Behind every great company is an efficient operations team. From Jaguar Land Rover to Innocent Drinks, operations lies at the core of ensuring their continued success.
The goal of a successful operations and supply chain team is to monitor supply chains and evaluate purchasing strategies in order to help the company to become more efficient in an increasingly competitive global market.
A career in operations is not only about moving commodities. You'll be involved in strategy and planning and will work closely with other departments such as IT, HR and Finance, making sure that things tick over successfully across the whole organisation.
Supply chain is almost always an inherently international role as you could find yourself sourcing Chinese-made electronics, transporting them on Brazilian shipping to a Polish lorry convoy, for it to end up in a Parisian boutique.
Operations also has the ability to throw up some intriguing specialisations. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) often falls under this category so operations could be the department that drives through the use of Fairtrade products, sustainable natural resources, and factories with ethical labour practices.
What type of graduate would be best suited to it?
If you want to work in operations, you need a good number of skills in your talented armoury.
1. The big picture - can you see it? This is crucial for graduates to excel in operations. Maybe you have organised a conference, or completed a large research project whilst at university - have a think about where you've done this and the skills you brought to the success of the project.
2. A people person. You'll need to love building relationships, often across cultures and indeed continents. Operations requires a rounded skill-set.
3. Analytical and detailed-orientated. These are essential skills that you'll need to master because in operations you'll have to implement them at a very fast pace. As the demands of the consumer changes and technology advances further, the role of operations and supply chain will have to adapt accordingly. You'll have to be at the forefront of changes - or ahead of them if you can!
Most top employers look for graduates to have or be predicted at least a 2.1 at undergraduate level. You do not need to have studied supply chain management or logistics at university, however some employers might look on that favourably, depending on the role and the company.
If you are someone who wants to work in the global marketplace, likes the idea of the opportunity to work abroad one day, then this could be an exceedingly good career path for you.
Do not let that put you off as you'll be able to find transferable skills regardless of the degree subject. For example, numerate degrees such as Mathematics or Statistics provide great experience of data analysis, and an Engineering graduate is uniquely placed to understand many of the mechanisms that underlie supply chains. A humanities graduate has the ability to think through problems logically and articulate them to a wider audience.
If you have never considered operations before, but it sounds like it could be the route for you, we advise you take a deeper look.
If you had dismissed working in this sector because you thought the only possible routes were in design or marketing, think again. Operations is perfect for someone who prefers strategising and making plans to talking to customers directly.
It's also worth remembering that many successful CEOs and COOs come from an operations background - in part because it is in this role that you can learn so much about how the company and the industry as a whole works.
And that's why an operations/supply-chain career attracts some of the best minds in retail.