Is the transportation/logistics industry worth getting into?
June 30, 2013 7:21 PM   Subscribe

I fell into an entry-level transportation/logistics job. Is it worth following as a career?

The company I am with isn't really a good fit, but perhaps they don't represent the entire industry. My background is totally unrelated, so the only impression I have gathered about working in logistics is through this (negative) experience. I'm about ready to jump ship, but am wondering if I could use this job as a springboard. I don't want to make an investment in something I will hate, though.

What are the pros and cons of working in logistics? Any misconceptions?

I did the follow your passion thing. I want to start a new career even if it isn't isn't 'sexy'. I'm actively applying to a different industry, but am considering my options and this happens to be one of them.
posted by mannermode to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a logistics person, but I work with a lot of them because my industry involves getting very large things into difficult places at exactly the right time. The logistics folks always are on the lookout for newer/faster/cheaper/more efficient ways of moving their stuff around, partly because failing to keep up means losing business fast. Even at the mundane end, if you're moving high volume product, saving 0.001ยข/unit could make you an industry star. At the large end, there are specialists who will take a go at anything: move a building, or a giant piece of industrial equipment, or an airport traffic control system across town while it was still running. (I believe the last one was required for the Hong Kong airport move a couple of decades back.)

There's the location tech and inventory tech, which allow clients to know exactly where each pallet is in the world in real time. All of these move quickly. It's not seen as a cool industry, but it's got lots of niche challenges. You might well find one that speaks to you.
posted by scruss at 8:13 PM on June 30, 2013

I have a friend who is a logistican with Doctors without Borders. He gets flown around the world into hotspots and does work that benefits tens of thousands of people such as organising latrines in emergency refugee camps, or getting the equipment for medical surgeries, or arranging food supplies. Sometimes he's doing a bit of each on the same day.

Logistics doesn 't suit everyone, but if problem solving and being a vital cog in a set-up is your thing, it could be a great career with many options.
posted by Kerasia at 8:18 PM on June 30, 2013

I worked in logistics for a short while, and I also use a lot of logistics services. The reasons I personally wouldn't want to be in that industry are:

1. It's a commodity business. There are a limited number of ways to differentiate how you move a package from point A to B vs. the competition (of which there is a lot since barriers to entry are generally not high). So from a sales and marketing perspective, I don't think it's a fun business to be in.

2. It's a business that is generally not on the leading edge of technology. Sure, FedEx and UPS use a lot of amazing technology, but thousands of trucking companies and freight forwarders do not.

3. I'm not sure it's a business that is highly conducive to "striking out on your own" if someday, after you have learned the business well, you want to start your own business.

4. It's a pretty boring and uninteresting business.
posted by Dansaman at 9:33 PM on June 30, 2013

No. No no no no no. NO.

10 years in logistics here, on the shipping side. Look around you; pretty much everyone is young, right? Shipping is not an industry most people retire from (unless you're and ILWU member). Almost everyone you meet will tell you that they are just doing this until they can go back to school, or whatever it is they are waiting to do.

Are you educated? Most of the people in the industry are not. I am not being a snob, your co-workers are likely great people, but working in an environment where everyone has the same level of education you do is very satisfying, and helps you brainstorm and move forward in your career.

Do you have hopes of ever making a salary where you are not living paycheck-to-paycheck? You won't get that in shipping. Forget about a retirement plan (even if they offer a 401k for instance, saving 3 or 5% of 24K is a damn sight different than if you are twice or more of that salary).

It amounts to not very much of a step above retail. I know now that I wasted those 10 years right after college. Yes, I met great people and yes I gained some business skills, but when I finally wised up and got out, I was so far behind in terms of even more useful skills, and salary history. And now, 15 years later, my career choices and salary options are still affected.

The truth is, the most valuable person in any organization is the one who brings in the money. Everyone after that is a warm body. Go into sales if you want to make money. If you are passionate about some other kind of task in an organization, do that, at least it will be something you will be interested in.

Don't tread water in a logistics position because hey, it's a job (not for more than a few months anyway. Certainly not for more than a year). It's a deadend job.
posted by vignettist at 10:19 PM on June 30, 2013

If you are good at it, then yes. Good logistics people don't bring in money, sure, but they aren't as expendable when the money dries up either. They save the company money.

As for a career plan, what you'd do is get good at the basics, then move up to managing a department, then maybe get a project management certificate and then maybe an MBA. The skills of getting people and stuff in place at the right time as efficiently as possible is one that translates to just about any kind of business in the operations side.
posted by gjc at 7:18 AM on July 1, 2013

The pay gap between men and women in logistics is higher than in many other industries. Not an issue if you're a man, something to consider if you're a woman.
posted by winna at 11:12 AM on July 1, 2013

« Older Score!   |   Where to start with an elevated hip? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.