It’s All About Competencies

Michael J. Mikitka, CAE, CMP
Executive Director

It used to be that attending a trade show in the logistics industry meant that, for a few days, you were going to see a fairly non-diverse group. But if you’ve been to a WERC conference or other trade event lately, you’ve found that that is no longer true.

The attendance at these industry events, of course, is a reflection of the logistics industry as a whole. The industry is becoming more diverse—by gender, race, ethnicity and age.

The Common Denominator
This diversity, of course, provides challenges as well as opportunities. No one is going to make it in the industry if he, or she, doesn’t have the competencies needed for the job.

A WERC study (Using Competencies in the Warehouse, 2001) outlined the basic, adaptive and master skills and knowledge needed in distribution jobs. From arriving every day on time and ready to work to knowledge of process, customers and company, those who succeed in distribution are highly competent. Often they have worked their way up in a company and know distribution, warehousing, transportation, technology, customer service, etc. We are not just box-kickers and label-stickers any more.

The 2008 “Career Patterns for Women in Logistics” study published by CSCMP reaffirms the need for competencies.  Survey respondents identified several attributes as contributing to their success. Dedication, hard work and determination topped the list, and strong interpersonal skills, understanding the big picture, leadership skills, good communication and analytical ability also ranked high.

These are the same competencies required of anyone who wants to make a successful career in logistics.

Getting Started
Many simply aren’t aware of the career opportunities in the distribution field. Think of how you found out about the industry—by accident, right? We all need to do a better job of telling others about the variety of jobs in distribution—and the fact that you can make a satisfying career with the opportunities.

Now, it’s true that a growing number of supply chain and logistics degrees are being offered across the country. This is good news as it raises the visibility of the profession, enhances its professionalism and offers employers eager new recruits—especially for management positions. This is not to say that those who are rising through the ranks have no opportunities—it does, however, raise the ante.

Social Networking
I’m not sure anyone knew this term a few years ago, but now it’s all the rage. An obvious source of social networking is joining an association. And recent research indicates people who belong to a professional association like WERC or The Logistics Institute tend have more successful careers. It’s easy to see the reasoning behind that trend: you have a connection with others in the field, and where better to talk about solutions and garner ideas? So join your association! And don’t ignore the various networks that are springing up on LinkedIn and other websites. At the very least, check them out to see if they are useful for you.

For women who want a focused group, there are grassroots organizations aimed at attracting and supporting women in the industry. Canadian-based Women in Logistics (WIL) is one such community of interest. WIL’s mission is to attract and support women in the development of a career in the supply chain/logistics sector. In 2006, The Logistics Institute of Canada created a task force to explore options and create awareness of the contributions of women in the Canadian supply chain logistics profession. In 2008, the volunteer task force evolved into a national executive team that has developed a strategic plan and roadmap to take WIL to the next level.

Use a Variety of Methods
It is important not to limit yourself. You never know when you’re going to make that great connection or find the answer to your thorniest problem. And remember too all that you have to offer to others. You may have the perfect answer to someone else’s problem, and they’re just waiting for you to connect with them. Distribution is a community—a welcoming, sharing, friendly community that is open to all who have the required competencies.

The takeaway is that there’s more change to come in supply chain and logistics from the diversity perspective, and that this diversity is good for business and for all of us.

 

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