4 Operator Role Pitfalls for International Students

After acquiring knowledge about operations, most of you likely have a basic understanding of the type of operator role you'd like to pursue, based on your major, strengths, and preferences. However, in this chapter, we'll discuss the four significant pitfalls when pursuing operator roles that international students might encounter during their job search process, offering some guidance.

However, in this blog post, we will discuss four common pitfalls when pursuing operator roles that international student face during the process of job hunting for operator positions, aiming to provide some insights for international students and returnees currently seeking employment.

Pitfall 1: Extremely Specialized Roles

being in the company full of people

For students who are about to graduate or have just graduated, a common dilemma when job hunting is whether to start as a small cog in a large corporation or to join a smaller company that is rapidly growing. 

For recent international graduates, it's essential to start with a well-known large company. This path allows you to learn a more comprehensive framework for operations and establish your own operating system from scratch. 

Additionally, large companies usually have more structured systems and practices, which facilitate understanding industry rules and cultivating good workplace habits for international students. However, job seekers should be cautious not to stay too long in roles that are overly specialized or like a simple cog just for the sake of being in a large company.

Suppose you have some experience and a certain level of competence in a specific area of operations. In that case, you need a bigger stage to showcase your abilities and take on more critical projects. 

If you still insist on pursuing a big company at this stage and accept a role that limits your creativity with many rules and regulations, you might hinder your personal development, slowing down your accumulation of operational experience. An operator who is only capable of repetitive, low-value tasks may eventually become obsolete. 

Therefore, for international students aspiring to enter the field of operations, it's essential to have a clear understanding of your career stage. Avoid excessive pursuit of a company's reputation or accepting a role that involves repetitive, low-value tasks, as it could hinder your personal growth.

Pitfall 2: Lack of Mentorship

employee not getting scolded by her manager

For many newcomers who are just starting their careers (with less than 1 year of work experience), if they join a company that doesn't emphasize operations and is involved in an entirely new business, there is a high likelihood of them facing pitfalls when pursuing operator roles. 

The most crucial thing for international student newcomers in the field of operations is to have a specific operational task they can work on, allowing them to gradually build and accumulate their operational system by performing this task. 

However, during this phase, it is still necessary to have someone guide and help you determine the direction, rather than blindly experimenting. International students often find it challenging to discern whether the company values operational work in the roles they apply for. 

A slight oversight in job content can result in purely physical labor, leading to hard work without significant progress. Moreover, the KPI pressure within the company may leave a newcomer to operational roles bewildered, sometimes forcing them to make shortsighted decisions that do not foster the development of the right operational mindset.

Therefore, if you are a newcomer, make sure to avoid situations where no one is there to guide you. Some companies offer complete training systems and provide mentorship with gradual task assignments. However, if you continue to repeat low-efficiency work, your operational career is likely to stagnate.

Pitfall 3: Be Cautious of Excessive Changes

working on a new project

When you enter a new company, especially a small company or a new project, you may find that many things are just starting. Working on a project from 0 to 1 is a great learning opportunity for operators. 

Many operators who have been involved in projects starting from scratch are highly sought after in the job market. However, a newly launched project often signifies instability. You may frequently encounter situations where the direction of the project changes slightly every three days and significantly every five days. 

Prolonged indecision in operational direction can lead job seekers to feel disconnected from their work. Also, without completing an entire operational process from planning to implementation, operators cannot verify if their operational approach is correct. 

More than frequent changes in operational direction, it is extremely challenging to learn valuable operational knowledge and make a meaningful contribution when the product itself has not found its footing or the management team frequently shifts direction. This significantly increases the likelihood of going into pitfalls when pursuing operator roles.

Pitfall 4: Flourishing in Companies that Don't Value Operations

manager tearing the employee’s report

As the saying goes “The Strongest Steel Needs to Go Through the Hottest Fire.” This is a simple truth. If you already have a comprehensive knowledge base and skills in operations and can handle projects independently, it's time to play a more critical role in the company and expedite your career development. 

However, at this stage, one should be cautious about whether the company's business allows you to utilize your operational skills effectively.

In Summary

The four pitfalls when pursuing operator roles mentioned above are common issues that international students may encounter at various stages during their job search. Therefore, international students seeking operational roles should have a clear understanding of their abilities, the nature of their work, and the nature of the company's products. By considering various factors, they can choose the right operational role that best aligns with their career goals and embark on a successful career path in operations.