6 Top Strategies To Making a Career Change To Supply Chain
A career in Supply Chain can be fun, creative, rewarding, and smart for the long-term — businesses will always need supply chain professional to manage information flow & product flow of their products, no matter what else changes in consumer behaviour or industry trends.
As the world quickly transforms and career paths are changing at the speed of light, you may find yourself interested in a supply chain career even without much formal training in it — and that’s normal. These days, not everyone ends up making a career in their college or university major. Personally, I was started my career as Textile Engineer before I decided to do my Master’s in Management of Production from Chalmers University of Technology.
You may be working in a competency such as finance, manufacturing or warehousing yet want to switch to Supply Change Management. It may seem daunting and even inconceivable to take such a leap of faith without feeling as though there must be some sort of qualification to be done in order for the move to be successful.
Not necessarily, as proven when I hired someone called Scott Williamson as a distribution manager during my time as a Supply Chain Manager at one of my previous jobs in the UK.
I had contacted Giuseppe Borsellino from Michael Page, someone I have made vlog regarding Top Tips on How to Prepare Better for Supply Chain Interviews to help me source candidates, explaining that I needed someone who had group / team leader’s qualities to be manager for the distribution and warehousing. The CV sent had no experience listed for warehousing or distribution, but I was assured to meet with Scott before making a final decision.
At the point of interview, Scott was team leader technician, the natural first question I put to him was with no experience of supply chain why should I hire you.
To answer this question, Scott started illustrating his answer with 5 key skills he knew he had that would match the requirements needed to complete the role advertise despite not having specific supply chain experience.
The 5 skills Scott demonstrated were:
1. Continuous Improvement Mindset – this entails applying neat techniques to improve his current role and reduce waste as was prevalent
2. Have a Highly Proficient Understanding of Data Management – to be able to understand, analyse and utilise numbers in context of your role, regardless of what it is. Data is factual and to able to use it for improvements is a valuable skill that is transferable to any role involving number crunching.
3. High Learning Curve Aptitude – to learn new concepts (whether they are new to the company/role to new to you as someone implementing a career change) and not only apply them but use your initiative to improve the process
4. Ability to Learn on the Job – This is a natural follow-on from having the above mindset when coming into a new role. Even if you are being promoted within your company, being willing and able to learn on the job is essential. It is not just a job title that has changed, roles and responsibilities change. You must be open to learning on the job in order to adjust as quickly and easily as possible.
5. Be a Team Player – to enjoy being part of and help improve a team let alone it is an important trait and discipline that must be a prerequisite for anyone wanting to be a team leader/manager.
So, bottom line was, although his experience and CV showed no experience in any Supply Chain competency, the fact he demonstrated transferable skills and knowledge as well as a hunger to learn something new, bought a refreshing change to the interview and bagged him the role, something he was very successful at.
Now let’s look at my 6 strategies to make a career change to supply chain
Tip 1: Learn
This can be divided into 3 demonstrable sections:
a. Supply Chain Technical Skills – there are many areas within Supply Chain Management such as logistics, materials management and procurement. Research to understand what each of the roles are and entails to decide which path you wish to take.
b. Soft Skills i.e. People Skills such as communication, leadership, influence and presentation skills. This also includes your emotional intelligence and how you deal with people in your business as well as your ability to network.
c. Technological Know-How – Understanding the current and emerging technologies and applications such as cloud computing, internet and RPA Robotic Process Automation – ensure you are up to date with the latest technological applications and trends. This is not limited to the area you are choosing to go into but the whole ‘picture’ of what is happening in SCM.
This tip is broad and one where you can very much not know where to begin or where to end you’re your research. To help you encapsulate and direct you, check out my Supply Chain Competencies blog and Materials Management Competencies Assessment Tool along with a video discussion with Radu on How to Be A Top Talent in Supply Chain - all of which are full of top tips and help streamline the broad spectrum and myriad of information as well as introduce and provide valuable information of the general skill you need.
Tip 2: Show Supply Chain Competencies in Your Current Job
So, you have done you research, read the many blogs and articles out there, viewed some informative videos. That’s great, but it does not make up for the void that is experience. As is standard now – with the exception of graduate positions, without experience, it is very difficult to get that all-important foot in the door.
How do you gain experience when you are in a job that has nothing to do with supply chain directly?
