Can You Zig-Zag Your Way To the Top?

A recent article over on the ISM site on Moving Lateral to Move Up provides good food for thought on how to advance your Supply Management career and make your way to the C-suite. Taking into consideration that succeeding as a supply management professional means understanding how the complete supply chain works and how the systems all work together and that it is crucial to develop expertise and experience in purchasing, operations, logistics, material resource planning (MRP) applications, cost reduction, logistics and trade compliance if you want to work your way into the C-suite, the article suggests that one way to do this is to make a lateral move.

Specifically, it says that moving from director of procurement to director of planning may be a lateral move at the moment but will provide longer-term potential. Using the same logic, moving from director of planning to director of logistics and then from director of logistics to director of trade compliance will be a great boost to your supply management career and it won’t be long before you’re in the corner office. Right? Maybe. Maybe not. If you jump around from one director position to the other, you might find that you are pegged as a career middle manager (and the first on the list to board the B-Ark) because, if you had more potential, why didn’t you become a senior director or junior vice president. Experience, like education and knowledge, counts but so does career progression.

Now, if you moved from director of procurement to director of planning for a one year term to cover someone’s parental leave upon the request of a senior manager, as pointed out in the article, and then moved to a senior director of logistics, that would be a good thing. Management would see that you’re a team player, as you took over a role that needed to be filled, someone looking to expand their horizons, as you had three different roles, and, most importantly, someone who can progress up the corporate ladder.

But the article makes one good point, before you make a lateral move, you need to determine if it is the right one. So how do you do that? The advice the article gives can be condensed into the following check-list:

  • does it fit in with your long-term career goals,
  • are the skills and experienced valued by the organization(s) where you want to work,
  • has a senior leader in the company asked you to consider the role,
  • does the opportunity energize you, and
  • will you learn new skills.

And it’s definitely where you start, but don’t forget to ask

  • is it really the best option I have now,
  • have I been at the same level too long, and
  • what is my exit strategy?

the doctor believes that it is possible to quickly zig-zag your way up the corporate ladder, but only if you are really serious and smart about it. Not all lateral opportunities will be right, and staying at the same level too long could be used against you. It’s a balancing act, so be sure to take out the scales.