How to Get Started in Supply Chain Management Jobs Entry Level Positions
In the most basic capacity, the role of a supply chain worker is to manage the processes required to produce and distribute the goods and services of a company. They must ensure that the product or service is delivered to the end-customer on time while ensuring the profitability of the company and maintaining high customer satisfaction. All businesses have supply chains, and all require a skilled manager. Here are a few ways you can make your way toward the role of a supply chain management career in your industry.
1. Research Your Industry
Since supply chains are present in all industries, opportunities are everywhere. This brings up the first point:
Thoroughly research your niche to determine what area you would like to enter (retail, travel, healthcare, automotive, utility, etc.).
As you research your desired niche, keep an eye on the following details:
- Market requirements and conditions. What are the particular skills, experience, and certifications you need to enter the market at this time or in the future? What are the projected job outlook and general forecast of the market?
- Regulations. Is there new legislation that governs the sector you are interested in? Will you have to be familiar with this legislation in your new role?
- Technology. Is there new software being widely implemented in your industry? Are you familiar with it, or should you take some time to get trained in using the technology to qualify for an entry-level supply chain management role?
- Business objectives. What are your business objectives? What are the objectives of the companies you are seeking out? Review these goals carefully to tailor your experience and application to the role you seek.
2. Gain an Edge on Your Industry-Specific Knowledge and Experience
Industry-specific knowledge will surely make you stand out among your competitors – and employers are looking for this distinction. Although general supply chain knowledge will form the foundation of your qualifications, you need to shine within your sector. You'll need to build this knowledge before you commit to pursuing a supply chain management position. You can procure industry-specific expertise and experience in the following ways:
- Industry-specific training programs. Some of the best training courses and programs available:
- National University: E Logistics and Supply Chain Management (part-time course, online)
- National University: Business Operations Management (3 days, online and on-campus options)
- Northwestern University: Strategy and Planning for Effective Operations (full-time course, online and on-campus options)
- Job rotation. You need to build up an arsenal of transferrable skills. As a supply chain manager, you will be expected to be familiar with several roles involved in business operations along with you. The best way to acquire the appropriate knowledge is by working these positions yourself. Divisions you can work in to build your experience include:
- Example jobs: Warehouse Operative, Warehouse Operations Manager
- Information Systems
- Example jobs: Supply Chain Systems Manager, Logistics Analyst, Supply Chain Analyst
- Materials and Procurement
- Example jobs: Product Analyst, Purchasing Manager, Materials Scheduler
- Sales and Customer Service
- Example jobs: Account Manager, Customer Service Manager, Director of Client Management
- Contract work. Contract work will allow you to accomplish the job rotation mentioned above. Since these are not permanent positions, you can demonstrate your ability to complete jobs successfully while building an expansive skillset.
You must understand that effective supply chain management directly influences a company's profitability and ability to compete in the industry. Processes for managing supply chains are of critical importance. They involve massive amounts of data, which then informs the decision-making processes of managers. Your ability to understand numerous facets of the supply chain will undoubtedly set you apart from the pool of candidates.
3. Identify the Exact Skills You Need to Stand Out
Once you have determined the roles that would be of the most considerable relevance to your future career as a supply chain manager, home in on the skills that will set you apart even further. Essential transferrable skills to add to your inventory are:
- Functional knowledge of how to use the relevant IT and software for your industry
- Interpersonal communication (The more general the supply chain management responsibilities, the more people you will need to communicate with. You must be comfortable with legal communication between your company and suppliers, intra- and inter-industry networking, and customer relations.)
- Working knowledge of supply chain management, transportation, and logistics
- Statistical forecasting
- Financial management and planning
- Working knowledge of relevant legislation presiding over your industry (and those you work with)
- General working knowledge of business management
It's also to familiarize yourself with international business practices as an extension of your interpersonal communication skills. Learning languages other than English may come in handy if it is in your capacity to do so. (Again, for this, you need to understand the requirements of your niche thoroughly. Certain supply chain managers, such as those in the travel and legal sectors, may have more of a need for bi- or multilingual capabilities than others.)
4. Secure the Relevant Education and Certifications
In the same vein as Step 1, it is recommended that you spend a few years working in some of the roles listed above to inform your career path and further strengthen your industry knowledge and qualifications. Though there are many divisions through which you can gain experience, you should place particular emphasis on the divisions listed above.
Concerning education requirements, you need a bachelor’s degree in business or a relevant field (some employers require master’s degrees). The most sought-out majors include:
Certifications are not always necessary but can help tremendously. The most notable of certifications is the CPSM.
- Certified Professional in Supply Chain Management (CPSM). To qualify for this certification program, you must have:
- A minimum of 3 years’ experience in supply chain management roles
- B.S. economics or business
Landing an entry-level supply chain management role is an incredibly rewarding career path that may take a few years to accomplish. Study your industry carefully, as requirements can change according to your industry's market conditions and specifications. With just these four steps, you'll be shining in the applicant pool and will land your new management position before you know it.