Tag Archives: career tips

Are You In The Right Job?

The average working life is more than 3,500 days, so that is a long time to spend doing the wrong job. The sooner you switch, the easier it is. So how do you begin?

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If you dread going to work in the morning, get a sick feeling every Sunday night, or spend hours sitting at your desk desperate to be anywhere else, then it’s obvious that you should find a different job.

However, is it really the career path that’s wrong for you?

Perhaps you are doing the right job, just in the wrong place… or with the wrong people.

If you work in a toxic environment or with the boss from hell, there is no need to make a drastic career change. All you need to do is find the right employer.

You don’t have to hate your job for it to be the wrong one

However, not everyone who is in the wrong job is miserable. Many are just not fulfilled or energised by what they do.

Nearly nine in ten UK professionals are considering moving jobs right now, according to CV-Library – and they want to move for a range of reasons from career progression to a pay rise.

Only one in ten (13 per cent) of UK employees are actually unhappy at work according to research by recruiters Robert Half UK.

Although that is still 4.3 million people nationwide, that a lot less than the number wanting to leave for pastures new.

So, don’t assume that you have to hate your job, for it to be the wrong one.

Simply ask yourself this: “If I am still working in this type of job in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time, will I look back with regrets that I had not done something else – or be happy to have done a job I loved for so long?”

The average working life is more than 3,500 days, so that is a long time to spend doing the wrong job. The sooner you switch, the easier it is. So how do you begin?

Step 1: Take the test

Before jumping into another job, it pays to work out what career path you should be on.

Many of us fall into a particular career and often end up accepting a role because we were offered it, rather than because it was the job of our dreams.

One of the most highly regarded tests is a Myers & Briggs personality test. If you have never taken one, you can pay for one online (myersbriggs.org) or do a similar free test such as 16personalities.com or humanmetric.com.

Whichever test you take, it’s important to be honest – then read through the results to gain a better understanding of what types of careers could suit your personality. Giving some thought to your strengths and weaknesses is a great way to reassess why you do what you do.

If you are an extrovert, who is intuitive and relies on your feelings when making decisions, then being stuck behind the scenes in a process-driven, methodical, technical role, might understandably make you miserable. Or if you are naturally quieter and more reserved, being thrust into the limelight and forced to make presentations, might be your idea of hell.

So if you are the proverbial ‘square peg in a round hole’ it is time for a change.

Remember, it is much easier to change your job than trying (and failing) to change your personality – after all, one is what you do, the other is who you are.

Step 2: Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis

If you are in the wrong job, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about what else you could do – but are then deterred because you don’t have the qualifications/ don’t have the experience/cannot afford to retrain/ cannot afford to step down the career ladder…. and so on.

It is easy to come up with dozens of reasons to stay where you are.

That means you will inevitably stay just there.

So stop thinking, start doing. Talk to people who are doing the jobs you are interested in, join a networking group for that industry sector, seek out others who have made a career change – and step out of your comfort zone. Once you can visualise a new job for yourself, it will be easier to start making the change.

Also visit careershifers.org for some inspiration. When you read other people’s stories you will realise they were all just as terrified of making the wrong career move…and once you discover how they overcame their fears to find a more fulfilling working life, you will realise that it is possible to do something that makes you want to get out of bed every morning.

Also do a 360 – ask people you trust what career they see you doing. They may say ‘I always imagined you as a teacher’ or ‘Why aren’t you in marketing, you love being creative and persuading people about your ideas’. Remember, to listen.

Step 3: Try before you buy (into a new career)

Before handing in your notice, and taking up one of these new career paths, give it a try.

Take two weeks off and find someone to work shadow. Volunteer in the sector. Use LinkedIn to reach out to those working in roles you are interested in and talk candidly about their careers.

If your personality tests show you would make a great teacher, but you really think you would lack the patience to deal with dozens of children every day, give it a go – volunteer as a reading partner or to help run a school club. You will still find out if this is something you are going to love – or hate.

The other drawback of a career change to something more fulfilling is that many rewarding roles are low paid.

The solution? Stick with the day job, and have a side-hustle doing something you really enjoy. So, if you have always wanted to be an artist, illustrator, cook, actor, gardener, photographer or fashion designer, then do this part-time while seeing your day job as a means of funding your dream career.

At least that way, you won’t have any regrets when you look back on your working life – instead of a “I could have been” you will be an “I was”


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Do Fringe Benefits Increase Productivity?

Does employee happiness improve productivity and which types of workplace benefits produced the greatest productivity gains?

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Until we are all replaced by robots, there are very few businesses where employee productivity is irrelevant.  It is self-evident that fringe benefits which increase employee happiness and reduce stress are likely to increase productivity.  But until now there has been very little hard data around this concept.

A recent series of studies by the University of Warwick, Department of Economics, looked at whether employee happiness improved productivity and, more specifically, if they do, which types of workplace improvement produced the greatest productivity gains. 

The series of experiments was based on creating ‘happiness shocks’ in one group and not doing it in a matched group.  Both groups were then asked to perform a series of easy mathematical additions under time pressure.  They were paid about 50c for every correct answer, so there was incentive to take the test seriously.

