Do you have your eye on an exciting opportunity in international category management, predictive data analytics, or do you have a passion to make sourcing more sustainable? The good news is that new job roles like these are emerging in procurement and they are waiting for you. Conventional manual processes are disappearing as we automate routine tasks, even contract management is deemed at risk: artificial intelligence and algorithms are already being used to draw up “smart” contracts.
Where are all the great jobs?
Traditionally the most desirable careers were to be found in the big multinationals that have mature procurement organizations; this still holds quite true. Some of the companies in the fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) sector are leading the way in strategic procurement. Unilever, P&G, Amazon and Coca-Cola are listed in Gartner’s Top 25 companies in supply chain. Any one of these companies may be a good place to get a foot in the door and gain solid early experience.
Procurement solutions providers and consultancies
With the development of software solutions for procurement functions such as strategic sourcing, contracting and supplier management, many companies are outsourcing some functions to technically proficient service providers. These problem solvers service a range of industries, locations and functions. Spend Matters publishes a list of the top 50 solutions providers To Know and another top 50 to Watch. This list includes some consulting firms, both big and small. Phil Ideson of the Art of Procurement says that this type of experience can be valuable if you want to go back into a corporate leadership role. He says “I am a believer that procurement is a service provider to our stakeholders and not a function. Being with a solutions provider really helps you experience the need for customer centricity.”
Not-for-profit and Public Procurement
Public sector procurement is a real job option. Don’t disregard the experience that you can get from working on big-ticket items and major projects that positively affect your region or your city. It may not seem as cool as working for Apple Inc. but it may be more rewarding. There is some perception that working for a non-profit organization means a drop in pay, not so. Love to travel? Opportunities to work abroad abound in the many divisions of the United Nations, the World Bank and the Red Cross, at market-related salaries.
Should you get certified or get a degree?
Unlike in finance and legal, there isn’t a license to practice in procurement. However, most employers prefer candidates with a least a bachelor’s degree in business or a professional certification in supply chain or procurement. Which one depends on whether your targeted employer has a preference for certification over a formal degree and what your desired end-game is.
1. Getting certified
Many of my colleagues without a professional certification have never felt that that impeded their career growth or work opportunities. However, in the early stages of a career, it may be useful especially in locations where professional certifications are held in high esteem. CIPS, CAPM, IACCM and ISM are examples of certifications and affiliations that you could follow. In the UK and in Australia the push for certification and affiliation is stronger than in some other parts of the world.
2. Educational qualifications
Formal degrees in procurement are actually quite rare but there are lots of possibilities in supply chain management (SCM), of which procurement is a key element. Leading employers source their talent from the best-ranked colleges internationally that offer supply chain advanced education and from the top UK universities with registered supply chain degrees. If you are thinking it is too late to start, it really isn’t. Many of these degrees are available online. Always take advantage of an offer of financial or other educational assistance from your employer.
Sometimes it’s all about the piece of paper, sometimes it’s about the affiliation.
“If I knew then what I know now”
I asked some mature and experienced colleagues what they would tell their 21-year old self and this is what they said:
Soak up everything. Read widely to stay on top of new trends, changes in regulations and advances in technology. Don’t always accept commonly held positions, beliefs or strategies as absolute truths. Question what you see and what you hear. You can look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes.
Get wide exposure
Take advantage of any job rotation that you are offered, opportunities to get exposure to many industries and many categories don’t come along every day. Be open to change and chances to diversify your skills. Transitioning between functions helps you build your knowledge and helps you to better understand your stakeholders.
Find a mentor
It may be useful to get guidance from someone who has been through a similar experience. A well-chosen mentor provides advice and helps navigate you through the trials and tribulations of your career. Gordon Donovan (FCIPS), of Epworth Healthcare, says a mentor can come from anywhere, even another industry.
Ask for feedback (and act on it)
Actively seek feedback on the things that you do well and things that need improvement. Sometimes it’s hard to take criticism but it can help develop both your technical and behavioural skills.
Networking does not come naturally to everyone but it is worth developing some skills in this area. Meeting new people is so important because you never know when it’ll be someone who can help you to open doors or change your direction. Tanya Seary is a champion of networking, you can follow her example here.
6 Job descriptions are not cast in stone
Many advertised jobs that you come across may be cut-and-pasted from descriptions used in previous recruitment activities. Too many times employers and recruiters look for what they looked for last time, not what they need now. If you think you would fit their needs, go for it, there’s nothing lost.
What the under 30’s say
Most under 30’s surveyed agreed with the boomers talking to their 21-year-old selves. They suggested working hard to keep learning and gaining new qualifications and ask lots of questions. As Christina Gill, one of the “30 under 30” stars with over a decade of experience in supply chain, said, “This is an exciting time in your career. Be open, be adventurous, be a sponge, listen, learn, and take risks in your career.”
A final thought: organizations that focus on supplier collaboration, unlocking innovation and making the best use of their precious data make attractive employers.
This article first appeared on Procurious.com