Why gaining Supply Chain experience enhances your opportunity for a better career (duh!).

I read a comment recently over at reddit (here) on whether you can damage your Supply Chain career if you start at the bottom of the ladder (in this case working in the warehouse).

In answer to the question one of the responders said something rather interesting – “No, and it may in fact hurt you. Once you’ve got your foot in the door and are listed as a bottom rung employee, that’s how they will see you.”

I think this poses an interesting question and one, which many of you who are looking for an entrance into working in supply chain may have thought about.

For me I think that the key thing you can do to help your supply chain career prospects are three fold, for me they are:

1/ Gain experience of Supply Chain processes & systems
2/ Get experience of working in a team
3/ Learn transferable skills

I know, obvious isn’t it!

While it’s true it can appear daunting when you start at the bottom of the ladder it doesn’t have to be career limiting.

The key to career building is to think strategically.

Where do you want to go and how are you going to get there.

Do Intern opportunities work?

Intern opportunities, which typically offer a short period of unpaid work, can provide a good stepping-stone.

While it’s true most don’t lead directly to permanent employment they do provide an opportunity to get some experience.

Interns usually have a low level of technical skill so they are typically given lower level admin or data entry roles so there is a risk you may not get exactly the sort of experience you’re looking for but the important thing is when you’re in an intern role you have to look at it from the perspective that’s its giving your CV attributes that you can use to sell yourself later.

Some of you might be questioning whether this provides greater opportunity than looking to get a an entry level job or a recognized supply chain qualification and then enter the job market and my answer to that is it depends on your plan.

While Internships rarely lead to full time jobs, they can provide opportunity which while yes, vary from company to company but providing you deliver against the tasks you’re given and you look to maximize your opportunities at learning while you’re there, then they can provide great value.

Start at the bottom

The other option is to opt to start at the bottom and take a bottom of the ladder role. This might be stores work or a junior buyer level function.

It’s important to think about what sort of career growth entry level roles will offer, the last thing that you want to do is enter as a low-level and then stay there for a prolonged period of time. And it would be dangerous to opt for a role in a related department which may not offer you the right path. For example if you want your career in procurement but opt for a stores job this may not provide the future you want.

However providing you understand the promotion prospects (and requirements to advance) then you do stand to “Earn while you learn”.

Entry level roles can provide a foot in the door and exposure to things like working in teams and some low level processes – the benefit is that they typically have a “low cost of entry” i.e. minimal qualifications experience in exchange for usually low wages. But be careful that you don’t pigeon hole yourself. Consider the company that you’re looking to join – how will it help you?

Gaining experience in whatever fashion is always preferable to not having anything, but there is of course a danger that once you’ve got your foot in the door you might be seen as a bottom rung member of staff for a prolonged period of time so do tread carefully.

There are variety of options to gain advancement once you have got your foot in the door for example you may choose to sit exams in supply chain management and study at home in the evening, once again – make sure you have a path laid out and no how the qualification will contribute.

Its all about the company

Ultimately the company you join will have a lot of influence over your career path. Different companies will offer different things for example some may offer exposure to systems and processes while others may use you purely to process data. Smaller organizations might offer greater levels of responsibility (purely down to the smaller number of staff involved in supply chain management.) while larger firms (once your in) may offer most opportunities for career advancement.


Clearly when starting out you need to understand and set appropriate objectives. What are you trying to achieve and what’s your best route to do so? Remember when you’re starting out whilst the choices might seem daunting your career path is still not set and you have plenty of flexibility to change and adapt in the future.

Starting out your career in supply chain Checklist

• Have a plan – where do you want to get to and how will you get there
• Don’t be afraid to take intern roles as long as they provide relevant experience
• Look to get exposure to processes and systems
• Look to gain experience in key easy to transfer generic skills like problem solving
• Entry level roles can provide a foot in the door but be careful that you don’t pigeon hole yourself
• Consider the company that you’re looking to join – how will it help you?
• Consider how home study qualifications might bolster career chances
• Be realistic about your first few jobs don’t expect to be CEO from day one

Have some thoughts about starting out in supply chain? We’d love your feedback in the comments section below.


One Response to “Starting a career in Supply Chain – Intern or entry level job?”

  1. Supply Chain Intern checklist and Q&A : supplychain-mechanic.com on July 18th, 2017 11:56 am

    […] we discussed on our recent post on Supply Chain internships, they can offer a great route in starting out your supply chain career, providing an opportunity to […]

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