Tag Archives: career tips

Treading the Fine Line Between Assertive and Aggressive

What is the difference between assertive and aggressive, and why does it matter in job interviews? 

assertive

Assertiveness is saying what you mean without being impolite, asking for what you want without making demands. Assertive behaviour helps you to avoid being manipulated or put off easily. This style is far more likely to create a positive impression than either aggressiveness or non-assertion.

Aggressiveness means that you stand out, but not in a good way. Being overly pushy or contrary will probably irritate and alienate the interviewer. You may get what you want in the short term but it may hinder your progress later. On the other hand, passive or non-assertive behaviour can lead to a loss of your self-respect. This is where you let others get their own way and make yourself into a walkover.

It has been reported that interviewers reach a decision about an applicant within five minutes after meeting them. In this time there is little more to evaluate than how you look and speak, how you carry yourself, and how you greeted the interviewer, all clear indicators of your level of self-confidence.

Being confidently assertive helps you reduce the stress in an interview situation and to exercise more control over your working life. Here are three ways to sail through the interview assertively.

  1. Prepare well

It’s a bit like preparing for negotiations. Research your interviewer and the organisation you are intending to work for. Know how to respond to those difficult, and sometimes inane, questions, like what would you do in a conflict situation or what makes you the best candidate for this job. Remember that assertive behaviour is not specifically designed to get you what you want in every situation; in fact, it involves negotiation and compromise.

Bring your notes and don’t be afraid to use them. It makes you look well-prepared. If something of interest is mentioned about the job, pause and write it down. Be professional and be the best prepared candidate they are likely to interview.

  1. Practice your success stories

It is crucial to create a strategy for communicating your accomplishments to your interviewer in a succinct and memorable fashion.  Do you have a C.A.R?  Skilled interviewers will look for proof of your stated achievements by drilling down into the details of what you say you have accomplished.

C.A.R. stands for Challenge » Action » Result.  Write down a few gems relating to work areas that will come up in the interview. By dropping a story into the conversation you can showcase the action that you took to overcome a problem and can demonstrate to your interviewer that you achieved the desired result.

Mini-stories should be succinct and limited only to relevant details, just a few sentences. They will allow you to share examples of your past successes and let your actions speak.

  1. Polish your communication skills

Candidates demonstrate their assertiveness by the questions they ask, as well as the questions they answer. One trait employers look for is the ability to communicate effectively at all levels in an organisation. Being too tentative with senior managers is not a good sign.  People are just people, so speak with confidence and show a positive attitude but with respect.

Come prepared with questions about the job, such as expected results after the first year, where it fits into the organisation and what happened to the person who had the job before. Practice your questions as well as your answers in preparation for your interview.

Speak clearly and use good diction at a reasonable volume. Talking too quickly and loudly is not being assertive, it shows nervousness. Non-verbal cues influence an interviewer’s impression of you just as much your words do, so keep up the eye contact. Express your opinions honestly, but wisely.

What the recruiters say

Candidates show a poor level of assertiveness when they:

  • Show a lack of confidence in expressing achievements and abilities
  • Sound unsure of themselves when answering questions
  • Are overly agreeable to everything said by the interviewer
  • Trail off or mumble instead of clearly completing a thought

At the end of the interview, ask what’s next in the hiring process.  You may not get a straight answer but it is clear that you want to know.

What to do When You Feel Like Quitting

Feel like quitting? It’s important to ask yourself some key questions before you hand in your letter of resignation. 

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Moving jobs is consistently rated by psychologists as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life (more stressful, for example, than the birth of a child or planning your wedding). So it’s vital for your own well-being that you manage the whole situation very carefully.

Before you even begin to start the process of hunting for a new job, you need to ask yourself the key question – what’s my motivation?

Why Do People Start Looking Elsewhere?

People look for new jobs for a whole host of reasons, but they generally fall into one of the following groups:

  1. Dissatisfaction with the work they’re doing
  2. Dissatisfaction with their remuneration
  3. Dissatisfaction with their working environment
  4. Dissatisfaction with their manager(s)

It’s interesting to note that people are often only motivated into actively looking for a new job when they are unhappy with more than one of these aspects. If you currently find yourself in this position, here’s my advice.

What to Do When You Feel Like Quitting

Before you storm into your boss’s office with your letter of resignation, you should think carefully about whether your dissatisfactions can be resolved in your current situation. Let’s look at these one by one.

