Why a Millennial Chooses Manufacturing

Unlike many other industries that only provide jobs, manufacturing provides careers.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get when I tell people I work in manufacturing is “why did you choose that field?” Although it doesn’t happen often, you can tell when someone asks with that tone and inflection that suggests their connotation of manufacturing is a dark and dirty place, that has no potential for a career or future; an old dinosaur of sorts. You can tell they are wondering why I spent time and money on a college education to get into such an industry. This is how I answer those people and everyone else who asks how I got into manufacturing as a career.

First, the one thing I have learned looking back on my education, both high school and college, is that no teacher or professor distinguishes between a job and a career. They will all ask, “what are you going to do after graduation,” as if any 18- or 22-year-old has an idea of what he or she wants to do for the rest of their life in the first place. Almost everyone, with the exception of those who know they will become doctors, answers the same way, with the most immediate next step in their transition. “I’m going to college, or I’m getting a job.” It is never “I am going to get into marketing and work my way up to being the chief marketing officer of a Fortune 500 company.”

I’m not going to assume that every kid in high school or college knows what they want out of their work career, nor have they probably even thought about it. And honestly, I don’t expect them to know because I didn’t know, either. However, I think it’s important to know what a career means versus a job. A job is a temporary place holder of time, whether short term or long. We go and do our work and get paid—that’s it. It’s menial and typically not satisfying. Whereas a career is a pathway to long-term success. It’s a detailed plan that illustrates where I am, where I want to be, and how I can get there. There is definite time allotted to the activities, and also specific objectives and goals assigned to those tasks. Just as we all use a GPS to guide us on the road, a career does the same thing with our work life.

So why am I telling you this? Why does it matter? It matters because unlike many other industries that only provide jobs, manufacturing provides careers. Every week, there are new surveys that tell us how many jobs are available, but never any statistics on careers. Maybe some people don’t want careers, and that’s their choice, but for those who do, manufacturing is one of the best industries to find one. Every job in manufacturing has a path to something else, something greater. There is always another position above them they can work toward. A machinist can start on manual machines, then step up to programming, then possibly to shift lead, onto department heads, or even operations managers.

This is why I chose manufacturing. Once I started, I could see myself progressing along a path that led to a place that I liked. There became a purpose for my work as well as a motivation and focus to do my work better and faster to try and reach the end point as soon as I could. That ambition and purpose make coming to work every day fun and exciting, and it keeps my mind sharp. When I am driving to meet with a customer, or going to lunch, or running errands, and see people working other jobs, I think about how lucky I am to have a career that gives me so many opportunities that other people don’t get. It’s all because I am in an industry that is so diverse and complex, that with each day, there is a new hurdle for me to overcome.

I understand that manufacturing is not for everyone, nor does everyone want to have a career. And don’t get me wrong, we need those people as well to fill those jobs and help support our economy. However, when I explain how much I love my job, what I do and where I see myself in the future, those people that have a predetermined notion of what manufacturing is suddenly understand why I chose to work in this ever-changing, ever-growing industry.