Supply Chain Student Job Search Strategy and Tips
A supply chain student job search strategy starts with understanding what you are looking for, then understanding the available resources, plus how to successfully navigate those resources to find the position listings that are the best match for your interests and your capabilities. Then keeping careful track of where your supply chain resume has been uploaded and getting registered for automatic job updates on various job boards and other resources. Your job search should be treated like one of the most valuable projects of your career. Use the strategy guide and tips below to help make the search productive.
Preparation: What do you want to do?
Searching for the right job as a supply chain student means having some kind of understanding about what you want. Have you ever had a conversation with someone about dinner when they say, “What do you want?”, then you follow with, “What have you got?”, resulting in a seemingly endless back and forth that will eventually end in a choice being made. How about pasta? Sushi? Indian? A burger? A sandwich place? Having some idea of what interests you that day helps narrow down the search.
The supply chain student job search can be similar. Take a really careful look at what classes you have taken. What aspects did you enjoy? Instead of food categories, there are supply chain categories such as planning, sourcing, operations, distribution, and enabling technologies. But this is only a part of the story because there are so many different kinds of positions within each of those areas of supply chain. Instead, reflect upon the different kinds of assignments you did and which ones you enjoyed. Make a three-column page or table with the ones you enjoyed on the left, the ones you hated on the right, and the ones that are neutral (neither enjoyed nor hated) in the middle. This simple exercise will help you classify the kinds of work that might be appealing to you and the kinds you should stay away from. The stuff in the middle is kind of like the daily stuff in life that you tolerate. It won’t attract you to a job, but it won’t keep you away either.
We’ve emphasized it a lot on this site, but go to O*NET and simply enter words like “supply chain”, “distribution”, “logistics”, “operations”, “sourcing”, etc. that come from your classes. There will be position titles that pop up. Click on a few and look at two things. One, look closely at the extensive task lists that are associated with each job. They describe the kinds of work these positions do. Note which ones interest you. Second, look at the alternative position titles for this kind of position. If the tasks overall interest you, now you have a set of job titles to help aid your search.
Finally, to prepare yourself, be an avid reader of trade magazines and blogs in the industry that provide profiles of people’s jobs, hearing them describe what it is like. Also, listen to the podcasts provided on this site to hear professionals talk about their careers. A similar three-column set of jobs and tasks that seem to interest you is a good tool to assess where you want to be in supply chain.
You come out of this preparation phase of your supply chain student job search with a solid understanding of the kinds of position titles, tasks, and keywords to focus your search.
The Search Resources
There are many great resources for performing the search process. Start at your campus first with career resources, but also take advantage of clubs, career fairs, family contacts, faculty contacts, and then turn to job boards.
Start at Career Services. We can’t overemphasize the value of working with the career services staff at your school to take advantage of the career-focusing and career-advising resources they have. Part of their job is knowing how to help you determine your interests, then determining how to take those interests and turn them into the right kind of search terms to help you focus your search on the employers they know already, plus the ones that might not already be interviewing students at your campus. Many students before you have performed internships and have taken jobs with employers that have already been on your campus and employ graduates. They are commonly the best place to start. Get as much of a detailed understanding about how these employers work with your school and find out what opportunities they already have available. You may be able to get in touch with a grad from your school and talk with them about their position and what their company does. It can be incredibly valuable. Plus, they are position search experts as well and can help you with your search process.
Campus clubs, presentations, tours, and career fairs. It always amazes me when some students are oblivious to the many opportunities they have for finding out more about careers and employers. Join your student club to talk with other students about their experiences and interests. Attend meetings to hear presentations from employers about their jobs, their companies, their industries, and supply chain trends in general. Some companies also host general interest sessions while they are on campus to talk about what their company does and the kinds of opportunities they have. Take tours that clubs offer to see facilities and the day-to-day work of supply chain professionals. Go to career fairs offered by your university or college or department to talk with professionals, even if you are not yet looking for full-time employment.
The family and friends network. Who you know can be so important. Ask family and friends if they know anyone that works in supply chain, but since some of them don’t really understand what is involved in supply chain, provide them with a quick explanation of the range of what supply chain is. At best, they know someone in supply chain and can connect you. At worst, you have planted the seed that makes them pay attention and keep you in mind if they hear the right words during their future conversations with others.