1) Feeling Unsatisfied?

If you are finding your current work is unsatisfying, first check if there are other, more interesting projects coming up for which you could volunteer. Or, if you are finding that your expertise is causing you to become “pigeon-holed” into one area, look into whether there are internal opportunities to cross-train into different and more exciting areas, and gain new skill-sets.

2) Struggling on Your Salary?

If you’re unhappy with your salary, you need to check whether you are being fairly remunerated for the work that you do. This information may not be easily obtained within your company because of individual confidentiality, but job-boards contain a lot of data, and sites like Glassdoor will give you a rough idea of whether you are being paid what your skills and experience are worth.

If you have been with the same company for a long time you may find that your pay has only increased by small increments each year, and your own boss may be unaware that your salary is unfair in relation to the market as a whole. Before you hand in your notice, you should at least talk to your manager, armed with the relevant information, to give them a chance to improve matters for you.

But be warned, you may have already hit the salary threshold for your skill-set, in which case you should think about learning new skills, developing niche expertise or taking on more responsibilities.

3) Unhappy with the Working Environment?

Your working environment covers everything from the company culture (which you probably can’t change) to the working hours and your work-life balance.

People’s needs change throughout their careers: if your domestic situation changes because of childcare needs or caring for a relative, talk to your HR department or manager about adjusting your working hours.

Increasingly, companies understand the cost to them of losing experienced staff (and having to find and train replacements) so they are much more willing to be flexible in accommodating the needs of their teams.

4) Bad Manager?

Perhaps the hardest problem to resolve is a bad manager. Micro-manager, absent manager, unappreciative manager, bully…it’s an old truism that “people leave managers, not jobs”.

If you’re feeling unappreciated you may need to run an internal PR campaign and make sure that your boss has realised all of the things that you’ve achieved for the company.

If the person you report to is irrepressibly miserable, or a shameless bully, you may have the capability to neutralise or ignore their toxic behaviour. However, it may be too emotionally-exhausting and this will be all the worse if the company’s senior management don’t seem to care.

Focus On Being Happy

So, if your managers are steering your company onto the rocks, while paying you a pittance for working every hour under the sun…it’s maybe time to go.

At least you have investigated whether the situation can be saved, and by looking at your motivations you will know which aspects are most important for you.

This will save you many hours of pain and stress in the job-hunting process because right from the start you will know what your “red-lines” are.

  • If you absolutely need a certain level of income to support your family then you can rule out everything below that;
  • If you absolutely need to be able to drop your child at school in the morning then you can focus your attention on those employers who support flexible working hours;
  • If you’re committed to learning new skills then you need to find a company who will truly support your drive for self-improvement.

Once you know what you’re trying to achieve with your job-move then you will be focusing on the things that are important to you, the things that are most likely to make you happier and less stressed. This is really important not just for your own well-being but also because there is a huge body of evidence that proves that happy people work more effectively, and so you are creating a virtuous circle for your next job.

And now it’s time to think about the next key step – your CV!

Richard Harris is Managing Director at Mohawk Consulting. Mohawk Consulting is a specialist recruitment company, working within the professional services market, particularly at the level of experienced hire/manager/director.

What the Numbers Say – Behind the Scenes at Career Boot Camp

Numbers don’t lie! Over 6,500 procurement professionals took our Career Boot Camp challenge. Were you one of them?

cbc by numbers

As the dust settles on one of Procurious’ biggest events this year, we’re taking a look at what the numbers say about what our Boot Campers were most interested in.

Which topics were the most popular over the course or Career Boot Camp? Which of our podcast presenters had the biggest audience? What were the podcasts and articles most shared on Twitter?

Membership Boom

First up, the great news for all Procurious members is that our online community has grown bigger and stronger than ever.

Just over 870 new users signing up over the course of Career Boot Camp. That’s 870 more procurement and supply chain professionals for you to share knowledge with and add to your ever-growing professional networks.

On top of this, a staggering 6,500+ visitors listened to at least one of our free podcasts, while nearly 20,000 people read one of the great article that were published during the campaign.

It was great to see so many of you engaging with the podcasts and the content. If we’ve all taken just one lesson from Career Boot Camp, then we can start getting our careers on the right track!

Most Viewed Podcasts

We shared 15 podcasts, coming from a range of fantastic Career Coaches. If you missed out on hearing any of these, you can now catch up with them in the Procurious Learning area.

