by Teresa Whitacre
A Supply chain is a system of organizations, people, activities, information and resources involved in moving a product or service from a supplier to a customer. Whether you are just starting out in the field or a seasoned veteran, it’s important to consider the value of your supply chain.
Think about a supply chain in terms of a career: The "supplier" is you, and the "customer" is the employer or client you are pursuing. How you manage your supply chain directly correlates with your career success. Consider the five systemic elements in managing your supply chain.
Organizations. Create a target list of organizations where you would like to work. Perhaps this list is based on geography, industry, your interests or availability of work at these organizations. The targeted organizations are key to your supply chain, and without interested or available organizations, there is a missing link in the chain.
People. At your target organizations, who do you know? Does anyone in your professional or personal network know what you can offer the customer? The old adage, "It’s who you know," often holds true. The supply chain becomes weak without the right people in the right places, so prove that you are needed. Even in this age of robots and automation, there still is a necessity for people to be involved in some way, shape or form.
Activities. Do you submit résumés and service quotes to the internet black hole? Do you answer advertisements and just hope for a response? Make cold calls and get nowhere? Take a positive, proactive approach to strengthen these activities. Go to job fairs or local networking events and meet potential customers. Write a blog and market your services. Meet people from your target organizations for coffee and interview them for a blog or article. The more activity that occurs in this phase, the greater the chance for success.
Information. Gather information about your customers’ likes, dislikes and wants. This will help you reach your goal, so it is important to conduct a lot of research. Ask yourself: "What must I know to do this work? Who is my audience? What needs does the target organization have? How can I fill those needs?" Use this information to show customers that you can fill their needs. Every organization has pain points, so use the appropriate information to determine where these points are and demonstrate how you can alleviate the pain.
Resources. Consider what resources you need to sell to the customer. Perhaps you need time to prepare presentation materials such as résumés or marketing brochures. Do you have the ability and funding to travel to meet a customer? Do you have the necessary technology for online Skype meetings or webinars? Determine the appropriate attire for meeting with customers. Do you need personal protective equipment or a business suit? It can be surprising the amount of resources—minimal to extensive—that are needed to satisfy the supply chain.
Regardless of your title, field or professional level, understanding the importance of supply chain management for your career is crucial. The stronger the supply chain—the relationship between you as the supplier and the employer as the customer—the more successful you will be.
Teresa Whitacre is a quality engineer and principal at Marketech Systems in Pittsburgh. She has an MBA from California University Foreign Credential Evaluation in Los Angeles. She is an ASQ-certified quality auditor, engineer, Six Sigma Green Belt and manager of quality/organizational excellence. An ASQ fellow, Whitacre is an instructor for ASQ’s Pittsburgh Section’s certified quality inspector refresher course and is deputy regional director for ASQ Region 8.