Ask Adam: Career Paths for Makers and Polymaths

On Instagram, @salzmoto asked, “Outside of special effects, what career paths do you see opening up for makers and polymaths in general? How might someone make a career out of collecting hands-on skills in a world so currently obsessed with digital things?” Here’s Adam’s answer, and if you have a question for Adam, post it in the comments below!

Comments (13)

13 thoughts on “Ask Adam: Career Paths for Makers and Polymaths

  1. There is also a market in places most people wont think about. I’ve found a great market for my making skills in the convention services industry. I’m not just referring to shows like comic con, there are thousands of conventions yearly. Businesses are always looking for unique designs and show pieces to draw attention to their booths.

  2. I work for a marketing agency and the thing I discovered is that there a lot of agencies looking for someone who can “make” The issue is that they usually dont know what to look for and unfortunately that means that you’ll rarely ever see a job posting for someone with that background. The thing that is interesting is that many companies are looking for makers it just takes reaching out and introducing yourself. A strong portfolio demonstrating a wide range of skills can do wonders when networking with folks in the agency and product worlds.

  3. Neat, i’ve asked this question too not too long ago. And as someone currently looking for a job who would love a job in some kind of modelmaking… It doesn’t exist. The closest thing i’ve found is industrial CNC stuff or unpaid theater stuff.

    I’ve yet to see any opening for a hands-on modelmaking job.

  4. I know architectural model making is a decent industry, if you’re buying a skyscraper then your kinda likely to drop money to get a scale model of it beforehand. Worth looking into if you’re interested 🙂

  5. Additionally if you have a decent portfolio, with a few industrial skills like welding, there are quite a few propmaking companies (at least here in England) that get busy very quickly due to the nature of the industry. Catch them at the right time and they will be looking for freelancers.

  6. I’ll look into that (architectual modelmaking) but it sounds like you’d need to know a thing or two about architecture, which i don’t.

    I live in the Netherlands and i don’t think there are many propmaking/film production companies here. It’s hard to track down these jobs. There are job sites specifically for the film world, but fulltime modelmaking work doesn’t appear much (or at all).

  7. I’ll put in a plug for “Manufacturing Engineering” as a career. One of the reasons Steve Jobs gave for manufacturing i-phones in China was that we don’t have enough good manufacturing engineers in this country. As a Manufacturing Engineer you design and maintain manufacturing processes. It’s generally not quite as much fun as making spacesuit prototypes but it’s a valuable trade and you deal with “making stuff” every day, and it can take you in unexpected directions. One of the few good reasons for voting for Trump was his passion for bringing manufacturing back into the country. I’m all for it and want to support it at every level.

  8. I know Adam has spoken about this in the past, but a great career that lets you continue to collect skills while having a conventional job (as opposed to the gig-economy/freelance situation, since not everyone wants to go that route) is design.

    Specifically industrial/product design.

    There will always be opportunities for people who can design useful and beautiful objects and tools, and you get to make prototypes, models etc. all day.

    A good design program will teach you the processes and tools required to parse problems and realize solutions at a variety of fidelities, as well as communicating your work. That means model making and prototyping as the core skillset, but opportunities to expand as your interests require into electronics, 3d modeling, CAD, sketching and painting, videography, coding, hacking, welding and whatever else helps you solve problems and communicate your ideas to the world.

    You also get to satisfy your curiosity about the world, as solving complex problems requires extensive research. I work as a product designer and am currently working on projects that involve deep-dives into diagnostic medicine, machine learning, planning of roadworks, treating migraines in children, and underwater wireless-communications.

  9. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in a career in hands-on making to also develop digital modeling skills. In most industries the two are inexorably linked. The real rarity is to find someone that knows both the practical and digital fabrication processes and how to leverage each effectively. Architectural Modelmaking was mentioned in a previous post. That is one industry where knowing how to build a model is vital as the basis for effective digital model making used to create 3D printed, laser cut and CNC milled model components.

    And you could also become a Disney Imagineer, it’s probably one of the greatest Making jobs there is! (Based on personal experience!)

  10. Salzmoto? That’s me! Thanks for answering my question, Adam!

    Love the idea of “maker for hire” — something to think about for sure. I also agree that pursuing such things as more of a “side hustle” is definitely a great place to start and if it evolves into something more full time, great. If not, there’s the sheer pleasure of always learning plus the economic advantages of having a little bit of extra income here and there.

    I personally I tend to think about such things as all-or-nothing. That is, I have to be able to make a living at it or it’s not worth pursuing. That’s nonsense, but it’s my brain’s default for some reason. I have a feeling I’m not alone in that default.

    I’ve done a ton of side hustle work as a writer/photographer, but never as a maker. Thanks for connecting those dots, as the customer engagement and business aspects of that are things I already know how to do. I just need to bring this other skill set to bear in that way and start building a reputation for making, uh, something? I’ll have to work on what that something is.

    Thanks for the push!

  11. Just a rather late thought ( just joined ), I’m surprised Industrial design does not come up more often in the maker community. I’ve always been a maker but recently graduated with an I.D. degree and that is exactly where my love for 3D printing and rapid prototyping came from. I learned all the skills to take my ideas and tinkering to the next level over those 4 years.

  12. Get your teaching certification in technical education and teach engineering or manufacturing. Start a makerspace at your school.

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