But which of the 15 podcasts were the most listened to?

  1. Give Your Career a Cardio Boost” – Founder at Procurious, Tania Seary
  2. Incubate Your Big Ideas on the Job” – VP Strategy and Market Development at Coupa, Gabe Perez
  3. Five Surefire Ways to Become a CPO” – CEO at ISM, Tom Derry
  4. Become a Global Player” – Cultural Diversity Expert, Dr Tom Verghese
  5. Take Your Conscience to Work – Finding Meaning in your Procurement Career” – Business and Enterprise Director at Social Enterprise UK, Charlie Wigglesworth

The interesting thing about this top five list is that it’s such a mixed bag of topics. We’ve gone from Tania Seary’s “Kick-Off” podcast that got Career Boot Camp off to such a great start, to topics on progressing in your organisation.

Not to mention the fact that two of our most popular podcasts came from Tom Derry and Gabe Perez, representatives of two of the profession’s important organisations (ISM and Coupa).

Looking further down the list, we see two topics that are front of mind for nearly all procurement professionals. Our increasingly global marketplace is putting demands on our cultural intelligence and diversity knowledge. Dr. Tom Verghese’s message really hit home with you all it seems.

Then we had the topic of social value and social enterprise, with Charlie Wigglesworth from Social Enterprise UK. All professionals, but in particular procurement’s Millennials, want to make a wider difference in their careers.

Working with social enterprises struck a chord with you, and allowed us to build on our learning on the topic from Big Ideas 2016.

Best Reads

As well as article from our Career Coaches, we also invited our influencers and community to share their thoughts. We received an overwhelming number of articles (thanks!), and they really helped spread the word about Career Boot Camp.

Amongst the content were some articles that seemed to inspire you all with the career message. Our Top 5 here were:

  1. Only 24 Hours in a Day – Manage Your Time Wisely (Procurious HQ)
  2. Does Your CV Pack a Punch for a Real Live Human? (Andy Wilkinson, The Chameleon Career Consultancy)
  3. Career Espresso – 5 Minutes a Day Fast-Track to Success (Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious)
  4. The Top 5 Ways to Stand Out In Procurement (Anna del Mar, Head of Learning & Development, Future Purchasing)
  5. How To Land Your Dream Job? You Gotta Work For It (Lucy Harding, Partner and Global Head of Practice at Odgers Berndtson)

The top five most read blog articles show that Procurious readers value practical, actionable career advice.

From tips on how to start on the path to landing a dream job, down to detailed advice on time management, the most popular articles delivered an array of best-practice career advice.

Social Media by Numbers

We also spread the good word on Career Boot Camp across our social media platforms. The articles were well shared and read across the board.

Within the articles, there were a few topics that got people coming to see what Boot Camp was all about. These were:

  1. Does Your CV Pack a Punch for a Real Live Human? (Andy Wilkinson, The Chameleon Career Consultancy)
  2. The Top 5 Ways to Stand Out In Procurement (Anna del Mar, Head of Learning & Development at Future Purchasing)
  3. Irresistible Procurement Candidate? Have a Finger in Every Pie (60 Second with Rhonda McSweeney, Group Manager of Procurement and Contract Management at CS Energy)

It again shows that people were interested in the really detailed tips and career advice. But at the same time, they were interested to hear what our CPOs and influencers had to say for their own career advice too.

#CareerBootCamp: What Twitter Had to Say

The Career Boot Camp hashtag was tweeted out more than 1,200 over the course of the campaign, and reaching a potential audience of just under 400,000 users.

Once again, the Procurious HQ team can’t thank all our followers and supporters enough for their help with this. Your help allowed us boost our numbers and reach a truly global audience.

Global Activity for #CareerBootCamp
Global Activity for #CareerBootCamp

It’s great to see such large numbers of procurement professionals taking an interest in their careers. We hope you got as much out of Career Boot Camp as we did, and that you’ve already started making changes for your procurement career.

Although Career Boot Camp is over, there’s no need to despair. You can still listen to all fifteen podcasts via Procurious for FREE here.

Why the Traditional Procurement Skill-Set Won’t Make a CPO

Perfecting a traditional procurement skill-set traditionally is a sure-fire way to stop your career progression in its tracks.

skill-set

 

A large part of my professional career has been devoted to leading global procurement organisations around the world. My business partner, Sammy, and I have collectively spent the better part of five decades doing this.

