shipping & logistics career advice

How to climb the career ladder in logistics

At SDW we we have many clients, some of whom I am also lucky enough to be able to call friends, who have started out as import / export trainees and are now senior managers, directors and CEOs – some of whom are with big global companies, others have started their own business, some of them we placed early on in their career 17 years ago!

So, what is the secret of getting ahead in the freight industry?

It all depends which direction you wish to go. But for now, let’s assume you wish to stay within the same sector & ideally with the same company you are currently working for.

I see this regularly – you are great at what you do, but don’t see a clear path for getting promoted to bigger and better things.

This is a challenge many employees face within the shipping & logistics sector. Most people respond to this challenge by moving to another company, maybe for a little more money, but in most cases for a similar role, with similar, or should I say lack of career progression opportunities.

So, what’s the answer?

The bottom line is that you need to take the situation into your own hands. In most cases, this means sitting down with your manager and have the big “Where is this relationship heading?” conversation.

So, my tips would be:

Own it – it’s your career. There is no one more invested in your future than you. Waiting for your manager or a director to promote you, is not a strategy & in most cases will never happen. Basically, as the saying goes – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Prep – Think about your performance, your accomplishments, where you add most value, where you’ve gone above & beyond. The skills that will help you thrive in a new role with more responsibility. You know the kind of stuff.

Ask for a meeting – Once you’ve done your prep & have documented it, send your manager an email and ask if you can have a 20-minute meeting with them, anytime that works for them. If you don’t get a response or are fobbed off, keep asking.

The meeting – Look at the situation through the view of your manager & kick off with something similar to… I really like my job & working here, but feel it is now time to start looking at advancing my career. I’d really like to do that with this company and I was wondering how I can go about this and what the next steps would be?

Get your notes out and reiterate your enthusiasm about working for your current employer & go through your notes one by one.

What happens next should give you an idea of how aligned your boss is with you in advancing your career.

Tell your Manager where you would like to see yourself if 1, 3- or 5-years’ time. Do you want to manage people, work with more key accounts, oversee Customs compliance for the company etc… Show how these things can help the company, their customers experience and ideally profitability.

The ball is then in their court.

At this point you will know if your manager is onside and, in most cases, they won’t have the answers there and then and may need to go more senior or discuss with HR.

Give them enough time to come back to you. Say 2 weeks, if you’ve not heard after 2 weeks, ask for another meeting.

Has it been swept under the carpet? Is it an out and out no, sorry. Or is a progression plan going to be put in place to help you get to where you want to be?

If it’s a no, don’t panic or make any drastic decisions. It will be clear to your manager that you may start to look for new opportunities to progress outside the organisation. You will have price of mind knowing that you have addressed it & have done everything you could to give your employer the opportunity to keep you, so it won’t come as as a shock on the day you tender your notice, and will actually make the conversation a lot easier.

Now you need to take your time and find the right opportunity to help you take your career to the next level & beyond. You can of course look for new opportunities yourself, or use a recruiter who has a good reputation within the sector and will have your best interests at heart in all what they do.

If you chose to partner with an agency, make sure you are not just seen as a pound sign or a commission cheque. Choose a recruiter who will get to know you, your career to-date and where you want your career to go. Someone like SDW. There needs to be trust.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of your career, without obligation to sign up to SDW and in complete confidence, don’t hesitate to contact myself or one of the team on 023 8033 6633, or email or even pop in for a coffee.

All the best

Steve Wyeth

Founder & Director