It may not seem like it, but the first job in your supply chain management career could actually be one of the most important. While there is no surefire method for securing that elusive first job, the following advice from the SCM Talent Group highlights a few key elements that will help.
Advance Your Education
A bachelor’s degree from a top-ranked supply chain university will greatly increase your odds of securing an internship or full-time job. But if you can’t attend one of the leading supply chain universities, don’t worry. Any four-year degree in supply chain, business, engineering, or a related field from an accredited university will qualify you for most professional, entry-level supply chain positions. You’ll be in great shape as long as you have your degree, relevant internships, and a strong GPA.
Advanced degrees can also be beneficial depending on your target industry or job function, so you may want to consider remaining in school to complete a graduate degree program. This approach may not be right for everyone though, as it can be just as advantageous to obtain a few years of real-world experience before considering a return to college.
It’s also important to consider your potential Return on Investment (ROI). If your aspirations include working at the executive level, then an MBA might be a good choice. But if you prefer staff-level roles or non-executive positions, an advanced degree might not be worth your time or money. I recommend weighing the pros and cons carefully before making this decision, knowing that you can still obtain executive-level positions without a graduate-level degree.
Polish Your Analytical Skills
Whether you are still in school or already working in the field, it’s wise to invest in some practical, analytical training, such as taking a course in data analytics or finance. Most entry-level supply chain positions require proficiency in Microsoft Excel since these are the primary tools Analysts and Engineers use to manipulate and analyze data. It’s also important to understand how to convert raw data analysis into a presentation-friendly format using business intelligence tools like Tableau.
Even if you are focused more on the operations side of the business, you’ll still need to understand these tools to effectively coordinate and lead task-oriented efforts, as well as make sound, data-backed decisions. And don’t neglect the financials. It will give you a leading edge over the competition if you understand the basic financial levers at work in the industry.
A fantastic way for early starting supply chain professionals to stand out from the crowd is to obtain a supply chain certification. There are many different types of supply chain certifications so be sure to take the time and research which one would be the most effective for the type of position you are seeking.
There are certain certifications that our inventory planning recruiters recommend for those seeking to work in this area e.g. demand planning, supply planning, materials management, sales & operations planning (S&OP), etc, is the CPIM Certification (Certified in Production and Inventory Management) featured by ASCM (Association for Supply Chain Management).
If you’re interested in logistics career paths, our logistics recruiters recommend obtaining the CLTD certification (Certified in Logistics, Transportation, and Distribution) that ASCM also features.
Lastly, if you’re seeking a role that is broader in scope, managing across the supply chain discipline, your best bet is the CSCP certification (Certified Supply Chain Professional), also featured by ASCM.
Don’t Skip the Internships
I cannot stress internships enough. Paid or not, these are the necessary building blocks for kick-starting a successful supply chain career. If your goals include landing a position with a leading employer, I highly recommend obtaining at least two internships, with at least one that is closely aligned towards the full-time work you would like to pursue.
In today’s ultra-competitive job market, internships are critical to building your supply chain career and give you the extra edge you need when it comes time to apply for full-time employment. Strive to over-achieve at every opportunity, since internships often lead to offers of full-time employment with the same company. The company I work for right now is a firm of supply chain executive search recruiters and they actually hired me as an intern before offering me a full-time position after I finished up school.
It is often said that obtaining that first internship is actually more difficult than obtaining your first official supply chain position later on down the road. With internships, it involves an employer taking a complete risk on an individual due to the fact that they do not have any professional experience under their belt yet.
Trial and Error
By this time, you might be thinking that you have to figure everything out before you even leave college, but nothing could be further from the truth. The goal is to figure out what type of role you can excel at and really enjoy, sooner than later, and if you can figure this out while in school, you’ll be ahead of the game once you graduate.
Besides, you never stop learning. Once you’re out in the professional world, it often takes a little “trial and error” before your career really starts to gel. So give yourself a break and enjoy your college experience. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you’ll want to look back on it as some of the best years of your life.
There is no linear path that everyone takes when landing their first job in supply chain. However, the skills that we have mentioned throughout this article are ways to straighten out your path. Everyone takes their own route as it relates to exploring the broad, diverse career paths that exist within the supply chain discipline. It all starts with taking that first step!
About the Author
Brian Kennedy is the Marketing Manager at SCM Talent Group – Executive Supply Chain Recruiters. He originally joined the SCM Talent Group team as a Marketing Intern during his college career. Afterwards he was brought on as the Marketing Manager where he uses his talents to create and execute a variety of inbound and outbound marketing strategies to ensure alignment with SCM’s rich client base. Previously, Brian worked for two years as a Marketing Intern at a Production Company, and as the Athletics Creative Content Creator at Appalachian State University, while pursuing his degree. Brian brings a wealth of knowledge covering digital marketing strategies and creative content production.