Everyone was also asked to provide their most recent school level results in mathematics and do a separate mathematical reasoning test so that adjustments could be made for individual mathematical ability. The time-pressured mathematical test was designed to simulate the type of work done in typical white-collar job in a precise and measurable way. 

The happiness shocks in the first two experiments were created by showing the group a 10-minute movie clip of a well-known comedian performing comedy sketches.  Based on their own assessment, on average people shown the clip were 1 point (on a 7 point scale) happier than people not shown the clip.  In an attempt to make the happiness shock more closely reflect real-world examples, in the third experiment the participants were given chocolate, fruit and drinks instead of being shown a clip. They were given 10 minutes to consume whatever they wanted.  This was equally effective in raising the mood of the participants.

All three experiments showed that the happy people were more productive than the people who weren’t shown the clip or given treats.  Both groups were paid for their answers, but the happy group shown the comedy clips attempted 10 per cent more problems and got 10 percent more correct answers after adjusting for mathematical ability. 

The researchers analysed those results in detail and found that the improved outcome was entirely due to attempting more problems. The happy workers were more motivated to put in more effort. The improved mood did not make them smarter or better at maths. If they were bad at maths before the experiment, they still were when they were happy, they just attempted more problems and so had a greater chance of getting correct answers.  And the same was equally true of those that were good at maths before they started. The improvement was uniform across all ability levels.

The improvement was approximately doubled in the experiment were the ‘happiness shock’ was snacks. Interestingly one of the experiments involved not telling the participants that they would be paid for correct answers.  It made no difference to the outcome.

The researchers also tried a variation where they attempted to see if recent ‘bad life events’ in the participants real life showed up as having any effect on their happiness and their performance. In this experiment, no ‘happiness shocks’ were given, and they were asked to perform the timed task after they reported their self-assessed level of happiness.  After the test, they were individually asked if they had, at any time, experienced one of more of: close family bereavement, extended family bereavement, serious life-threatening illness in the close family or parental divorce.

People who had reported one of the ‘bad life events’ within the last three years were measurably less happy and less productive.  They were at least half a point lower on the 7 point happiness scale, they made 10 percent fewer attempts at the maths problems and got around 15 percent less correct answers.  The more recent the ‘bad life event’ the lower their initial level of happiness and the worse they did on the test. If it happened more than 3 years ago, it made no difference to either happiness or performance.  When they looked at how people who had suffered bad life events had gone in the other experiments they found that the ‘happiness shocks’ were just as effective at improving their performance.

When the researchers separated out the results by the type of event experienced, they found that ‘parental divorce’ probably didn’t qualify as a ‘bad life event.” It had no effect on happiness or productivity and in some instances actually improved both. 

These are obviously not real-world experiments, but they do a reasonable job of simulating the effect of delivering happiness to a workforce.  Happy workers try harder and do more immediately after receiving a ‘happiness shock.’ And their cash reward for the work, their pay, had little effect.

Translating those findings into the workplace suggests that if an employer provides “extras” which the majority of their workforce regard as a treat, the workers are likely to be at least 10 per cent more productive.  As long as the cost of that benefit is less than the measured productivity increase, then employers would be mad not to do it.


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How To Stand Out Through Radical Optimism

Is your news stream flooded with negativity? Do you unknowingly pass this negativity on to others? Perhaps it’s time to try something radical and be optimistic.

By Dean Drobot/ Shutterstock

As a species, the human race is hard-wired to react more strongly to fear and bad news than to positivity.

If you think back to our ancient ancestors living as hunter-gatherers, this biological reaction made sense. It was necessary to keep them alive in the wild, where curiosity about an ‘unknown’ within their environment was more likely to lead to death than it was to a positive experience.

In today’s world however, such life-threatening situations are rarely experienced, yet we still find our monkey brains on high-alert, fed by stories of drama, outrage and anxiety via social media and 24/7 news feeds.

These dramatic, fear-based headlines that are so common in today’s media prey on our anxiety and insecurity and leave us cautious at the best of times.

We find ourselves unable to think rationally or creatively or produce solutions that might otherwise benefit those around us.

I recently discussed this issue on my Inside Influence podcast with Dr Angus Hervey and Tane Hunter, the co-founders of Future Crunch.

Future Crunch believes that if we want to be more influential in our work environment, to think more creatively and produce solutions to problems that might otherwise remain unsolved – we need to become more conscious of maintaining a ‘healthy diet’ when it comes to the information we consume and share.

So how do we do that?

Change your information diet

The first step is to think of your consumption of news in terms of a diet.

Negativity is like junk food – it’s fine to consume every so often but indulge too much and your mental state will start to suffer.

Just like the physical body, the majority of your mental diet – the information you consume each and every day – should consist of healthier options that nurture, nourish and energise you rather than prey on your mental fears and anxieties.

Remember, all media news feeds (including newspapers) as designed to ‘feed’ us information that we have shown interest in in the past. Each and every time we click on headlines that promote anger, outrage and drama we’re telling these companies that we want to see more of the same.

