So, you have decided to make a career in supply chain and are looking for a way into the industry. You are not alone. I get five or six emails every day asking what kind of jobs are available in supply chain and what qualifications are needed. I hope to answer some of these questions here.
How to Get a Foot in the Supply Chain Door
So you’re interested in a supply chain career… What next?
You need to think, to begin with, what kind of thing you want to be doing. You can be doing finance in supply chain, you can be doing operations. You might be working in a warehouse , or in transport, dealing with people all the time.
If you are bit more of an engineering sort, you could be in solutions design as part of a third-party logistics company.
Are you really numerate? Are you into analysis and dealing with numbers and finance, or do you want to be managing people?
Decide which direction you want to take, and then go for it!
What Qualifications Will I Need?
My answer to this would be: If you have the ability, the time, and the money to do something, that’s really good. Study for a business degree, maybe with a supply chain focus. Finance is always very important too.
If that is a little beyond you right now, maybe look at one of the certification courses. APICS, for example, runs some really good supply chain and logistics programs.
Ultimately, as you progress through your supply chain career, you’re probably going to want to do a Masters degree as well. Maybe a Masters in supply chain itself, or maybe an MBA, or something like that.
What is the Entry Point for Supply Chain Jobs?
Obviously you can go through the formal process of talking to recruiting companies and head-hunters, but to be honest, that is a bit of a numbers game. And unless you’ve got really good qualifications and good experience, it’s very hard to stand out from the crowd.
There are Other Ways to Get Started:
- Networking: If there are any industry-type events in your area, look out for those. Meet lots of people at those events. Tell them the sort of thing you would like to get into. Ask them some searching questions like, ‘What advice would you give me trying to start out?’
- Market yourself: The best platform to do that on is LinkedIn. You really want to be putting your profile up there so people can find you. Make sure you put in all the key words for the sort of work that you want to do.
- Internships: In terms of the sorts of businesses where you may be able to get a leg-up, look at some of the big FMCG companies, because they tend to be adept at taking on interns. A lot of them have graduate programmes. Those big companies have a lot of scope for you to grow, so you could get an entry-level position there.
I always say to people, don’t worry at what level you get in. Just get in. Start gaining some experience.
Some of the best ways to do that are through third-party logistics companies (3PLs). Get in there and work as a warehouse picker. It doesn’t really matter what you are doing, but you are getting into the industry. You are learning what goes on, and you are going to master all types of skills.
Friends of mine started out working on a warehouse floor, then they became supervisors, then warehouse managers, then logistics managers or supply chain managers, and so on.
Another Important Step: Fine Tune Your CV
Look, companies receive hundreds of CVs each week from eager job-seekers and unless yours draws immediate attention, it will end up somewhere on the pile along with all the others.
In no particular order, I advise folk to watch out for the following points when writing a CV:
- Keep it brief. Include only the most relevant information and use active language.
- Emphasise any skills acquired beyond those demanded in the job description. Proficiency in, say, Excel or MS Access, would be sure to catch the hiring manager’s eye.
- Be honest about your abilities and experience. Exaggerations are easily spotted and detract from the positive image you are trying to create.
And Now For the Interview…
Let’s face it, interviews are really hit and miss affairs. A lot depends on the impression you make when you walk into the room, the air of confidence you exude, and obviously, whether you can convince them that you, above all the other candidates, will bring value to the company.
We’ve all been there and we’ve all, at some point in our careers, had to deal with the bitterness of rejection.
But here are a few pointers that may just give you the edge. It basically comes down to being prepared:
- Study the job description and be ready to explain what skills you can bring to the position
- Research the company thoroughly so you won’t be caught off-guard by curve-ball questions
- Make clear your reasons for wanting a career with that particular company
I want to say it again. It is not important how you get into the industry, just get in. And as I point out in my YouTube video on the same subject, it doesn’t really matter too much what the role is, it’s getting exposure to the industry. That’s the really important thing.