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Surviving and thriving

How to succeed as a young supply chain management professional


August 30, 2017
by Katrina Daaca

Katrina Daaca, SCMP is a procurement specialist and winner of the first SCMA Ascendant Award (2017).

From the August 2017 print edition

Many new graduates and young professionals are faced with a tough challenge. In today’s educated workforce, the job market has become more competitive than ever before. As a young professional speaking from experience, I was not immune to this hurdle.
In 2014, I completed my Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) with a major in supply chain management. To be honest, I was never at the top of my class. Because of this, I decided the best way to pursue my dream job was to prioritize volunteering and work experience. I realized my education could take me far, but enhancing my education with real world skills and experience would give me a valuable competitive advantage.

Strategically placing myself in the supply chain management job market began far before graduation. This path I’ve carved early in my career has truly helped me succeed as a student and alumna.

Just three years after completing my Commerce degree, I’m proud to share I have three years of experience in public procurement and one-and-a-half years of experience in Lean process improvement. I’ve sat on boards, executed large-scale events, and have clocked hundreds of hours volunteering for causes close to my heart. It’s this experience that has opened many doors and helped me earn provincial and national recognition for my work in supply chain management.

Are you a student, recent graduate or young professional anxious to move your career forward? Here are my top four tips to get ahead in our field:

Network, network, network: Almost every job offer I’ve received was thanks to a personal connection or referral. Reach out to those you admire in supply chain management and forge meaningful relationships. While your network can provide you with employment leads, you should view your connections as more than a pool of potential employers. Your network is a knowledge bank. You can learn a lot from your peers and mentors—all you have to do is ask.

Work while you’re in school and volunteer for things you care about: Take advantage of co-op programs at your school, and apply what you learn in the classroom to your work. Not only will this give you valuable work experience, but you’ll also improve as a student because your experiences will help you understand course material better. Volunteering allows you to influence positive change and gives you transferable skills you can take to future supply chain management jobs such as communication, planning, problem-solving and much more.

Be relentless and resilient in your job search: It may take three, five, or ten interviews until you land the right job for you. Don’t get discouraged. Take rejection as a learning opportunity and ask your interviewers to debrief you. Take those debriefing notes, adjust your strategy, and keep going. Being agile and adaptable are skills you’ll need in your supply chain management career, so you should start excising those muscles now.

Your employer probably doesn’t want to hear this, but even if you’re happy in your current position, my advice is to actively “window shop” for jobs. Keeping an eye on the job market helps you become strategic about your current role. If there is a higher position in your organization or elsewhere that requires skills you’re not working on, talk to your manager and ask how these skills can be integrated into your current role. I did a lot of window shopping for jobs while in university. This habit helped me understand the supply chain management job market in my region and what skills or education I needed to be considered for those jobs.

Work like you need a favour from your boss: I say this, because some day you will. Please don’t do all this work to get a job and start slacking once you get there. Young professionals have enough assumptions working against us. Prove your millennial stereotypes wrong by saying “YES!” to projects outside your wheelhouse. Focus on value in everything you do by challenging the status quo and processes in your role that add no value to your customers. A professional in supply chain management has one ultimate goal, and that’s to provide value.

Measure and record your outputs, successes, and instances where you’ve learned from failures. These points will help you form a strong case for promotion and build job security.

Success is fleeting. Once we accomplish one goal, we immediately ask ourselves, “What’s next?”
Don’t forget to acknowledge and celebrate your successes, because it’s an equally important part of your supply chain management journey.