The key here is understanding what you have and what to do with it. Find or list the skills and competencies in supply chain which can be molded into your current role.
Try and get involved in supply chain related projects, improve the material planning processes on the shop floor for example, do the Kaizen event such as introducing batch order quantity – basically, anything you can do that will open up actual experience in supply chain.
This will get you noticed by showing you are getting involved in learning new skills and getting involved in projects of different skillset and competencies to what you are currently trained and / or qualified in, showing your desire to learn and adapt and potentially earmarking you for progression within the company in the competency of supply chain when applying for any position that may come up.
Tip3: Demonstrate How You Can Compensate Lack of Experience in Supply Chain
We all know, nowadays a lot of jobs and promotions are based on your level of experience or if you are applying for a graduate position. But the conundrum here is that if you are making a career change, you are not likely to have the appropriate amount of experience that is typically required for applying for a job that is different to your current business function. How can we compensate this?
The best way is to ‘market’ yourself so you actively show interest of the field. For example, write about what you have learnt and understood about Supply Chain. Post your comments and thoughts on LinkedIn and Social Media channels, get engaged in conversations within the supply chain community – build your knowledge and network of the current trends and ideas.
The more you ‘get yourself out there’, the more chance you have of that employer looking for someone with a fresh and broader perspective to just a specialist in Supply chain and supply chain only.
Tip 4: Understand Roles and Responsibilities in a Supply Chain Function
There are many roles and categorisation within supply chain so it is important to understand the different categories of jobs and the roles that exist within them.
So, for procurement jobs you have commodity and category managers, buyers and supply quality engineers. There are also the category of logistics & warehousing and further specialist functions such as supply chain planning, demand planning, forecasting and supply chain analyst. Each role and functionality has a specific set of role and responsibilities.
This tip is about researching and analyzing the various roles so as to get an understanding of what you want to explore as your new career path. Once you know this, set about closing the gap in knowledge and experience between your current role and the role you wish to embark upon for your career switch by learning to demonstrate the skills required (as described above).
Tip 5. Update & Customise your CV and LinkedIn Profile so it is Tailor Made for the Supply Chain Industry
The CV and LinkedIn profile should demonstrate the skills you require for the role that you are applying for. To start with you must avoid these 5 mistakes on your CV and watch this episode of The Supply Chain Show to rock-up you Linkedin profile!
A common mistake is not updating your CV to suit the job you are applying for (this goes for any job you apply for). Your key competencies and skills must be tailor-made to demonstrate you understanding and at the very least, transferable skills you have that are relevant for the job you are applying for.
This blog is about a career switch, so of course it is likely you do not have a great deal of previous experience, but your research and initiative to get yourself involved in groups and conversations on social media accounts– make sure you mention this along with actual experience you have gained by applying for project opportunities where possible.
All this will form part of your key competencies section and, at the very least, give the person reviewing your CV the confidence that you have given thought and effort to the job on offer, have actively worked at tailoring your CV to show this when applying for the job and are not wasting their time.
Tip 6. Continual Growth – Read & Learn About Supply Chain as Much as Possible.
This is not limited to the educational resources out there – if you have the funds, opportunity and desire to complete the APICS or CIPS certification or complete a Masters’ in SCM, that’s great but the conclusion I have come to after years in this industry and providing my expertise and knowledge on the matter, is that there are now many courses including courses published by SCMDOJO and Best Practice Guides & Tools available within SCMDOJO , google, LinkedIn, to name just a few that cost as little as $200 that will provide you with all the necessary hands-on knowledge you require to get up and running and become confident with your move to Supply Chain Management.
No longer is the knowledge difficult to find without forking out huge amounts of money for expensive courses. Knowledge is power and it is no longer expensive, scarce or inaccessible.
Basically, try and get your knowledge from wherever possible – it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, the important point is your ability to demonstrate your understanding – and where possible – your application of the knowledge you are learning, don’t limit yourself.
About the Author
Dr. Muddassir Ahmed is a global speaker, vlogger, and supply chain industry expert. Dr Muddassir Ahmed has received a Ph.D. in Management Science from Lancaster University Management school. Muddassir is a Six Sigma Black Belt and has founded SCMDOJO with the intention to enable supply chain professionals and supply chain teams to solve the problems they face in their jobs & business
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