It’s essential that we make a more conscious choice around the ‘information diet’ that we consume, to minimise the negative information stream and make sure that we’re staying in a productive and healthy mindset.

Now – let’s be clear – this does not mean ignoring important information in relation to your field, industry or the world at large. It helps no one to stick your head in the sand and pretend that bad things aren’t happening.

What this means is that – if you can maintain a healthy balance in what you consume – you will be more resilient when the bad things appear on the horizon. This means you will be able to easily think of effective and creative solutions. As opposed to being so beaten down and overwhelmed – that a fast and considered response is impossible.

Use optimism to stand out

Politicians from Julius Caesar to Donald Trump have always known that fear, drama and outrage are an incredibly effective tool for capturing the attention of others.

Take the rise of automation, for example. How many headlines have you seen out there that focus on the negative possibilities of robotics, such as mass unemployment or even an existential threat to the human race? Good news stories about how robotics will improve our quality of life tend to be lost among the negative noise because – again – we are hard-wired to pay attention to bad news.  

But here’s the secret. If a single person in your network, your organisation or your team chose to reframe these developments. Took the time to research, communicate, or write a list of exactly what opportunities these situations might create – would they stand out?

The answer is absolutely yes. To stand against this negative tide and broadcast their message through optimism and positivity – they’ll get noticed. Not only that – but my money is that that person will be the one invited to the table, offered the promotion or requested at the next high-level meeting.

The positive alternative

Overcoming our hard-wired preference for negativity isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Environmentalists around the globe are today coming to understand that they’ve made a critical error in spreading the message about global warming through a narrative of fear – talking about the disastrous consequences of climate change certainly won everyone’s attention, but progress has been slow.

Compare that to the new messages that are now appearing – where we’re being shown the limitless possibilities of renewable technologies and a greener world. Where we’re being given real and actionable ideas to help the situation.

Now that’s an approach to influence that will change things.

Optimism in procurement

Most procurement professionals will one day face the challenge of trying to get their business stakeholders on board with some sort of change agenda – whether it’s getting them to use a new system, reducing maverick spend, or simply engaging procurement earlier in their decision-making processes.

There are two ways to get people on board – through fear or positivity.

It’s a bit more complex than the carrot versus stick approach, but it boils down to replacing threats and cajoling with a positive, what’s-in-it-for-you message.

Instead of telling stakeholders that failing to engage with procurement will risk their project or earn them a slap on the wrist, educate them instead about the benefits – lower costs, higher savings, and better outcomes that align with their goals.

In the end, you want stakeholders to come on board with your initiative out of enthusiasm rather than out of fear.

In short, be aware of the power of fear and replace it with positivity wherever you can. Most of us made a 2019 New Year’s resolution to improve our diet – now it’s time to pay just as much attention on the fuel we give (and offer) our minds.

10 Phrases You Should Never Say At Work

What are the phrases you should avoid in the workplace? We reveal the top ten most irritating and annoying phrases that are guaranteed to wind up your colleagues…

Some are just totally meaningless pieces of jargon – thrown into the conversation to disguise the fact that you have don’t know what you talking about. Others are downright rude or deliberately confusing. While some of the things we say at work just make us look stupid.

So, what are the phrases to avoid? Well the top 10 most irritating and annoying phrases to say at work (things that are guaranteed to wind up your colleagues) are:

1. With all due respect

When someone says this, what do they actually mean?

Often, it is the exact opposite… this is just a passive/aggressive way of saying, “I know better than you”.  Respect you? Well, they obviously don’t.

So, it is probably no surprise that these four words really wind us up and have been voted the most aggravating in the workplace by around half of those surveyed by CV-Library. If you are ever tempted to use this phrase (even ironically), don’t.

2. Reach out

The problem with this phrase, is that it can have so many meanings. When you thank someone for “reaching out” to you, are you implying they are offering to help you or that they are asking for help? Telling someone else to do this (as in ‘go and reach out to accounts’) is patronising particularly if what you really want them to do is make contact in a highly professional manner.

While “I’ll get my people to reach out to you” is incredibly confusing. What does mean? That they will be in touch next week? Or is this just a polite way of saying “don’t call us and we won’t call you”?

3. At the end of the day and 4. It is what it is

So, the boss is stumped…and cannot think of a solution. So, they say “it is what it is” as a way of saying let’s just accept a bad situation. Worse, “at the end of the day” implies that what will be, will be. Put the two phrases together – At the end of the day, it is what it is – and you might as well throw your hands in the air and give up. Please: just say it like it is.

5. Think outside the box

What is wrong with telling someone to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions? Context. Generally, you are told to “think outside the box” when everyone else is stumped for ideas. So, you are being asked to do the impossible. Also, most organisations don’t actually welcome unconventional and original thinking.

6. Let’s regroup

This is another phrase that has too many meanings. Is this a polite way of telling a group that they are all useless and new people need to be brought into the meeting? Or that you need fresh ideas? Or just more time to think of new ideas? Confused? You will be.

