Posted October 16, 2020

What You Should Know to Pursue a Career in Supply Chain Management

What You Should Know to Pursue a Career in Supply Chain Management
By Sarah Mehlert

The supply chain industry is complex and vast with many different career paths to pursue. On a basic level, the supply chain industry refers to the flow of goods and services from production all the way to the delivery to the consumer. A Supply Chain Manager helps to orchestrate that flow and looks for ways to optimize it. However, the sequence of processes that allows all those things to happen and how they are connected can be somewhat of an intangible concept to grasp for those not in the industry. If you are thinking of pursuing a career in supply chain management, it is important to understand not only the industry as a whole, but how the Supply Chain Manager fits into the equation and what it will take for you to succeed. By doing your research ahead of time, you can feel confident in your career choice and be on your way to a rewarding and sustainable profession.

Understand the Industry & Responsibilities

Having a comprehensive understanding of the supply chain industry is essential before starting your supply chain management career. Every company has a slightly different expectation of what a Supply Chain Manager is responsible for, depending on how they operate. In order to truly understand what your day to day will entail, it's important to understand all of the elaborate processes of a supply chain that allow goods and services to flow from manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer. While one company may expect their Supply Chain Manager to be involved with every aspect of the supply chain including sourcing materials, coordinating shipments and managing finances, another may only be looking for a Supply Chain Manager to handle the purchasing and procurement of materials. Once you have a firm grasp on the industry and competencies involved and you begin your job search, read job descriptions carefully and ask questions of the hiring manager to make sure that the functions of the position align with your interests.

The Field is Competitive

Another thing to keep in mind is that the supply chain industry is fairly competitive. The quality of a company's supply chain directly correlates to their success and monetary gain, so they look to Supply Chain Managers to keep everything running smoothly and they recognize that the right candidate will be a huge asset to the company. Just one mistake can cost the company thousands of dollars and send their clients right into the arms of a competitor, so it's important that they choose a reliable, hardworking Supply Chain Manager that they can trust. Because of this, it can be a tough profession to break into. It is a very fast-paced and demanding career that requires you to always be looking for new and innovative ways to improve the flow and advance the company to the next level. However, if you are passionate about what you do and are willing to put in the hard work and be proactive in your approach, it is absolutely feasible and you can find great success in the field.

Required Key Skills

There are certain skills that are essential for a supply chain management career that will allow you to be successful and stand apart from other candidates. Among them are hard skills such as a strong comprehension of Microsoft Excel, math and analytics abilities, as well as soft skills such as communication, relationship management and attention to detail. The supply chain industry is very data-driven and relies on quantifiable facts and figures. Consequently, organizations look for candidates with strong math and analytics skills and experience. The complexity of the supply chain requires immaculate attention to detail and someone who can accurately analyze and interpret data and can keep up with the ever-changing technology. Employers also look for certain soft skills that can be just as important, if not more so, than the technical skills that can be taught. As a Supply Chain Manager, you may be involved with many different aspects of the supply chain process including purchasing, procurement, inventory, transportation and more. This means you will be in constant contact with all kinds of people from all different kinds of industries, so strong communication skills, specifically interpersonal communication, is essential. Relationship management also becomes imperative as you are tasked with negotiating with different vendors and building lasting professional relationships with them and others. Building and strengthening these skills will greatly improve your success as a Supply Chain Manager, and they should be continuously honed throughout your career.

Networking is Crucial

Like with many jobs, networking plays a vital part in supply chain industry. Who you know and the connections you build along the way will be of immense value to you throughout your supply chain management career. If you take the time to nurture your professional relationships and consistently listen and learn from your colleagues, you will have those relationships to rely on when you need guidance or are looking to take the next step in your career. It can also be extremely helpful to seek out a mentor, particularly when you are new in the industry, whether it is your manager or someone else in the industry. With experience comes wisdom, and a mentor can be an invaluable source of knowledge and expertise that will give you a competitive advantage in the industry.

There are Endless Career Opportunities

As vast as the supply chain industry is, so are the career opportunities for Supply Chain Managers. You may start out in one area of supply chain management such as purchasing and climb up the ladder from there to positions such as production manager or buyer. There are many different positions with many different responsibilities that are under the supply chain management umbrella. As you begin your career, you may find that there are certain areas that you are more passionate about; you can focus in on those to pursue the specific path where your interest lies. Keep in mind that there are countless different segments and areas to be explored, and more being created every day, as well as tremendous advancement opportunity. This career is not one that will get boring or repetitive, and with new advances in technology, higher demand and more complex tracking systems will come even more opportunities.

To an outsider looking in, supply chain management can be confusing- but with a thorough understanding of the ins and outs of the industry, and the right skillset and drive, a career in supply chain management can be very rewarding and lucrative. Before you jump into your new career, take some time to familiarize yourself with the industry and the proficiencies that you will need. If a supply chain management career is something you want to pursue, having these insights will give you a competitive edge and set you up for success. Every company and industry that provides a good or service to consumers relies on their supply chain from conception to delivery and need supply chain managers they can trust to get the job done correctly and innovatively. Supply chain managers work in countless different settings with countless different responsibilities, and this career isn't going anywhere anytime soon.