It’s true enough that we gave it all up and we are now in our own practice (The Beyond Group AG), following our own rules. However, those years instilled in us a number of ideals, which, on reflection, were less crucial than we were conditioned to believe in the earlier stage of our careers. Luckily, we have been smart enough to realise it over time!

It’s Time to Check Your Skill-Set

What am I referring to?  As we develop our procurement careers we have a notion that a certain skill-set is expected of us. Proficiency in category management, price analysis and negotiation tactics, to name a few, are most typically associated with the procurement function.

Whilst softer skills come into play as you advance into more senior roles, procurement professionals are expected to demonstrate aptitude for these sharper procurement skills from the offset.

We spend the vast majority of our professional lives honing these very same capabilities.

In my experience, these skills can only get you so far and certainly not into the CPOs chair. In today’s world, there is an important arsenal of skills demanded of CPOs.

These skills, as well as scoring above the traditional ones, will largely supplant the capabilities procurement professionals have been diligently polishing for so many years.

Organisations will simply demand of us that we are much more than we are today.

Where’s the Proof?

For the last five years, The Beyond Group has been at the forefront of dealing with the issues pressing the procurement function to change. We hold annual Think Tanks where a limited number of invited companies send their senior procurement people to deeply delve into a specific topic over the course of 4 and a half days

In 2016 we addressed the skills and capabilities needed by procurement professionals in the future.

Over the course of our three sessions we brought together practitioners, academics, professional recruiters and insightful speakers to help us pinpoint the skills that will differentiate between simple buyers and the new leaders of the function.

Assess, Analyse, Solve

Our sessions follow a specific agenda.  In the first session of the Think Tank we assess the real issues we are trying to solve. Then, in the second session we analyse options and debate outcomes.

In the third and final session we get to the bottom of the issue and try to solve it by coming to a collective understanding and collaborative solution. This year was no different.

This year the collective output of the group was that three sets of capabilities will define the CPO of the future:

1. The Business Partner (know your customer)

  • Intrapreneurial agility
  • Game Changer capability
  • Credible Experience

2. The Cross-functional integrator (manage your internal relationships)

  • Consultative skills
  • Project manager
  • Credible performance

3. The Alliance Manager (know your market)

  • Big Picture view
  • Ambassadorial skills
  • Risk and conflict manager

Most interestingly, despite the fact that we had a roomful of procurement professionals, not one of the “traditional” skill-set appeared anywhere on this list of the skills future CPOs need.

Place for ‘Hard’ Skills

This is, of course, not to say that hard skills no longer hold value in the procurement industry. It’s crucial that procurement pros master the skills associated with an interconnected supply chain: horizontal networking through social media; big data & analytics; and cognitive computing (e.g. Industry 4.0).

However, it is my belief that these will be rudimentary in the future and, as such, it won’t be necessary to call them out. They will simply be part of the assumed knowledge that everyone will have. We will continue to explore this theme in our future Think Tanks.

Sammy and I have taken to heart what a respected mentor once said to us: “You must lead with your head, heart, hands and guts”.

This has a very different, and more profound, meaning than it did some years ago in the procurement world.

Giles Breault is Principal and Co-founder at The Beyond Group AG, a specialised research & advisory firm focusing on the topic of “what’s next” in Procurement, and Business Productivity.

Some Procurement Lessons Just Can’t Be Taught

Not everything in life can be taught. Why is attitude more important than aptitude…(and almost everything else).

taught a class

David Hearn is the Chief Advisor at CPO Advisement Services, specialising in effective change management and the successful implementation of eProcurement tools.

With 20+ years leading direct and indirect sourcing and procurement groups under his belt, David has some great advice to offer regarding the importance of building good relations, retaining millennials with challenging roles and what defines the procurement talent gap.

David keenly asserts that the attitude of his employees is of the utmost importance. Only with a good attitude, good relationship building skills and effective collaboration can you build a successful career. Everything else can be taught.

1. What were your first 3 jobs?

My first job was as an engineer for General Motors where I was responsible for sourcing parts.

I moved on to the telecommunications company, AT&T. As a system consultant here I developed skills in selling, influence and relationship building. 

My third job was at Sun Microsystems as global sourcing manager. Whilst here, I honed skills gained from my first two jobs and learnt more about business partnership. 

2. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

 I wish I’d understood the importance of building relationships with the people you work with, internal and external. Good working relationships enable you to accomplish so much more, faster.

3. How can CPOs attract and retain millennials?

There are a number of ways to retain the enthusiasm of millennials in the workplace. Don’t given them boring, stereotypical procurement roles. Instead, craft new roles which allow them to learn on the job whilst delivering tangible results that they can be proud of.

Millennials want to contribute to the common good so it’s a good idea to find projects for them which have a positive impact on the world.

Finally, it’s a smart move to rotate millennials through multiple roles quickly.  Keep them learning, motivated and challenged.

4. Does the procurement talent gap exist? Or is it just as perception problem?

The only gaps are in soft skills such as relationship building, influence and collaboration. These skills are necessary in order to be a success as a trusted business partner.

5. What’s more important for your hires – attitude or aptitude?

Attitude – 100 per cent. Anything else can be taught but you can’t teach attitude.

6. What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?

  • Relationship building
  • Collaboration
  • Influence
  • Selling
  • Leadership

The Procurious Career Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you stand out from the crowd.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

5 Reasons Why Your Organisation Needs to Offer Sabbaticals

Sabbaticals were once confined to a few professions such as academia and the clergy, but are increasingly working their way into the HR policies of businesses across every sector.

quitting-job sabbaticals

You’ve just lost one of the most valuable members of your team because your organisation’s inflexible HR policies meant she couldn’t take six months off to travel with her family. Offering a sabbatical would have saved you the time and expense needed to recruit and train a replacement.

Does this sound familiar? How many of your best workers have quit for this reason? Where once sabbaticals were only offered to a select group of people, more and more organisations are offering them as part of their employment strategy.

Here are five reasons you need to offer sabbaticals to your team. 

  1. Retention

Let’s face it. Businesses across the board are struggling with retention, with millennial staff generally jumping ship every 2.5 years.

A sabbatical policy might just be the magic bullet you’ve been looking for to increase retention and longevity of employment. For example, you could offer a short sabbatical (paid or unpaid) after 5 years’ employment, a longer sabbatical after 10 years, and so on.

Remember, the alternative is having the employee quit to pursue their dreams, while you’re left with the expense and trouble of finding a replacement.

  1. Rejuvenation

There are so many reasons employees may want to take a sabbatical: study, travel, volunteering, health, family and so on.

But one of the underlying motives for people to take a career break is that we’re not machines – after a few years in the same role it’s natural to start feeling burnt out or stuck in a rut.

That’s why sabbaticals are essential for revitalisation, giving employees an opportunity to rediscover their mojo, rebuild their enthusiasm for their career and come up with new ideas.

  1. New ideas

As mentioned above, sabbaticals are traditionally associated with academia, wherein researchers take a paid break to spend time on activities related to their career or research, usually in a different geographic location.

The reasoning behind this is that people can’t be expected to come up with new ideas or creative thinking by simply sitting in their office – they need to find inspiration in other parts of the world and meet colleagues who are approaching shared challenges differently.

There’s no reason why this same concept shouldn’t apply outside of academia. A sabbatical will give your employees the opportunity to bring new thinking and creative ideas back to your organisation, even if they didn’t engage in any strictly career-related activities on their break.

  1. Expect career breaks to become increasingly popular

According to Elizabeth Pagano, cofounder of YourSabbatical.com, “the concept of working for 40 years and then retiring is outdated. People should be able to inject bursts of time off into their career paths.”

Putting off the pursuit of dreams such as travel or studying until you’ve retired (and over 60 years of age) can mean that you run the risk of no longer having the health or energy necessary to do those dreams justice.

Another reason sabbaticals will become increasingly popular is the security they offer for people taking a career break. Knowing that your job is being held for you is immensely reassuring.

The alternative is to quit your role, which could mean you’ll worry about your financial future during your precious time off and spend the last three months of your break on the phone to recruiters.

  1. Win the war for talent with attractive sabbatical offering

As sabbaticals become more widely accepted, expect job-seekers to ask about your sabbatical policy as they consider if your company is right for them. I

f a star candidate is choosing between your company and a competitor, a generous sabbatical policy might just be the factor that gets them over the line.

Remember, sabbaticals will not only help you attract talent, but retain people for years longer than the rapidly shrinking average term of employment.