7. Can I borrow you for a second? and 8. Have you got two minutes?

Another irritating habit is using a euphemism to impose on your time when you are already extremely busy. Let’s face facts: the interruption is never for two minutes let alone a second. The person who uses this phrase, knows you would refuse to give up your afternoon to help them. But when they pretend that all they need is just a small amount of your time, it is really hard to say “’no” without appearing difficult. Irritating, isn’t it? When you are tempted to use either of these phrases, think about that.

9. At this moment in time

This is a great way to obfuscate when you do not have a clue/haven’t completed the project/forgot to follow a lead/don’t want to commit to a yes or no.  etc. So, “Is the client going to make that purchase?”. Answer: “At this moment in time, they are considering it”. The truth? Anyone’s guess.

10. Get the ball rolling

This is a bit last century when sporting metaphors dominated the world of business gobbledegook. Remember: “pass the ball”, “left field”, and “knocking it out of the park”?  Not only is this dated, once again it is not good communication… tell it like it is.

Surprisingly, motoring metaphors such as “in the fast lane”, “shift up a gear”, “put the brakes on”…or that highly annoying “let’s park this to one side”, don’t feature in the top ten.

So next time you are tempted to slip into jargon remember it is highly irritating. Also, being direct gets better results. “People may take what you are saying the wrong way,” says Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library. “If you’re hinting a circling back to the task later or asking for more hands on deck, this can come across as rude. Are they not good enough for this task?”

….AND THE 10 THINGS THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY IF YOU WANT A PROMOTION

While jargon is annoying, in an interview for a step-up the career ladder, it is being too informal that is the problem.

What are you trying to convey? If you are a more mature candidate, perhaps you believe (wrongly) that saying words like “epic fail” makes you down with the kids. It doesn’t.

Or if you genuinely litter your conversations with “totes” perhaps you don’t realise that this is NOT the way to get a better job (even if it is a very informal setting). It is just not professional.

So don’t be tempted. These are the buzzwords employers are fed up with hearing:

  1. Literally 
  2. Like
  3. Just sayin’ 
  4. Banter
  5. Totes
  6. Amazeballs
  7. My bad
  8. Yolo 
  9. Me thinks
  10. Sorry not sorry

“Be mindful that if you’re after a promotion, your employer won’t appreciate you saying a buzzword like ‘my bad’ to excuse yourself for making a mistake,” advises Lee Biggins who warns that using colloquialisms makes you appear less intelligent, can confuse colleagues if they don’t know exactly what you mean and frustrates those you work with because there is a “lack of substance” behind what you’re saying.

The (Office) Walk Of Shame: Workers Who Quit Because They Are Too Embarrassed To Stay

It’s not all about the money. The real reasons why we quit range from bad bosses who make passes to wars over stolen food from the office fridge as well as shame – doing something so excruciatingly embarrassing we just have to resign.

By worradirek / Shutterstock

You might think that a chance to earn more money would be the number one reason why we quit our jobs. But you’d be wrong. Being offered more cash actually comes in at number three.

Topping the chart is the desire for a better work/life balance whether that is a job with more flexible hours or at least without the long hours most of us have to put in to get the job done.

Also making the top ten are long hours and long commute, which are basically other ways of saying the same thing: many of us are fed up with living to work and want to work in order to live.

We’ve had enough of bad bosses

The appalling behaviour of some managers is another reason why employees can’t wait to hand in their notice according to research commissioned by SPANA the working animal charity (yes, some animals work too!)

 “I thought the boss was useless” comes in at number five, “I fell out with the boss” at number nine and just making it into the top 20 at number nineteen “I had a physical altercation with the boss”. If things get violent, you know it’s time to leave (and perhaps sue?).

Despite #MeToo coming in at number sixteen for the number one most common reason for quitting is “My boss made a pass at me”.

Some of us get stroppy over petty squabbles

However, some reasons for handing in your notice are quite frankly ridiculous. Leaving because the free tea and coffee was taken away, because a colleague stole your food from the work fridge or you are not allowed to change the radio station or don’t like your desk position (all in the top 40) are a bit drastic…. There is no guarantee your next workplace will be any better.

That is why you should spend time really researching your new workplace – not just the job, but also who you will be working with including the boss, the office environment – (it might be a dingy basement not the plush interview office – and important work/life factors such as the commute to work.

Putting two fingers up to your employer

Half of us are so fed up, we just hand in our notice without having another job to go to.

Still, you can’t beat that “I quit” feeling… with half saying they felt a massive sense of relief after doing so. That probably includes those who did something so embarrassing (possibly at a work party or with the photocopier) that they just had to leave and never go back. In that case it is entirely understandable that you would not want to hang around while you find a new job.

But we’re not up to admitting why

You can see why someone would not want to admit that they had done something so shameful that they could not bear to return to work.

However, these quitters are not the only ones who shy away from the truth. One in four British workers have lied to their bosses when it comes to the real reason for quitting their jobs according to global recruitment specialist, Michael Page.

