Switching from Maintenance Tech to Operations
I’m an experienced maintenance tech. I recently became aware that my company is considering offering me a maintenance supervisor position. I’m pleased about the potential promotion, but I have been privately considering a changeover to operations. Operations appeals to me and I believe there are more opportunities to advance, learn and enjoy my work. I’m concerned that accepting something more in maintenance might be sending the wrong message and my heart might not be in it. Any advice?
You raise some critical issues and I understand your concerns. You spend too much time and effort at your workplace not to be confident about your career path. You should know that in our industry what you have learned and accomplished as a maintenance technician will serve you well in operations, should you choose to attempt to make that change. I have seen the transition first hand. It has also been my pleasure to know individuals that lead large companies coming up through the maintenance side of the business.
Having said this there are several principles that come to mind as I consider useful advice in your circumstance. Regardless of current and future assignments our business is a daily stream of schedules, people with expectations, and constant communication demands. It is also true that what got you here won’t get you there.
While maintenance and operations have many things in common you are going to be required to demonstrate your capability in specific areas that are not generally required from a maintenance technician.
Some examples might include: the ability to schedule and prepare for various kinds of work over an extended period; ability to document the details of all work clearly and timely; ability to trust the work of others with proper mentoring, delegation and reporting; direct and transparent communication in person, to a group, and/or in writing; ability to fully utilize technologies to assist you in all the above. As you can see, you are more likely to demonstrate these skillsets as a maintenance supervisor, so your best career opportunity might be right in front of you.
Now let me go back to several keywords you used to describe your situation; experienced, aware, considering, pleased, privately, believe, concerned all send a message that you are not taking primary responsibility for your career path.
This responsibility includes: assertive communication that would clarify what you’re privately considering with a person(s) that you trust to give honest feedback; periodic scheduled evaluation in which you ask a supervisor how your experience specifically matches their expectations; what can you improve to become more competitive; where can you find the resources for needed improvements to advance and/or changeover; when or under what conditions can you realistically expect new or additional responsibilities. Be sure to listen; maybe take notes so you can reference to mark personal progress.
The good news is that in 2018 there is a growing demand for this approach and you can begin sooner than later.