I never expected my first supply chain analyst job out of college to be a dream job. There were some good things and some bad things about the supply chain culture. On the whole, it was a solid first job for any young professional. But looking back, I wish someone had told me to take a hard look a couple of factors before I took the plunge.
Here are the things I wish I’d considered before taking my first job as an analyst.
1. Company Culture (aka: How Do They Feel About Polka Dots? )
At my first company, the people I worked with were great. But, the culture of the company left much to be desired. Daily attire was standard suit and tie- even when a client’s VP of Finance was in jeans. Your sock color couldn’t be considered a distraction (i.e. my polka dot socks should not be worn.) There was a list of prohibited words, such as the term “bullet points,” and the weekly “fire drill” analysis on Friday afternoons came to be a reliable event. The world I stepped into was so buttoned up and nearly everyone physically appeared stressed all the time. While I eventually adapted to fit the company’s culture, I realized it was not what I wanted long term.
How to Get Around This: Ask around. See if you can take a potential teammate out for drinks and get the real scoop on the company before you accept an offer. After a martini or three, you’ll get a pretty good sense of what the company culture is actually like.
2. Location: Where Will You Really Be Working?
At my first job, the listing claimed it was at a “Chicago office.” At first glance, I thought I would ride the train to the city, walk to a bar for happy hour, and meet friends for a movie in Millennium park after work. Turns out it was actually a Chicagoland office. Instead of living the city life, I was driving an hour to the office, skipping happy hour to beat traffic, and only catching half of “Ferris Bueller” in the park. When leaving college I didn’t realize how important an office’s location was to maintaining a work-life balance, but the grueling bumper-to-bumper traffic quickly taught me.
How to Get Around This: Do your homework. Figure out where the office is in relation to where you want to be and see how long it takes to commute during rush hour. If you’re not familiar with the area, find someone who lives there and can give you some insight.
3. Stimulating Work: Will You Be Challenged or Bored?
Every morning started out the same: I got to my desk, booted up my computer, grabbed some coffee, and started a series of Macros to send reports.Then check the calendar to see what reporting needed to be done that day. This reporting calendar dictated my workload and controlled much of my time at my first employer. As an analyst supporting multiple teams, I would sometimes get additional side projects, but after a year of this I rarely learned anything new from my work. I was itching to be intellectually challenged again and to build my analytical skillset. Frankly, I became bored.
How to Get Around This: Ask what kind of projects your potential team and boss get to work on. Find out: Do they face challenges on a regular basis? Chances are if your new team doesn’t get too many new challenges, you could quickly become bored by this job.
4. Career Path
I worked for a large supply chain organization of over 500 employees, so the promise of a career path forward within the company made sense. I was originally told there was an advanced analytics team being built, but I quickly learned this was not a realistic career path, as this team never grew. The remainder of the realistic analytical career path at the company was one more promotion from my role, doing the same work but with a different title. When you’re already bored with what you do, this doesn’t sound too appealing. I discovered that the career path I strove for was not within the company.
How to Get Around This: This one is not always easy to figure out in advance. Prospective employees can say all the right things about promising career trajectories to prospective employees. But, these promises don’t always come to fruition. If and when that happens, get ready to express your concerns to your manager. This way, you can move forward in a way that’s best for you. And if you’ve put in enough time to learn everything you can from the company, it’s ok to move on and find another one that can offer you the stepping stones to the career path you’re looking for.
Since moving to a smaller and growing company, these four issues are no longer a problem. I can wear my polka dot socks without an issue. I get to ride the train to work and walk to drinks for happy hour. But most importantly, I am learning something new every day. These are the skills that will open doors for potential career paths in the future.
Hopefully you can take a few things from my experience and find the job that’s the right for you; one that will allow you to maximize your own skillset!