We may be leaving because we are not paid enough – or not feeling like we are valued – but we haven’t got the guts to fess up. Ironically, in this candidate-short market, saying you are leaving for a bigger salary could lead to a counter offer from your existing employer, so it might be worth making your point (after all, you are leaving anyway!)

The survey also found that one in ten just do not feel like they fit in – particularly LGBT workers, those from an ethnic minority background, workers with long-term health conditions and younger workers (aged 18 to 34.)

Top 20 reasons for quitting a job

1. Wanted to improve work/life balance

2. It was too stressful

3. Was offered more money

4. I didn’t like the company culture

5. Thought the boss was useless

6. Felt I wasn’t learning anything new

7. The hours were too long

8. The commute was too long

9. Fell out with boss

10. I hadn’t been given a pay rise in ages

11. The perks weren’t good enough

12. I felt I’d hit a glass ceiling

13. The atmosphere was dull

14. Fell out with colleagues

15. Hated my desk position

16. Boss made a pass at me

17. My ‘work best friend’ quit and it wasn’t the same without them

18. Had a physical altercation with colleague

19. Had a physical altercation with boss

20. Did something so embarrassing I was forced to move company

 

The 6 Stages Of Your Procurement Job Interview

How to you prepare for (and ace!) your procurement or supply chain job interview?

By Lucky Business / Shutterstock

There is no shortage of general advice available online on how to prepare for and behave in an interview situation, and it’s free. That’s all very helpful, but what about preparing for an interview in supply chain or in a procurement role, how is it different?

1. Before the interview

The basics are the same whatever the role, preparation is vital.  Do research the following:

  • The background of the company, its culture and the industry it is in.  The more information you gather before the interview, the better prepared you will be to answer leading questions during the interview. Be fully prepared to answer the questions “How much do you know about our company?” or “Why do you want to work here?” 
  • The interviewer (or hiring manager).  Who is he or she?  What is their work background and experience?  This will help you find some common ground. 
  • Know your TCO, RFI, P2P, SRM and the rest of the acronyms. Interviewers may use these in conversation. It may unsettle you if you don’t know what they mean.   
  • Make sure you really understand the skills that are required and how much experience is expected. If you don’t quite fit their view of a dream candidate, motivate how you will grow into the role quickly. Think about the types of questions that you can expect and prepare your answers in advance. 

2. At the interview

Job interview formats go in and out of fashion:  you can be asked to do a video or panel interview or even one that includes end-users or stakeholders.  Whatever the format, you need to demonstrate your suitability for the role on offer and how your skills and background will provide tangible benefits for them.  

3. Functional skills

You will probably be asked about your experience and skills in relevant supply chain technology and related tools, e.g. SAP, Oracle, Ariba or other e-sourcing software. You may be asked about direct and indirect categories that you have worked in (make sure you understand the difference) and about your particular expertise in certain commodities or services.  In both these areas be careful not to embellish or over-represent your knowledge or achievements as your interviewer may know a lot more than you do. If you claim that you saved your organization £5 million in spend last year you will need to be able to substantiate it.  Currently, employers are looking for people with specific experience in complex procurement categories. In these types of role they expect candidates to be already familiar with the external marketplace and key suppliers. 

Questions sometimes start with “Tell me about a time when…”, where the interviewer will work through the STAR technique:  

  • The SITUATION 
  • The TASK or problem that arose
  • The ACTION you took
  • What was the RESULT

Prepare multiple examples in advance and rehearse them well so that they tell a story. Be ready for “tell me more”.  Make sure that you demonstrate that you have good critical and analytical thinking skills, are a good communicator, have time management skills, and are flexible, i.e. show that your expertise is transferable to them. 

4. Behavioural skills

Behavioural interview questions are very common in supply chain and are designed to elicit specific and detailed responses about inter-personal and conflict situations which you have been exposed to. How did you handle the issue, what actions did you take and what was the outcome?  Your answers will show that you understand effective ways to deal with suppliers and internal clients.  Listen carefully to any clues the interviewer gives you on what’s important to them so that you can respond by giving your own examples. You need to be able to articulate how you would be able to bring about change and implement improvements seamlessly, where required.

5. Do you have any questions?

An interviewee will almost always be asked this. Understanding how to communicate your interest is very important so have your questions ready.  This is not the time to discuss the remuneration package or benefits that may be offered. Genuine questions about how the company manages its procurement function and how the different elements of their supply chain operate will be welcomed.  If the interviewer is interested in you they will demonstrate it by asking a variation of the following, ‘why our company, why this position and why you?’  This often is your most critical response during the interview process.

6. Where it can go wrong:

Feedback from senior managers and top recruiters says that where candidates fail most is in:

  • Not being fully prepared and having to refer to their CV for details
  • Did not know enough about the company and its operations
  • Did not have the right attitude/did not demonstrate any energy for or interest in the role offered.
  • Could not provide examples or explain how they are suitably qualified
  • And arrived late for the interview!

Displaying a positive attitude and expressing a sense of enthusiasm for the company and the role is an excellent starting point for landing that job. Cultural fit and good inter-personal skills may be the clincher; processes and applications can be taught over time to fulfil gaps in experience. 

