How to Get a Job in the Auto Industry

An old truck driver

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The automotive industry is looking better every day from an economic standpoint — it has already surpassed the projected sales rate from last December, and it’s sitting at a pretty steady 1.5 percent growth rate. If you want to know how to get a job in the auto industry or you’re trying to improve your career, now is the perfect time to get your foot in the door. In case you’re not sure where to start, here is a quick, step-by-step checklist to help guide you through the process of starting a career in the automotive industry.

Go Back to School

Even if you’re a pretty handy backyard mechanic, getting into the automotive industry isn’t usually based on skills alone. It helps to have a certificate on your resume for the exact field that you’re hoping to get into. It isn’t as simple as going to your local trade school and saying, “I want to get into the automotive industry.” You need to be specific — auto mechanics and repair, bodywork, automotive engineering and a CDL class to drive big trucks all require a separate and specific class schedule.

Expect to Start at the Bottom

Regardless of the section of the automotive industry you decide to get into, it might be important to lower your expectations in certain ways. Expect to start at the bottom, as a gopher or a shop cleaner or a car detailer at your local car lot. Don’t get annoyed or discouraged by this. It can be a great way to get your foot in the door and establish yourself as a force to be reckoned with in the automotive world.

Pick a Company

Not all automotive companies are created equal when it comes to building a career in the industry, and the company that you choose will depend largely on what type of automotive work you want to do.

If you’re not keen on getting your hands dirty but still want to work around cars, a job in parts can be a great choice. Rock Auto, Pep Boys and Advance Auto Parts are all top choices for this field — if you choose a career at Advance, the only work you’ll do on cars is the occasional battery and windshield wiper change.

If you want to drive a tractor-trailer, you’ve got a few good choices too — Epes Transport, based in North Carolina, Acme Truck Line, which has more than 30 locations across the U.S. and Canada and Trimac Transportation, which has more than 100 locations across the country. They’re all leaders in the trucking industry, and they offer a great place to start and build your career.

If you want to build cars from the ground up, your first stop should be one of the big car manufacturers like Ford, General Motors or Chrysler — all of which have locations scattered across the country and jobs that vary from engineering to manufacturing to detailing.

Be Ready to Work — and Be Patient

You’re not going to start your automotive career, regardless of your education or experience, on the top of the corporate ladder. You’re one fish in a sea of qualified applicants, so you’ll need to work harder and leap higher than all the fish around you to set yourself apart and make a name for yourself in this industry. Be ready to work, and work hard — and be patient. You might not get the promotion you want as quickly as you want it, but if you’re patient and work hard, it will come to you in time.

It may sound like a cliché, but the automotive industry is made up of equal parts tradition and innovation — the manufacturing processes might have changed over the intervening decades, but the foundation of hard work and climbing the corporate ladder one rung at a time is still mostly alive and well. If you like working with cars or just talking about them, starting to build a career in the automotive industry might be the best choice for you. Start by going back to school and finding yourself an entry-level job, and go from there.

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