Transitioning to a new job or career can be difficult, especially when it’s a new field for you. If you’re looking to change careers, it can feel daunting – how can you showcase your abilities if you don’t have previous experience? You may know that once you get your foot in the door, you’ll excel, but you need to convince an employer of that, too.

The good news is that there are probably many experiences you’ve already had that can show off what you’re capable of. You may not have formal experience in manufacturing, but most likely you do have some hands-on experiences or skills. Manufacturers understand that entry-level applicants might not have manufacturing experience. Instead, they’re looking for folks who are comfortable with active, hands-on work and who learn quickly.

When you reflect on your previous experiences to see if they’re hands-on, you’ll probably come up with a lot of examples! Think about things that you enjoyed doing that you’d like to do in a job. Maybe you have hands-on skills thanks to taking a class, or working on do-it-yourself projects with friends or family. In an interview, employers might ask how your skills relate – see our previous blog post for helpful tips on how to answer.

Focus on active experiences that showcase your ability to learn, where you had personal ownership over a task, and where you worked with your hands. You can use these as evidence that you have the potential to be successful in a manufacturing role. Any hobby or informal experience you have that meets one of these criteria can be relevant:

  • You use tools of any kind: Manufacturing requires tools, so showing that you can learn how to use new tools and use them safely shows that you’d be ready to contribute quickly.
  • You follow a well-defined, repetitive process: Manufacturing is all about following processes accurately. Also, it's repetitive, so evidence that you like repetitive work is good, too.
  • You stand or use your body for extended periods of time: Manufacturing is active! If you haven’t had a job where you’re on your feet all day, employers will want to make sure you have the stamina to work in a manufacturing environment.
  • You learn something new quickly: This makes employers confident that you'll get up to speed fast. If you are self-taught, this also shows your ability to learn independently. If you have examples that are technical, even better.
  • You collaborate with or lead a team: Teamwork and communications skills are critically important in any kind of job, including manufacturing.


Here are some of the experiences you might have that demonstrate hands-on skills and capabilities outside of work:

  • Using Hand Tools: Manufacturing companies look for candidates that can at minimum use everyday tools like hammers and screwdrivers. If you feel comfortable using tools found in most household toolboxes, this shows that you have a some level of mechanical aptitude, which makes it easier to learn how to use more complex tools down the line.
  • Art: Painting, drawing, sculpting, ceramics – all of these are great hands-on activities to share, as they show fine motor skills, ability to complete a piece, and creativity.
  • Jewelry-making: Beading, crimping, soldering, and wire-wrapping are just some of tasks in jewelry making that demonstrate use of tools, dexterity, and attention to detail.
  • Sewing/Knitting/Embroidery: These activities also require dexterity and tools, in addition to being able to follow patterns and work with different types of materials.
  • Assembling Home Products: Are you the one in your family that puts together the furniture? Did you build the new toy structure or trampoline for your children? Can you read instructions and make sure the chair legs aren’t on backwards? Then you can assemble!
  • Home Maintenance: What’s your response when you notice something broken in your home? Do you call a repair service, or do you break out your toolbox and get to work yourself? If you’re the one who fixes leaky sinks, or knows what to do when a cabinet hinge is loose, then these are hands-on skills that are directly relevant to manufacturing jobs. Home maintenance tasks such as basic plumbing, hanging pictures or shelves (and finding the studs to hang them on), installing appliances and fixtures, and repairs show your ability to troubleshoot and problem-solve. Remodeling tasks like laying tile, hanging drywall, and outdoor landscaping are great, too.
  • Automotive Maintenance: If your car makes a weird noise, do you know what it means? Tasks like changing tires, oil, and belts take tools and an understanding of how a car works, which shows mechanical aptitude to an employer.
  • Cooking: Putting together a meal takes a lot of skills that translate directly to manufacturing. If you can follow detailed instructions carefully, measure meticulously, be precise, use tools, and be active, you’ve got many of the skills needed for assembly! Whether in the kitchen or on a production line, you’ll need to keep a clean workstation. If you have knife skills or enjoy a stylish presentation, you can also show how detail-oriented and creative you are.
  • Woodworking and Carpentry: Measuring, cutting, and assembling wood to create something like a table, chair, or frame are a great way to show you can use tools, be creative, and understand how to make something structurally sound.

Keep your experiences in mind when applying to jobs and responding to questions during interviews. Even if you didn’t get paid for an experience, it’s still valuable, and could be a great way to show what you’re capable of to a potential employer.

What other examples of hands-on skills outside of work can you think of? Share your own experiences on Facebook here.

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