Related articles

Is Category Management Still A Career Choice?

Far from the predictions of many, category management is alive and well, but it is changing. Elaine Porteous explores how…

By Pertusinas/ Shutterstock

Contrary to some predictions in the last decade about the demise and imminent death of category management in procurement, it is alive and well, but evolving.  In truth, it is becoming more complicated as third-party spend in the 21st century does not easily fit into historical categories.  There is more overlap and intersection in I.T. services as it merges with telecommunications, marketing services now include internet and social media and packaging is concerned with sustainability.     

Category management’s aim is to segment its spending on third-party goods and services into groups depending on function and end use.  The difficulty in defining category groups has increased due to the overlap between commodities and the rapid innovation in technologies.  Category managers handle more than strategic sourcing. Their role includes creating a category plan, handling supplier relationships and providing continual oversight in the category. 

Specialise in your niche and own the category

It is generally understood that difficult and complex indirect categories pay more.  Indirect spend refers to goods or services that are not directly incorporated into a product or service delivered to a customer, e.g.  I.T., marketing, facilities and professional services.  Experienced category managers can earn £75 000 per annum.    

Why are some categories difficult?  Partly because stakeholders in these categories resist procurement efforts to influence their spend and are protective of their incumbent suppliers.  It can also be because procurement people may be seen to be lacking in the knowledge needed to lead the supplier selection and contracting process.  

Professional services can be a bit of a minefield. Marketing, management consulting, legal and insurance are commodities that have unclear and convoluted pricing structures which take time to understand fully.   

Managing indirect categories requires behavioural skills as well as deep technical knowledge of the category. Aspiring category managers need persuasive skills, empathy and the ability to listen as well as to be decisive when the need arises.  They also need to act as change agents and diplomats.

Don’t try and change the supplier of food catering services without engaging with the users or there may be a riot.   

Information Technology

Sourcing and contracting I.T services is different from any other category. Without extensive experience or formal training, this category is going to be an uphill struggle. The advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), SaaS and blockchain will require constant study and awareness of how to apply new types of applications. Where the I.T. function is mission critical to the company operations, e.g. in banks and insurance companies, procurement and sourcing professionals need to be totally immersed in the category and its commodities which can include: software licences, hardware, peripherals, servers, data and telephony, 3D printing, warranties and maintenance.  Category managers are increasingly being hired from internal and external I.T. departments.

The organisational culture and landscape on the indirect side has many nuances that do not exist on the direct side. The procurement executive will therefore need to traverse the waters of indirect spend with unique strategies to ensure success.

Marketing services

This category requires focus, stamina and a long line in patience. The relationship between marketing and procurement works best when they meet to discuss and agree on sourcing and contracting strategy and when procurement takes over the pesky administrative details.   Traditionally advertising agencies have been the major recipients of marketing spend, some providing a one-stop service, maybe with no contract or service level agreement (SLA).  This is changing; the use of printed matter is diminishing, digital agencies are taking over so there is healthy competition for the overall spend.

See also  Is Marketing Procurement’s Blind Spot?

Legal services

Even though the legal services area is complex and services are expensive, it is possible to build credibility with the in-house legal team by finding out

  1. and understanding what their needs and issues are
  2. which areas have the potential for savings
  3. where better value can be achieved from external legal firms. 

The low-end, routine or commoditized legal services are the easiest to address. By learning the language of solicitors and attorneys you can express your sourcing ideas in words they can understand. Managing supplier relationships with law firms need to be focused on minimising bad behaviours and rewarding and incentivising those who provide accurate, transparent pricing and deliver excellent service and good advice.

Human Resources

HR has a wide remit in many large organizations with the main focus being on people management. Most HR professionals would agree that they don’t have an in-depth understanding of their suppliers’ cost drivers such as profit, overheads, risk and how these impact on return on investment (ROI).  They are beginning to realise the benefits of having their procurement counterparts with them around the negotiating table.  Procurement’s selling proposition to HR is to demonstrate its ability to deliver value by being a source of market intelligence and a guide to best practice. 

Depending on the industry sector you work in, some categories can take on greater or lesser importance. In fast-moving-consumer-goods, packaging, logistics and transport are vital to the success of all food, drink and healthcare companies. In insurance and banking, reliable technology is the key.  

Tips to help you succeed in difficult categories

  • Research the market by benchmarking the pricing of services to  establish the competitiveness of current suppliers
  • Develop a database for each type of service by evaluating current suppliers, their pricing structures and capabilities
  • Re-negotiate and improve the contractual terms and conditions, pricing models and rates on current agreements and/or go to market with a well-thought outsourcing strategy.  
  • Establish what deliverables and technical skills are needed for each type of service so that you can determine which suppliers can provide them
  • Identify incentives to improve relationships with your incumbent suppliers and aim to consolidate your base

There is a growing awareness of corporate social responsibility across most categories. Sustainability is becoming more than a consideration in categories that have the potential to have a detrimental impact on society and the environment. Job descriptions for category managers are already including responsibility for sustainability strategies. 

See also  Where Are All The Great Procurement Jobs?