Five tips for HR when building an offering for sabbaticals

1. Create a policy

A sabbatical policy will help you attract and retain talent, give employees a goal to work towards, and lay out a clear framework about how sabbaticals work.

It’s important to be absolutely clear on what activities would constitute a paid sabbatical, but keep in mind that for unpaid sabbaticals, the reason for the employee requesting the career break isn’t relevant.

2. Be flexible

A sabbatical could be your best way to retain a valued team member who was otherwise likely to quit.

Flexibility is key – even if that person hasn’t met the criteria such as the minimum period of employment, offering a sabbatical may still be a better alternative than letting them go.

3. Plan ahead to fill gaps

Ask the employee for a detailed handover plan well ahead of their career break, and consider involving them in the hiring process if a replacement is needed to fill the gap while they are away.

4. Discuss contact during the sabbatical

Many sabbatical-takers would choose to have zero contact with their workplace while away, and that’s fine.

Others, however, may want to retain a level of contact through regular emailed updates, or simply through social media.

5. Organise a return-to-work interview

Bring the employee up to date on organisational developments, projects, and new goals and targets that have occurred while they were away. A return-to-work interview will also enable you to capture any new ideas they will bring back to the team.

Does your organisation offer sabbaticals? If not, how would you convince your boss to offer one? Leave a comment below!

The Accidental Procurement Engineer

What makes the exciting world of procurement the perfect place for a curious engineer?

Procurement engineer

Some people begin their procurement careers with a big bang. Others start theirs with lots of sweat and toil. I started mine with a freak event. I was an Accidental Procurement Engineer.

Since this freak event, I have never looked back. I went on to have a fifteen-year career that would take me across North America, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Now I work on improving the Procurement experience with the software solution, POOL4TOOL.

Procurement is an ideal career for an engineer at the beginning or in the middle of their career, especially if you’re looking for a little more from life.

Procurement by Accident

Let’s start with the freak event. I was working for a large multinational company headquartered in France. My job was based in Turkey and was technical. It also happened to be the first job I had after the completion of my engineering degree in France.

Following Turkey’s 2001 economic crisis, the stock market crashed and the interest rate shot up to 3000 per cent. There was an immediate slowdown in our business activities and an immediate impact on my income.

The Turkish Lira lost approximately 50 per cent of its value against foreign currencies which meant that, in one day, I had lost 50 per cent of my salary against the French Franc.

These circumstances, of course, made me consider leaving Turkey. I got help from the local management who took my CV and forwarded it to their network in the company.

Among the proposals was the offer of a position in Procurement for manufacturing plants in France. I knew nothing about Procurement so I rushed to the office of the Purchasing Manager in the Turkish plant and within two hours had made my decision.

I was going to become a Procurement professional! It was a perfect career move: an ideal profession for the Curious Engineer.

The Curious Engineer

In recent years it has become evident that Procurement is an ideal professional path for engineers. Many people choose to embark on this path at the start by studying Supply Chain Management.

More and more mechanical engineers are coming into the profession and the Head of Material Flow & Logistics at the famous Fraunhofer Institute has even campaigned for there to be educational opportunities for Procurement Engineers.

What makes Procurement a great career path for engineers? The field of engineering attracts curious people and, whilst many engineers are curious about how things work, some have an even broader scope of curiosity.

They are interested in a wide range of fields and want to pick up skills outside of what is normally associated with engineering.

Procurement and Supply Chain gives these people the opportunity to exercise their technical knowledge but also allows them to follow market and business developments and develop networking and people skills. It’s a place to use both your right and left brain.

The Pros of Procurement

1. Procurement is a Great Place to Use Technical Knowledge

A technical background is a clear advantage in direct procurement, in fields such as discrete manufacturing. It’s important to understand how your company’s product is made and what material properties and specifications are needed and why.

Moreover, a technical background gives you insight into quality management and standards. Be it consumer goods or automotive industries, understanding quality standards is useful when it comes to sourcing parts and selecting the right suppliers.

2. Procurement Satisfies Your Analytical Side

Engineers are trained to be analytical and data-driven. We design and then we implement – with analysis being a key preparation process of the design. Procurement and supply chain produces a vast amount of data to analyse.

In this profession, you collect and analyse data to then be able to make optimum sourcing decisions, be it operational or strategic. You also need to calculate hidden costs and incorporate business priorities and market behaviour into your decisions.

