade publication offering news and classifieds for many manufacturing sectors.
Manufacturing.net — A breaking news clearinghouse for the manufacturing industry.
National Center for Manufacturing Sciences — A nonprofit group of manufacturing professionals that develop and implement next-generation technology.
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