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Like the Breakfast Club banding together to overcome Assistant Principal Vernon, life is much easier when we collaborate. And procurement should be no different.

By Natalya Rozhkova/ Shutterstock

This year will be the year of collaboration in public sector procurement – you heard it here first! In the past, collaboration may have proved to be a step too far for some for various reasons. However, the challenge the public sector now faces is the need to use collaboration and collaborative procurement to share resources and find new, more efficient ways of working.

Procurement professionals are stretched thin. On one hand, we’re trying to keep a handle on all the transactional tasks required to facilitate procurement. On the other, we’re trying to influence and input to strategic decisions that could shape the professions future. So it’s critical that we are using our time wisely and using all the tools at our disposal.

Collaboration can take many forms, but one thing is for sure – the public sector could be much better at it! Go back and look at your projects, tenders and contracts from 2018. How many of them did you start from scratch? Did you have, and maybe reject, the opportunity to work with other procurement teams? Did you approach other authorities or public sector institutions to see if you could get a copy of their documents?

The Breakfast Club started out the same way. They all considered that they were too different to get along, that they had nothing in common. They all approached the detention task as something to be done in isolation (or not done at all). It wasn’t until they started talking (collaborating) that they realised that they could work better together. And in the end produced one assignment for all of them that did the same job.

Let’s Get Collaborating

Collaboration should be both an internal and external activity. From the outset of any project or procurement exercise, procurement should be involved and working closely with their internal stakeholders to define requirements. Once these requirements are known, it’s time to open up the field to the wider audience and see who has done this already.

Public sector procurement, as we have already said, spends a lot of valuable time and resources creating new documents that someone may, and probably has, created in the past. This is where the real benefit of a framework lies. Frameworks, Dynamic Purchasing Systems and other collaborative procurement opportunities can help reduce the time spent on administrative (read: non-strategic) tasks, saving money and freeing up resources.

This is the same even if you happen to be the Authority or public sector body setting up the framework itself. As with many of these things, putting the time and work in at the start can help to create savings and benefits further down the line.

Time vs. Inflexibility

A framework provides a list of pre-qualified suppliers, usually against a Lot with a specific scope of requirements, from which procurement can run mini competitions, create call off contracts or even direct award business.

From a buyer’s point of view, there’s no requirement to advertise opportunities under the framework, even if they are above OJEU values, on top of potential economies of scale and less time spent between identifying a need and fulfilling it. For suppliers it reduces the burden and costs of applying for tenders and potentially increases the possibility of winning business by focusing in on a smaller market.

However, this is not to say that frameworks aren’t without their drawbacks. For buyers, the main issue is that once the framework is in place, it’s not flexible in response to changes in the market. Neither new suppliers to the market nor previously unsuccessful supplier can access the framework and tender opportunities. This means buyers could be missing out on new solutions or have a framework whose scope is lagging behind new developments.

Suppliers face the possibility of spending significant time and money getting on the framework to not get any returns. Although they are on the framework, contracts may be awarded without competition, or not placed through the framework at all.

The Players

None of these drawbacks should put you off looking at using frameworks if your procurement needs can be met with them. There are a few big players in the public sector when it comes to collaborative frameworks all of whom are worth a look at.

  • Crown Commercial Service (CCS) – essentially the procurement arm of the Cabinet Office, helping UK-wide authorities and public sector bodies procure a huge range of requirements. With spend of £13 billion in FY2017-18, CCS states that its frameworks have delivered over £600 million worth of savings for its users.
  • Scotland Excel – owned and funding by the 32 Local Authorities in Scotland, Scotland Excel has the same aims as CCS, but works to focus on the requirements of Scottish members and public sector institutions. However, they work increasingly with CCS to ensure access for all public sector to the widest range of frameworks available.
  • Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO) – owned by 13 English Local Authorities, YPO has around 100 frameworks and 30,000 products, covering everything from Utilities to furniture.
  • Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) – jointly owned by 6 English Local Authorities, ESPO offers a range of UK and EU compliant frameworks (worth £1.7 billion spend in 2017-18), as well as an extensive product catalogue.

These are just a few of the names you will inevitably come across when looking for a public sector collaborative procurement framework. The beauty of these organisations is that, despite crossover in the types of frameworks, they collectively cover pretty much anything you might want to buy. All the frameworks are easily accessible and open up a corner of the supply market for whatever your requirement is.

Shop around, see which framework suits you and your organisation the best and go from there. And if all else fails, look and see if you can set up something yourself. You may even be able to help your fellow public sector professionals (or work with them) to collectively meet your requirements.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

5 Productivity Hacks You Should Be Using Now

When things are really hitting the fan you don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal.


By Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock

The panic is real. So many things to do, all of equal value and all due yesterday! How do you cut through the noise? Here are my proven hacks for achieving the impossible.

Mindset

The most important place to begin is your mind. Often in high pressure situations you begin to worry. You worry about the volume of tasks you need to do, the timeframes, the pressures put on you to deliver and the number of project responsibilities.

