If you’re currently working in a manufacturing or light industrial job or are considering a career in the field, it’s helpful to know your career advancement options. While the manufacturing sector shows showing little overall growth, the industry remains steady, with plenty of opportunities to advance your manufacturing career. One of the primary factors for continued career advancement because as experienced individuals holding top leadership roles begin to retire, it leaves room for others – like you – to move up. Here is why you should and how you can prepare.  


Advantages of Becoming Production Manager

As a production manager, you’ll have the opportunity to bring many skills together to impact an organization and end your day with a sense of fulfillment. Production managers are typically exceptional at wide-scale planning as well as coordinating daily activities. It’s a job where you need to envision the big picture and supervise those responsible for executing the details. You’ll probably start in the $65-85k range, eventually working your way up to the national average, which is around the $115-120k per year range. 

The duties of a production manager include ensuring all necessary materials are available for employees, that staffing levels are correct, and everyone has the proper training and assignments. You’ll also need to prepare reports to share with upper management and other departments and monitor quality. 


What Are the Job Responsibilities of a Plant Manager? 

A plant manager has ultimate responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the overall manufacturing facility. They work with supply chain, production, and distribution to ensure the correct materials are on board, production is on schedule, and the product gets in the hands of customers or end-users. Plant management is a strategic position responsible for developing processes to track and optimize productivity and performance metrics while maintaining safety protocols and optimizing ROI. 


How to Get There 

A college degree isn’t necessarily required to advance in a manufacturing career, but it can give you a competitive edge in positions like manufacturing manager, plant manager, production manager, operations manager and supply chain manager. Depending on the path you want your career to take, a two-year technical degree may be sufficient, or you might need to earn a bachelors’ degree or even a graduate degree. Popular and relevant courses of study include business, engineering, and supply chain management. 


Obtain Certifications

If you don’t want to make the commitment to college coursework or wish to augment your education, certification might be the right route. Several certifications are available that can help increase your promotability. Depending on your place or specialty in manufacturing, one of these certifications may prove useful: 


Work with a Mentor 

One of the best ways to advance your manufacturing career is by working with a mentor. Someone a step or who above you can guide you regarding what to do next, while those further up the ladder may be eager to share the institutional knowledge they gained over the years and hate to see go to waste. An experienced individual in a different department can help round out your perspective. That’s why building a team of mentors can be more effective than relying on just one. They each have something different to offer, and you won’t feel like you’re always asking questions of the same person. It also builds your internal network, giving you multiple people who can put in a good word for you when a promotion opportunity arises. 


Provide Consistent, Reliable Results 

You can’t be all talk and expect to get promoted. Decision-makers must see that you deliver on your promises. The work you do in your own role must be exemplary, but you should also brainstorm ways to make a larger-scale impact. Do you have ideas that can help streamline operations, boost revenue, or save money? Track your accomplishments and quantify your contributions so when you are eligible for a review or promotion, you’ll be ready to make your case effectively. Success in manufacturing is based on productivity, targets, and quality, making it easy to collect hard data you can present. 


Mentor Others 

Being a mentor can be even more important than having one. Mentoring is one of your first opportunities to develop and showcase your leadership skills and make a significant contribution to the organization as a whole. When an employee you mentored shines on the job, it’s like multiplying the positive impact you have on the company’s success. It’s not like you’re creating an army of clones, but you do make your mark when it’s obvious that you’re the one who has mentored someone because, for example, they don’t take safety shortcuts or always document processes or anomalies thoroughly. You’re seen as a team player, a leader, and a positive influence. 


Proactively Advocate Your Needs

Most employees fall into one of several categories; those who simply want to put their head down and do their job with little thought of advancement, those who use the job as a stepping stone to an opportunity outside the company and those who want to develop their career within the company. If you are in the latter category, most managers are happy to help if you just let them know. They can help you put together a development plan, build your strengths and point out weaknesses you should work on to be considered for promotion. This is excellent advice because it’s easy to have blind spots regarding your own strengths and weaknesses. 


Demonstrate Both Collaborative & Independent Work Abilities 

It can seem like employers ask for a lot when they want someone who can collaborate and work independently but consider how it works with team sports. If you are on an NFL team, you are expected to play your part cooperatively as part of the team. But, it’s still essential to work on the skills that make you excel in your position, whether that means lifting heavy weights, doing sprinting, kicking, or passing drills or simply taking care of your body with good nutrition and by avoiding high-risk activities. 

Many jobs require people to do their part independently to work toward a common goal. Particularly in manufacturing, your job can be more fulfilling, and you can perform more effectively when you know how the work you do fits into the big picture. Someone who collaborates well knows their worth but is eager to share credit or jump in to help someone who is struggling. While it may be your intent, it will be clear to your manager that you are a positive influence with a strong work ethic and the ability to teach skills and share your experience. 



When people talk about networking, it’s common to think of an event in a room full of strangers where you give multiple people your elevator pitch and collect business cards. While that’s one way to network, it’s not the only way. Networking at its core is about building relationships and being clear about your intent. If you are looking for a new manufacturing job, tell everyone you know. Connect with people in the industry on LinkedIn and even reach out to a manufacturing recruiter who specializes in your industry so they can let you know which opportunities are currently available or what employers are looking for right now. Build your internal network so people in other departments or leadership positions will know who you are and can speak on your behalf when the time comes. 


Exhibit Strong Communication Skills

One of the most in-demand soft skills for manufacturing leaders is the ability to communicate well. It’s essential in managing and teaching your staff as well as communicating effectively with your superiors or with other departments. That can mean asking plenty of questions, clarifying instructions or just openly discussing your job and goals with your manager. It demonstrates you are engaged, motivated, and invested in more than just your own goals. 


Be a Problem Solver 

Almost all work comes down to solving problems. Products are created to solve problems. Assemblers put the components products together to solve problems. Managers in manufacturing might solve the problem of ensuring the component parts are in place or that new employees are properly trained. What problems are you solving in your job? Your skills, attitude and experience make up your problem-solving toolbox. Don’t be afraid to look beyond your job duties to observe larger issues you can identify and correct or bring to the attention of your manager if it’s an issue too large to tackle on your own. 


Work with a Staffing Agency 

If you need help taking the next step in your manufacturing career, the experts at your local staffing agency can be a real asset. They will know what companies are hiring, who makes the hiring decisions and how you can make a great impression in the interview. 


Advance Your Manufacturing Career Today

If you’d like to advance your manufacturing career, it’s essential to educate yourself, build relationships, and identify ways to contribute positively to the company’s goals. The manufacturing recruiting experts at Westside Personnel can help connect you to employers in Pacific & Fenton, MO, with manufacturing skills and experience like yours. Contact us today or review our blog where you will find articles about finding work, excelling on the job, and advancing your manufacturing career.