The faculty networks. In the first part of this article, you evaluated what you liked and didn’t like within your coursework. Reach out to faculty that have taught you subjects you have enjoyed and have a conversation with them about jobs in the industry and companies they have interacted with. Chances are they have many connections, but until they know your interests, they won’t be thinking about you when they hear about companies that are doing the kinds of work you might enjoy.
Specific company career sites. If you have been doing your homework and reading extensively through magazine articles and blogs that interview people about their supply chain positions, then you may already have some specific companies in mind. If so, go to their websites and look for links about jobs, positions, careers, etc. Many large and some smaller companies will have pages that focus on why they are a great place to work and the kinds of positions that are open. Few will be for entry-level or early career, but they will give you a better feel for supply chain jobs at their company. You may find that there is a position open that meets your qualifications.
LinkedIn. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account and profile page, do it, simple as that. But what this section emphasizes is performing a LinkedIn search on the position keywords that you have developed. Many people will pop up who either currently have a position of interest or have held one in their past. You will quickly learn that there are many paths throughout supply chain that don’t always start the way you would think. Supply chain VPs and Directors have often come from many other backgrounds, so it is interesting for you to look at their career progressions.
Job boards. There are many general interest job boards in the industry, covering every type of position, whether inside or outside of supply chain. Note that when we talked about LinkedIn above, your search for position keywords will result in many job listings on LinkedIn. Other general-purpose job boards such as Indeed or ZipRecruiter can be helpful to your search. If you prepared correctly, then you are armed with a great set of keywords related to job titles and tasks. You may need to also use keywords that are related to your experience level, such as “entry-level”, “early-career”, or “recent graduate”. Make sure you use the supply chain careers job board as well that is focused solely on supply chain.
Managing Your Search Plan
Now that you have a good list of resources to pursue, you need to manage the process carefully. Establish a plan of action daily, weekly, and monthly, such as how many of each kind of resource are you going to search. If you don’t break it down into actionable, bite-size pieces, the whole search process tends to look far more intimidating.
Job search tracking template. Create a way to track target companies, position types, and specific job position listings within a spreadsheet, with tabs that help you keep track of what you need to do, what you have done, and the results. Use a task tool to take what you need to do and turn those tasks into automatic reminders and calendar items that keep you on track. It is a good habit to take into your career. You can do all this on a piece of paper as well, but paper doesn’t tend to be as good at inspiring you or bugging you to get things done.
Company list. Managing the list of companies you have researched and added to your list of interests is very important. Note the status of whether they had a resume upload capability and whether they had an automatic notification system for when new positions of interest appear. At this point in your early supply chain career, there are so many companies that you don’t know about, so it is difficult to have too many, but make sure you consistently review your list for those that are more promising, sometimes weeding out the ones you thought were ok in favor of newer ones you have discovered that are more promising.
Network list. Keep track of all the contacts you have utilized. Which career services person told you about what kinds of opportunities. What friends or family? What faculty members? What alumni have you had the opportunity to speak with? Did you follow up? Did you thank them? This is all incredibly important to maintaining a strong functioning network. It is all connected and often results in opportunities because you have a greater chance of being top of mind when your network hears about a possible opportunity. Make a point to reconnect periodically (think in terms of weeks or months, not days).
Opportunities list. Of course, the list of actual open positions is incredibly important as you find them, so have a separate list of these opportunities, when you applied, when they close, contact people or offices, etc. Review this list carefully and keep building it and trimming it as necessary. Was it an online application? What cover letter did you use? What feedback did they provide? What timing did they specify for getting back to you? This tracking process will help you stay organized and prepared for when they contact you so you’ll know everything about the position and your communications when it is time to talk further. Keep track of the communications you have, including any preliminary calls, phone interviews, etc. It is an incredibly important scorecard that helps you better evaluate all the opportunities in progress.
Adjusting your strategy. Like a professional sports team, pursuing a strategy that isn’t winning doesn’t make sense. Occasionally they need new plays or techniques or players. Set aside time to evaluate your strategy and talk about it with fellow students and your advisor. If you have established an alumni contact that has taken you through mock interviews or has just been a good advisor to you so far, then review your progress and strategy for reassessment. Also, talk with your career services professional at your school.
We wish you the best of luck pursuing your supply chain student job search!