Top Five Pieces of Career Advice for Supply Chain Students

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It’s an industry that’s seen as anything but sexy, and that lack of appeal is presenting a major problem. A growing global shortage of talented supply chain professionals has companies scrambling to find ways to attract and retain that next generation of leaders. Some, like toy maker Mattel, have devised strategies aimed at hiring fresh-faced grads and molding them into exactly what they need. Thanks to the help of several universities, there may soon be a lot more students from which to choose. As the Wall Street Journal reports, educational powerhouse MIT has been giving free online supply chain courses for the past year. Now they plan to offer “micro-master’s” certificates for completing five courses and an exam. Those certificates will then count as a semester’s worth of MIT credits toward a full master’s degree in supply chain management. MIT is expecting to expand their enrollment in supply chain courses by as many as 30 to 40 per semester, effectively tripling the number of graduates it has per year. To help with recruiting efforts, we thought we’d do our part by gathering up some wise words of wisdom for anyone interesting in pursuing a career in the supply chain field. Here are the top five pieces of career advice as explained by some of our supply chain experts. 1. Make Sure You Actually Like Supply Chain “Like any career, make sure you like what you do first and foremost. Supply chain isn’t sexy, but it matters and it makes a difference to a company’s performance. And, it offers an array of challenges from technology to organization to pure creative problem solving. “– Bill Riordan 2. Enjoy the Challenge “It’s a fascinating area to focus on. The supply chain matters! It delivers things that you and your family use every single day. Learning about it and being creative in your approach to problem solving can be very rewarding.” – Dominic Thomas “Supply chain is the pulse of a company. It is the very heart of providing goods and services to customers. Despite all the complexities, moving parts, and seemingly conflicting demands, at the end of the day you are intimately involved with the success of the company. There is little more satisfying and rewarding than that.” – Jay Foster 3. Expand Your Horizons “Network. Consultants, Analysts, Practitioners (especially from other industries) all have valuable insights into the best practices for supply chain management. Meet and talk to as many people as you can. Hit some conferences. The next generation of supply chain technologies are at a tipping point and getting outside your own four walls will keep you up to speed on what’s next.” – Bill DuBois “Make sure you get many different insights in the beginning of your career. Look for a job that allows frequent task rotations, like doing a project in demand planning, then procurement, then operational excellence, etc. A business consultant role is a good example, as you will see many different companies with even more supply chain challenges.” – Hans Velthuizen 4. Know Your Skill Set “Consider your personality type and skill set. Check that you have the following traits: tough negotiator; keen attention to detail; entrepreneurial spirit. Do something else if you don’t!” – Matt Benson 5. Be Prepared for Tough Times “Your greatest recurring challenge will be overcoming resistance to change.” – Ron Stappert “Develop a thick skin, develop an immunity to stress, and take up Yoga… you’re going to need to be really flexible.” – Ken Pope Let’s face it, a career in supply chain won’t always be full of sunshine and roses (what career is?). But despite the many challenges, obstacles, and demands that exist, the rewards, potential for growth, and excitement of being involved in such an evolving industry are well worth the hard times.

What advice would you give a student considering a career in supply chain? Let us know!

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