Within this context (the brow furrowing worry), the brain becomes overwhelmed. Research has proven that ability of working memory to direct attention to what’s relevant is incredibly compromised, the brain is effectively running lots of programmes at once and everything slows down. In terms of how the brain processes information, we know that the brain dedicates capacity to verbal information and some capacity to spatial information. When people are worried it is common that they talk to themselves in their head – worries tend to be verbal and therefore compete for the limited pool of capacity.

Psychologist Sian Beilock found that when students are presented with a mathematical problem presented horizontally “32 – 17 = x” it demands more of the brain’s verbal resources than when the same problem is presented vertically.

The brain processes vertical information visually and therefore accesses the spatial capacity which has less demand for its resources.

This is often why making lists can feel better!

Taking back control

Understanding how the brain works is one thing but if things are really hitting the fan then don’t just need one productivity hack – you need an arsenal! Here are my top five productivity hacks to help you take back control.

1. Eisenhower Matrix

President Eisenhower was on to something when he shared this technique of decision making and prioritisation. It is a four box quadrant that helps you organise tasks in order of urgency and importance. My on-the-ground approach is to draw up four large boxes in my notebook and head them up according to what I need e.g. Urgent / Do now, Do next, Monitor, Delegate then I simply put each task under these headings and focus on one thing at a time.

2. Find an organisational app like Trello

Once you have identified the individual tasks and organised them into an Eisenhower, it can be helpful to transfer them to an electronic platform where you can easily access and update them. I am a huge fan of Trello, it is a free “to do list” app that I use for all of my projects. Having your to do list in an electronic platform gives you the opportunity to share your to do list and collaborate with other people as well as update things when you’re on the go.

3. Pomodoro Technique

This is a time management technique that dates back to the 1980’s, it was created by Francesco Cirillo and is based on the principle of short, sharp, concentrated bursts of activity. If you’re curious, the technique is named after the Pomodoro (tomato) timer that Cirillo used when he was at university.

Once you have your Eisenhower Matrix completed and your life uploaded into Trello, take the most urgent tasks and block out your calendar accordingly. You may need to play with the time period that suits you, some people can do a full hour but I prefer no more than 30 minutes – that’s a long time concentrating on one task!

4. Technology lock down

It’s so simple to do and yet most people do not apply this last trick, shut down the emails! Close your emails and any other system that can notify or distract you.  Do not assume that you are superior to the temptation of technology and distractions. If you see an email pop up, you will be tempted to answer it. Just say no!

5. Change your environment

If possible, work away from your usual spot. Either work from home, a different desk, a café, a meeting room. It can be anywhere just as long as you can concentrate. Breaking away from your usual work spot should reinforce the objective you are trying to achieve, and most importantly it can keep you from being interrupted.

If you implement all of these tools and combine them into a new way of working, you will be sure to come out the other side winning. What are your proven hacks? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear about them.

3 Ways To Make It Big In Procurement and Supply Chain

Tom Derry, CEO – ISM shares his three top tips for early-career professionals who aspire to be a CPO or Head of Supply Chain in a leading organisation.

The next generation of CPOs and Heads of Supply Chain will need to be “next-level” talent.

“It’s easy to point out a few critical success factors for people who have risen to the very top of the profession,” explains ISM CEO – Tom Derry.

In this article Tom shares his three top tips for early-career professionals who aspire to be a CPO or Head of Supply Chain in a leading organisation.

1. Align yourself with the best in the business

One of most important things to do during the early years of your career is to align yourself with the best talent out there. “If you’re just getting into the field or are early on in the field discover who has the best reputation, who’s the best leader and who’s regarded as being leading-edge and running a great organisation” Tom suggests. It’s also advisable look at the company’s reputation. “It’s clear that certain companies have created an awful lot of talent in our profession, disproportionately more talent to other companies.” So find those great leaders, at those great companies and that’s going to be a launching pad for you.”

2. Be courageous

“There are a lot of metrics of dubious value that we often pay attention to in the profession that have outlived their usefulness.” Tom says. He advises professionals to try and link what they’re doing day-to-day with what’s driving value for the firm – whether it’s bringing new products online, introducing new features to new products, driving top line revenue growth or increasing earnings per share by reducing cost. “Speak the language of the business and link explicitly what you’re doing to driving those kinds of outcomes.” This will help you to gain respect because that’s how we keep score in business and those are the measures that matter the most.”

3. Be competitive

“Businesses are about competition,” asserts Tom. “It’s about competition between firms but, frankly, it’s also about competition within the firm to gain resources to win the opportunities for promotion and advancement.” Tom believes it’s important to understand that you are competing, you’re being regarded by your superiors in the firm in terms of your output and your productivity. “You’re in a competition for advancement – maybe it’s advancement within the firm, maybe it’s advancement in another firm but you have to recognise that and put your game face on every day. As they say in sport: leave everything on the field. At the end of the day someone may outcompete you if you’re not taking that approach.”

Part Five of Tuesdays with Tom is available now. Click here to sign up and hear ISM CEO Tom Derry discuss top tips for aspirational early-career professionals, how high profile leaders can become talent magnets in supply management and the latest data on salaries.