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Turning a Job Into a Career With On-The-Job Training

What’s the difference between a job and a career?

If your work history has been a series of unconnected jobs, your resume will read like a menu — a list of things you’ve been willing to try. If you have a career, it’ll read more like a story, where you continually develop similar skills from one position to the next, gradually building experience and advancing.

If you’re looking to turn your job menu into a career story, you’re not alone. And there’s good news. Employers know people are looking for opportunities to build skills that pay off over the long term, and are taking steps to attract motivated workers. Positions that offer on-the-job training are becoming increasingly popular.

We talked to a panel of Aerotek experts about what this means for potential employees like you.

Know what to ask

As the term “experience” suggests, every job offers some amount of opportunity to learn and grow. Asking the right questions during the job search and interview process can help you learn a lot about the quality of training you can expect from your next position.

Aerotek Account Recruiting Manager Ross Minton recommends asking how companies handle training: “Any company with their own dedicated in-house training staff usually does a good job with on-the-job training.”

Should this be a deal breaker? Not necessarily, but it’s something to keep in mind. Minton adds, “Smaller companies can still have great training, but it often comes from somebody who has to split time with their regular managerial duties.”

Another good question to ask before you get to the interview process is whether employers offer apprenticeships. Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Matt Wiehe says, “Some employers have programs where contractors earn pay raises after working a certain number of hours and passing testing.”

Know what fields have a track record of on-the-job training

On-the-job training has become essential in industries where the “skills gap ”— the inability to find the right talent for available positions — is the greatest. These tend to be more technical industries, but also include fields where the demand for goods or services is growing exponentially.

One area where such growth is happening is construction — good news for anybody with an engineering or architectural background. Aerotek Senior Professional Recruiter Sam Yeomans says, “These days, anyone with a Construction Management, Civil or other Engineering degree can expect to be hired by a General Construction Management Contractor and trained on the job.”

If a four-year degree is a little outside of your grasp, Wiehe adds, “Some employers in the architectural world like to hire people with an Associates’ Degree and little to no experience, then train them from the ground up for bigger things within their organization.”

Know what path works best for you

Every industry is a bit different in how it approaches hiring and training employees. Ask around now before you commit to a particular area of expertise or experience.

“For example,” says Wiehe, “recent architecture graduates who want to become licensed face a choice of whether to work in the commercial or residential side of the business. I usually advise that a mid-career transition from commercial to residential is easier than the other way around.”

Taking small tips like that into account now can have a big impact on how your career unfolds.

Know what employers are looking for

Industries and individual companies with a strong reputation for offering on-the-job training may be more competitive to enter. In any competitive hiring environment, job seekers need to emphasize anything they can to distinguish themselves from other candidates. One great way to do that is by showcasing your soft skills.

Employers that offer on-the-job training are no different than any others in this regard. As Minton says, “Skill set, attitude and drive are big factors when these managers are deciding who to extend an offer to.”

Know what certifications help the most

Professional certifications you earn on your own are another way to set yourself apart from other candidates in fields where hiring is more competitive. And not all of them involve huge commitments of time and money. We asked our expert panel for recommendations of certifications that can offer a great bang for your buck.

Aerotek Senior Professional Account Recruiting Manager Julie Lewis says, “Within the construction industry, an OSHA 10 for Construction Safety and Health certification is required by some employers and states. It’s a 10-hour course that typically costs under $100.”

Wiehe adds, “In engineering, usually both the ACI and 40HR Hazwoper cost less than $500 and are obtainable in less than a week’s time.”

According to Sam Yeomans, “In architecture, it’s good to have LEED AP or certifications in Revit or AutoCAD software. Other big ones I see in construction are CQM and CDT.”

And Minton says, “Any biotech or bioscience certificate can establish one candidate as more desirable to employers.”

Get help

Curious about what opportunities exist for on-the-job training near you? Reach out to an expert. You’ll find them in every Aerotek office across the country.

If you’re looking for a job, visit our job board to find your next great opportunity. Create a free career account today to customize your search. And consider contacting an expert career advisor: our recruiters are available to provide advice you can use.