If you are a manufacturing professional thinking about your next move, this is a great time to explore the numerous opportunities in today’s rapidly changing manufacturing workplace. While it is smart to weigh your options, you don’t need all of your immediate career goals to align at once. Rather, look at the big picture of a job prospect and its potential for your professional growth and advancement.

As an executive recruiter for the manufacturing industry, I lead young professionals every day to manager- and director-level opportunities with major manufacturers. Quick hires are common, given the need for quality talent and the value of sought-after jobs in plant management, operations, IT, manufacturing automation jobs and beyond.

What is startling is the number of candidates who will not consider opportunities unless the job and company fully align with their expectations, including the location of the company, the job title, compensation, benefits and various creature comforts. Outlooks on changing jobs vary widely among different generations in the manufacturing workplace. In particular, young professionals on the move tend to have much higher expectations than their veteran counterparts.

Higher expectations are defined very differently among candidates. As illustrated above, some prioritize the opportunity, and others place equal weight on the amenities. There is a need for setting the market standards with the next generation to help more candidates succeed. This article focuses on a demand for idealistic conditions that in the manufacturing world can actually delay advancement or worse, derail successful career trajectories.

How high is too high?

Many candidates, both active and passive (not looking), turn down opportunities that involve relocating, even when a position and employer are ideal for their career paths. Candidates also pass on jobs if a hiring company does not offer a bigger title, a 30% salary increase, extended or unlimited vacation time, and freedom to work remotely or set their own work hours. Must-haves can also include gym memberships, a relaxed dress code, more work-life balance, happy hours – the list goes on.

While some or all of those expectations might be met by select companies in other industries, they are too high, in fact unrealistic, in the world of manufacturing – where systems, machines and supply chains are in perpetual motion; where products are rolling off lines, packaged and shipped around the clock; and where job and company stability are dependent on consistent, quality supply to meet demand.

Generational changes in the manufacturing workplace do not change the functional nature of the industry. However, digital transformations are dramatically changing how products move to market, creating a dynamic new era in all manufacturing sectors for professionals on a career path.

What is a more realistic approach to moving up?

First, some optimistic news. As a young professional in manufacturing, you are the future of a strong, resurgent industry looking to attract and retain a quality workforce. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recently reported that 93 percent of manufacturers are projecting further expansion, representing the highest optimism the group has seen in 20 years. Equally promising, last quarter there were more than 500,000 open manufacturing jobs in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Simply said, you’re in the right industry at the right time to accelerate your advancement, income and career – if you’re willing to set aside unrealistic expectations.

Consider relocating: Many candidates ultimately decide to move when experience and exposure to employers are limited. For those who firmly resist the idea, keep in mind that moving does not mean forever, and everyone gets comfortable where they relocate. Most of all, consider that taking the right job in another city or state can shave five to seven years off your path to leadership – an interim and necessary step toward the executive post you seek. If you have a spouse, significant other or children, communicate with them about the possibility. Talking this out can eliminate a mental roadblock to advancement.

Be aware of industry compensation standards: Time can change generally accepted standards, but for the time being, consider a 10% salary increase the upper limit among employers in the manufacturing industry. You can still seize that 30% increase you’re after with smart, successive moves. Stay close to your recruiter. Manufacturers rely on our recruiting expertise, resources and talent pools, giving us access to the best jobs as they become available.

Know that you have to be there: Manufacturing jobs cannot be performed from home or during your preferred work hours. These are the first expectations to drop from your must-have list. From plant management to operations, engineering, IT, quality control and every other function, it is unheard of for people in positions of leadership to not be present in the manufacturing environment.

Look at your big picture: If you think about it, an employer’s lifestyle perks pale in comparison to achieving your career goals. Let the perks go. Focus on the expertise you will gain from a new job and how it will position you for top roles, more money – and yes, longer vacations! Consider ways you can grow and become more attractive to hiring companies. Many employers are drawn to Six Sigma Black Belts, Green Belts and certified Master Black Belts. LEAN Champion certification is also desirable, along with continued education in fields relevant to manufacturing.

Exciting transformations are taking place in American manufacturing. If you haven’t already, check out advancements in artificial intelligence, and what’s happening in IIoT – the Industrial Internet of Things. Facilities are going high-tech and employers are becoming more competitive in attracting top talent to meet the future.

As you advance, so will your title, pay and perks. In the meantime, why clip your career wings with unrealistic expectations? Set those aside, take the risk and watch your career soar.


Authored by: Lauren Strauss