Career opportunities in supply chain are practically limitless. To avoid career stagnation and advance with your evolving interests and desires, take a proactive approach.

1. Be courageous and make bold moves. Wayne Gretzsky said, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take." This applies to the supply chain workplace as well as the hockey rink. Be bold and make moves that lead you closer to your goals. Share ideas and push back (respectfully) if you feel your voice isn't being heard.

2. Just say yes. When a chance for change or new experience emerges, respond in the affirmative when possible. Whether it's a lateral move or a significant promotion, consider what you can gain by saying yes. If your company asks you, it's probably because there is a business need, and they see something in you that they want to nurture.

3. Stretch beyond your comfort zone. Reaching your true potential requires putting yourself out there, even when you fear failure. Assess what parts of your job make you uncomfortable and seek additional opportunities in these areas. Supply chain leaders are pros at being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

4. Volunteer for projects. Don't sit around and wait to be asked. Raise your hand and volunteer, even if you weren't initially asked to be on the project team. If you're exploring other roles in the supply chain, keep your ear to the ground to understand what's going on in your company and stay on top of potential volunteer opportunities.

5. Find a mentor. Start by defining your career goals and identifying the qualities and attributes you want your colleagues to see in you. Is there someone in your network who matches this desired career path and professional style? Reach out, tell them why you admire them, and ask for guidance. Most people will be flattered and willing to help. Human resources and mentorship programs are also great resources.

6. Study connections between functions. With many moving parts in the supply chain, it can be easy to develop a narrow focus. Look across functions and understand how each connects. Make lateral moves when you can, especially early in your career. A macro view gives you the foundation to become a great leader.

7. Look where the ball is going, not where it is today. In the rapidly evolving supply chain, advancement-minded individuals understand trends and prepare for the future. The pandemic exposed weaknesses that opened new opportunities in growing areas such as software and automation. Look at the changes experts are predicting, and prepare yourself.

8. Make your career interests known. Your career aspirations may be very different than what your co-workers and superiors assume. Talk about goals in a positive and appropriate way. Attend conferences and webinars that focus on your supply chain interest areas. Use these experiences as a springboard to start a conversation about your ambitions.

9. Listen to feedback. Criticism may not be pleasant to hear, but it gives you the insight necessary to adjust, improve, and grow. Instead of making excuses, really listen. Ask clarifying questions to better understand your perceived weak spots. Then sit down and make an actionable plan to strengthen your performance based on the feedback.

10. Train like an athlete whose work extends far beyond the field, court, or rink. It often involves unexpected training designed to expand core competencies. A notable example: football players taking ballet lessons. Think outside the box when growing your skills for your future supply chain career. Also, professional athletes know they need to work harder than anyone else. The same goes for you. As Theodore Roosevelt said, "Nothing worth having comes easy." If you want it, you have to work for it.

SOURCE: Khara Julien, Chief People Officer, Transportation Insight

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