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Careers in Supply Chain Management: A Guide

There are numerous opportunities for career development and professional growth, which is one of the biggest attractions for many people, but this also presents people with lots of decisions. The best way to begin your research into supply chain management is to ensure you have a solid understanding of the field as a whole. If you are considering starting a career in supply chain management but not sure where to begin, this guide will help you to assess whether or not it’s the right choice for you and how to kickstart your career.

Is it the right career for you?

The practice of supply chain management includes the storage and transportation of materials between manufacturers and consumers. The career usually involves overseeing product development, production, data management, transportation, and logistics.

Before you commit to any career in any industry, it’s essential that you take a good and honest look at your strengths, weaknesses, and interests. The are plenty of online tools and tests which will help you to identify what type of career you would be most suited to based on your aptitude and personality. A supply chain manager needs to have excellent skills in communication, teamwork, and people management, as well as a great understanding of process and project management. A great level of attention to detail, a natural aptitude for math, and a predilection for problem-solving are also great assets.

When you can find a career which is suited to your strengths, you are likely to be much more satisfied in your professional life. You may find, especially in the early stages of your career, that you are in a role or company which does not suit you. This is a great learning opportunity as it will help you to determine what you don’t want from your career so you can focus on what’s important to you.

Careers in Supply Chain Management: The Options

A supply chain management career can be found in all major fields of industry, but within each sector, there are different areas to work within, such as manufacturing, planning, and logistics. A company which manufactures or sells products is typically called a ‘shipper,’ and these companies can deal with a wide range of products. The size of the company you work for will also have a big impact on your career in terms of your own career progression and how satisfied you are in your work. From small companies where you will be managing several responsibilities to huge multinational corporations (both public and privately owned) where you will be working on a more specific part of the supply chain. You will have more resources and opportunities for progression in larger companies, but a broader experience and often a greater impact in small companies.

Education, certification, and training

While entry-level positions such as assistants, trainees, and clerks are often open to people with high school diplomas, most people who are in supply chain management positions have a bachelor’s degree in a business-related subject. This could be accounting, economics, business administration, or similar. The degree should cover skills and include coursework on logistics, operations, manufacturing, and economics.

It is possible to obtain a professional certification in addition to a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management, but this is rarely mandatory. People in the most senior positions and those in the largest firms will often have obtained a master’s degree in supply chain management. It is possible to complete a supply chain management masters degree online so you can continue to work and study on a schedule which suits you.

Keep up to date with industry news and trends

The modern world is moving at an incredible pace when it comes to breaking news, emerging trends, industry changes, and new technology. To keep ahead of the game, it’s vital that you stay up to date with what’s going on both while you’re studying and throughout your career. Before you graduate, this will help you to work out which sector and role are of most interest to you and will give you a deeper understanding so you can impress during interviews and when networking. You should also continue to stay on top of the latest trends when you are employed so you can stay current and ahead of the competition where possible. Consider setting up Feedly, which is an RSS newsreader. You input which topics you are interested in, and it will automatically scan the internet for related content. Google Alerts is another option which emails you when relevant keywords or phrases are published.

Network as much as possible

While theoretical learning is essential, you need to try and make connections with industry professionals who are already working in the supply chain field. Even if you have not yet graduated, you should be starting to build a network of contacts who can help with your career progression when you’re qualified. The professional networking site, LinkedIn, is an effective and straightforward way to connect with relevant industry professionals and to see content from influential people. You may want to connect with your classmates, professors, alumni, and even HR specialists who work with the supply chain industry. You may want to become a member of an organization for supply chain professionals such as the Association for Supply Chain Management to increase your network and to be able to attend events and conferences. Many will offer students membership at a discounted rate.

Get as much experience as you can

The job market is a competitive space, and it’s often essential to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Completing an internship is a great way to secure yourself some real experience which will help you in your studies and when it comes to applying for your first position. Many will also offer a salary so you can earn while you are studying. Universities can often arrange internships for some of their students, but you may be able to find opportunities on supply chain organization job boards or through networking contacts.

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