Jobber Nation reached out to Bradley Cochrane, chair of the AIA of Canada’s Young Executive Society and Manager of Sales Operations, NAPA Auto Parts in Cambridge, Ont., to get his take on what aspiring aftermarket professionals should focus on at the outset of their aftermarket careers.
Brad, what five things should a young professional entering the aftermarket be sure to do in their first five years?
1. First off, it’s important to develop a solid understanding of our industry. This includes learning how our supply chain works, from the manufacturing process to when products are installed on customers vehicles and the after sales service. It’s also important to understand how the aftermarket relates to the automotive industry as a whole, and how emerging vehicle technologies will affect our business. In addition, developing an understanding of the companies in the aftermarket, including the newer players, will assist in defining the landscape of our industry. Understanding these basics will help a young professional gain confidence, and will also enable them to provide more valuable insight on what processes and practices can be improved upon or enhanced.
2. Be curious and ask lots of questions. It’s very important to be willing to learn and expand your knowledge. The more you know the more valuable you’ll become. Find a good mentor (or mentors). I’ve been very fortunate to have several mentors over the years that have guided me along the way, and we’ve developed strong friendships. These people will not only “show you the ropes,” but you’ll look to them for advice and support as you progress in your career.
3. Attend industry events and network. If you don’t get invited, find an event that you’d like to attend and ask if you can participate. These events will expose you to new ideas and ways of thinking, and they are an excellent opportunity to meet your peers and leaders within the industry. Do some networking at every given opportunity, and try to meet as many new people as possible. You’ll be surprised how often your paths cross down the road.
4. Pick a company not a job. I’ve met a lot of young people who are seeking ways to accelerate their career advancement. Often, they’re set on finding a role with a particular title or pay and are willing to work for just about anybody that provides this to them. From what I’ve seen, this rarely works out and these people often find themselves changing roles and companies frequently. Instead, I’d recommend finding a company that interests you and that you share a vision with, and work towards growing your career with that company. With the right attitude and work ethic good things will come your way.
5. Set goals for yourself, both personally and professionally. Having a clear understanding of who you want to be, what it is you want to do, and what you believe you’re capable of doing will help you achieve your goals. Don’t hesitate to take on a new challenge – you don’t know what you’re truly capable of until you do it. Be prepared to take action when opportunities arises, and as you accomplish goals be sure to set new ones to work towards. This will help keep you motivated, and you’ll find great satisfaction as you achieve the goals that you’ve set for yourself.
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