Six Top Industries for Career Growth

With the unemployment rate in the United States remaining at a steady 6.2 percent, and the economy barely seeming to inch forward, it's hard to be hopeful about your career choices. It's easy to throw up your hands and despair of ever finding a job with a future. Well, there's still opportunity out there, if you know where to look. Here are six industries where there is a clear map of advancement to follow.

Restaurants/Food Service

Image via Flickr by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan 溫嘉勤

You don't have to be a chef to advance in a career in the restaurant industry. In fact, many young foodies, as many as 20 percent of graduates from New York's Culinary Institute of America, are finding their vocation by starting as wait staff at high-end restaurants.

While there is tremendous variation in the upward mobility of wait staff from restaurant to restaurant, many waiters/waitresses move up into the position of head waiter, or they become the restaurant manager. Interestingly, some head waiters can earn as much as $80,000 to $150,000 per year. If the restaurant is a chain, there are opportunities to manage more than one restaurant as the regional manager. It is even possible to work your way into higher executive positions as well.

Insurance Claims

While it's true that there are no dewy-eyed youngsters dreaming about careers in insurance, the industry offers a reliable ladder up for talented and driven people.

Most people begin their careers in insurance as junior or telephone adjusters. As of 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the number of claims adjuster jobs at 311,100.

In this role, you will process simple claims under the tight direction of a unit supervisor. As you gain experience, you'll receive more complex claims to handle and more autonomy in your claims decisions.

As your claims knowledge progresses, you can become a unit supervisor, where your duties are to oversee the work of a team of adjusters. The next step up the ladder is to move into the role of claims manager, where you'll have responsibility over the entire claims department. The average salary for claims managers is $74,604

After honing your management skills as a claims manager, higher level executive roles become available to you.

Careers in Call Centers

Image via Flickr by Portland General Electric

It's true that a lot of call center jobs have been outsourced to India and other places where the wages are lower, however, call center work is still a viable source of employment in the United States. As of 2012, there were 2,362,800 call center jobs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the industry to grow by 13 percent in the next decade, which is about average. Also, as Dell found out, cheaper isn't always better. Expect more companies to bring back call center employment following customer criticism.

The entry position at a call center is customer service representative. In this role, you'll speak with customers on the phone, answer their questions, and address their concerns. You'll work under the supervision of a team of supervisors known as team leads or lead hands. As you gain experience, in both company culture and its customer policies, you can move into the team lead role yourself. As a team lead, you'll need to answer questions from the customer service representatives, handle escalations, in other words, irate and screaming customers, and approve refunds or giveaways.

Perform well in your role as a team lead, and you can become one of the department managers. After that point, the sky is the limit: you can become a company executive, all the way up to CEO.

Warehouse Careers

Warehouses store and move products and supplies between their point of origin and their destination. Warehouse workers keep the flow moving by cataloguing and organizing merchandise as it enters and leaves the warehouse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there were 2,859,000 warehouse worker jobs as of 2012.

A huge plus to a career in warehousing is that it only requires a high school diploma. While the starting pay is relatively low, a conscientious and driven employee can quickly ascend the ranks of the career ladder. The entry point position is warehouse clerk and you can move up from there into positions of higher responsibility. What they are called varies with the employer: for instance, if you work for the government of Virginia, you'll start as a Store & Warehouse Specialist I and advance through the ranks of Store & Warehouse Specialist II and III before becoming a Warehouse Manager I and so on.


Image via Flickr by Elvert Barnes

The trades encompass skilled labor of all types, including carpentry, plumbing, electrical, steel work, and many others. The trades have traditionally been a relatively well-paying alternative job source for people who don't want to go to college. However, fewer young people have gone that route in recent years, leading to a trade skills shortage in the labor market.

Regardless of the trade you get into, you'll enter as an apprentice. In this role, you will perform the "scut" work while you learn trade skills from more experienced tradespeople, called journeymen. As you master the trade, you'll rise in rank, on up to master. Journeymen and master tradespeople are highly skilled workers and command the highest salaries. Beyond mastering the skills of the trade, there are also opportunities to advance into supervisory and managerial roles, particularly on construction sites and in workshops.

Administrative Support

The administrative worker's role is to ensure that the office runs optimally. This means making sure that the office supply room is stocked with everything from paper clips to sticky notes. They also handle the mail delivery and the filing, among other office support tasks.

A common entry point in the administrative field is administrative assistant. As you learn your job and gain experience, you'll be given roles with progressively more responsibility, such as office manager or an executive assistant. Because administrative roles are so central to the day-to-day operations of an office, administrative assistants are often able to launch their careers into other areas of the business, such as marketing, human resources, and many more. As manager Daryl Pigat put it, "[...] no area is off-limits."

You've heard the stories about people who started in the bowels of the company mail room and ascended into the rarefied air of the executive levels. It takes a lot of patience and hard work, but you can do it, too.

Contributed to by Kim Evans

blog comments powered by Disqus