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Career prospects in operations and supply chain management

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Play a pivotal part in maximising organisational success by launching your graduate career in operations or supply chain management.

What is operations and supply chain management?

If you want a career that’s hands-on and gets right into the heart of a business, then you may want to consider a graduate role in operations. Being in operations is about constantly asking, ‘Why do we do things this way and how can we do it better?’ Operations aim to create efficiencies at the highest level within an organisation by analysing processes involving employees, equipment, technology or materials.

In short, it’s about helping an organisation effectively fulfil its core function, be it an online retailer, a supermarket chain, a technology startup or a bank.

Supply chains are an aspect of operations, which analyses how an organisation moves goods or services through its system, from suppliers to manufacturers to distributors to retailers and finally to customers.

If we consider a large supermarket chain, for example, we can see how an efficient supply chain is critical. A supermarket might source fruit from producers both locally and overseas. Once it has signed agreements with these suppliers, the fruit must be picked up, transported, stored in cool-rooms in distribution centres and then trucked out to local supermarkets. The process doesn’t end there though – a supermarket may ask itself if it ordered the right amount, or if it could have negotiated better with suppliers if its consumers are happy with the quality… and so on. All of this in the name of meeting customer needs and ensuring ongoing profitability. As you can see, the coordination required is immense – and we’re just talking about fruit, let alone all the other products a supermarket or retailer might sell!

Figuring out how to improve operations is critical for every business. And that’s why most organisations will have an operations team… which is a great way for graduates to get their hands dirty.

What is the graduate experience in operations and supply chain management?

The major industries employing operations graduates are transport, government, retail, insurance, healthcare, construction and mining. Organisations offering operations graduates jobs in Australia include the Australian Defence Force, Coles, Westpac, AEMO, Reece, Jetstar, the Australian Federal Police, GE, Cobham Aviation and SunRice.

Depending on the organisation, you may rotate through different parts of the operations function from quality control, supply chain, product formulation, facilities management, supplier relations to purchasing external goods.

As a graduate, you will work as part of a small team and be expected to help work through a specific problem. Working in operations means constantly challenging the status quo. You must convince people why change needs to occur. You will learn how to construct logical arguments and hone your communication skills, both written and verbal.

What are your career prospects in operations and supply chain management?

Those who begin in operations typically stay in operations. There may be opportunities in the early stages of your career to rotate into other areas of the business or to other sectors, although this becomes more challenging later on. Operations, however, is a very broad area and the scope for learning is immense. Over time, you may choose to specialise, for example, in supply chain or procurement. Being across new trends and technology that may have an impact on your operations is crucial to stay ahead of your competition – and to ensure your continued attractiveness as an employee.

Startups are always looking for operations talent, though given the nature of these organisations, you may be expected to wear many ‘operational hats’ rather than specialising in a specific area. Another option is to begin your own business, once you have the know-how to run a business from the ground up.

Choose this if you have:

  • An analytical mind and love understanding how things work.
  • Creative and strategic problem-solving skills.
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

Ready for the next step? Browse graduate programs and internships at GradAustralia.