Do you want to be noticed for your career accomplishments? The most important factor in getting noticed is how well you do your job. These days, however, "doing your job well" doesn't just mean getting results; it also encompasses how you get them.
To advance your career, you need to create a "personal brand" that sets you apart and makes you unique. Creating a personal brand begins with maintaining a high level of job performance. It also includes marshalling the skills you already have or are learning.
Here are some practical suggestions for advancing your supply chain career and for developing the personal brand that will get you noticed:
Avoid looking for the next position on the corporate ladder before you have met or exceeded your current goals and objectives. Setting personal goals is great, but it must be coupled with the realistic approach of proving yourself at every step on the corporate ladder. You can probably come up with a list of colleagues who spent too much time looking for their next position or promotion and were not focused on doing their best in their current jobs. If their motives were obvious to you, then sooner or later others will notice if you take the same approach.
Keep in mind that the portfolio of skills, education, and personal characteristics needed for success is constantly evolving. Competition for high-level positions is more intense than ever due to mergers, acquisitions, and general economic conditions. Adding to the competitive pressure is the fact that the caliber of people entering the field has continued to improve since companies began to recognize that supply chain and logistics are important contributors to a company's short-term and long-term financial health. It should come as no surprise that at successful companies, supply chain managers have moved up in the corporate hierarchy.
Let's face the facts: We're not all going to be the vice president of supply chain. It won't be easy to become director or manager of a key functional area either, because those positions now require some skills and competencies that may not have been your responsibility in the past. At the same time, traditional areas like transportation and distribution are still important ingredients for success.
Leadership ability is a key characteristic of "promotable" individuals. When senior management looks for people to promote as part of its succession planning, it looks for those who clearly have leadership ability. The type of leader you are and your approach to getting things done through others count as blue chips when you're under consideration for advancement.
Companies seek to promote people who can demonstrate accomplishments in two areas—leadership and cross-functional competencies and skill sets. Here's a quick rundown of desirable leadership skills:
Companies also look for individuals with crossfunctional experience. Here are some areas where you should have extensive knowledge:
Practical steps for success
There are a number of steps you can take to build your reputation and enhance your "personal brand." First, of course, is to become a better leader. And, as mentioned, building and fostering good relationships across the board is critical. Life will send you plenty of enemies—there is no need to go out looking for them.
Always return calls from people who are requesting information. It's simple advice, but it's a surefire way to maintain good relations and get to know your customers better. You can also become more involved with your customers by teaming up with a salesperson for a visit.
To improve your breadth of knowledge, volunteer for projects or a task force outside of your immediate area of responsibility. And read! Read more about the industry you compete in to stay current with your competitors as well as industry news and developments. Join and participate in professional organizations.
Don't underestimate the importance of how you present yourself. Hone your presentation skills and prepare for meetings so people will leave feeling good about you. Document your accomplishments by sending reports and e-mails; management likes to be kept abreast of status.
Take performance reviews to heart, and not just reviews from your boss. Ask others whom you trust for feedback regarding your overall performance or how you handled a particular situation. And don't be afraid to ask for help—not just from your human resources department but also from people in manufacturing, marketing, finance, and other areas you work with.
Finally, be a mentor and a friend to those who have the potential and the desire to get ahead. Help the young assistant brand manager or the financial analyst make sense of what you do.
The world isn't getting any simpler, just smaller and more competitive. If you want to get ahead, you must learn to survive in a constantly changing environment where how you do something is just as important as what you do.