3. Procurement Takes the Curious Engineer Into an Exciting World

Procurement gives you the chance to add to your knowledge and skills well beyond traditional engineering. It requires you to hone your people and networking skills.

This means managing not only suppliers, but also relationships with other departments. It requires sales skills: selling change and ideas to your colleagues across the organisation. And, of course, a whole new set of skills comes in with Change Management.

I’m a huge advocate for engineers considering procurement careers as a serious option. It will be interesting to see if more educational and training opportunities come up for this kind of talent in the future and how that changes peoples interest in the function.

Bertrand Maltaverne is Senior Business Consultant and Product Marketing and Content Manager (Int’l) at POOL4TOOL. POOL4TOOL is the market leader for electronic process optimisation in direct procurement. 

Time Poor at Work? There’s An App For That!

We’re all aware of the concept of ‘time poor’. At least in a work setting, there’s an app or two to help you out.

app-for-that

Do you frequently feel like you’re short of time at work? Most people start the day with great intentions of how much they’re going to get done. But throw unexpected meetings, phone calls, e-mails and tasks into the mix, and all of a sudden time feels like it’s running out.

Happily, there’s a plethora of apps on the market that can actually bolster your efficiency levels at work. Everything from note-taking, file-sharing, to expense claims and networking can be easier with the help of an app.

And, of course, if you need an app to help with your procurement knowledge and networking, you can download the Procurious iOS app!

Dropbox

Digital storage and file sharing has been revolutionised by Dropbox. It has simplified the way people work together by allowing people to securely store and share files and collaborate on work, whether they’re working alongside each other or on other sides of the world.

Dropbox Business comes with as much storage as a company needs.

Slack

Slack is a cloud-based collaboration tool launched in August 2013. It helps teams communicate and carry out everyday activities like filling out expense reports or scheduling meetings.

As well as cutting down on inter-company e-mails, it also saves valuable time from switching around different applications to do everything you need to handle at work.

Locomote

Companies of all sizes use Locomote to simplify corporate travel and to save costs. Locomote enables organisations to ditch the long email threads and spreadsheets to authorise bookings and claim expenses on any device anywhere in the world.

Feedly

This app enables to you monitor content on industry websites using websites’ RSS feed. The site allows you to collate everything you need to be reading in one spot.

Google Drive/Google Apps

This is a safe place for all your files, photos and videos and include a suite of productivity tools utilised by executives around the world.

Asana

Team and task management tools such as Asana and Basecamp make it easier than ever to track who needs to handle what aspect of a project, and where each project is at. Give your team access and empower them to update the management tool at each stage of the project.

Evernote

A great place to capture what’s on your mind, whether that’s the minutes from a meeting, today’s ‘to do’ list and share your ideas on any device. Great for note-taking on your phone and then emailing to your PC.

Way We Do

This app helps businesses get teams to consistently and diligently follow procedures in their day to day workflow. The app allows you to organise one to 1,000 team members to create and use an operations manual, meaning you can make policies and procedures a daily routine.

LastPass

This is a great app to help you improve online security while also removing the hassle of remembering passwords. It allows you to create complex passwords that you don’t have to remember, with the app logging you in securely.

Buffer

The app that enables you to multi-stream content across social media. This is a great tool if you or your team needs to schedule company social media content for the month ahead.

Cozi

This app allows everyone in your team, or family perhaps, to access the shared calendar app. This means you can put appointments in the calendar that everyone can see, and you can see what others will be doing next Wednesday so you don’t double-book, for example.

Expensify

This app helps simplify your accounts by allowing you to import scanned receipts, which can be matched to expenses. This means you no longer have to manually type in expense details.

You can also import your cash, credit card and other billable expenses, or directly import your bank account details to manage your business and personal credit cards from your mobile device.

LinkedIn

A successful business owner needs to keep on top of your competition and networking. The LinkedIn app is a great way to do this.

You can network with people in your industry by connecting to other relevant people, businesses and groups.

BRiN

Created in collaboration with over 250 business experts around the world, this provides free business advice and access to a video and audio library covering 80 topics, with more updates to come.

This chat interface enables BRiN to understand and pinpoint your business problems and give you solutions and recommendations within micro-seconds.

Pocket Save

This app, previously known as Read It Later, allows you to ‘save’ an article or web page to read later. This means that next time you come across an article, video or link you really want to read, but you’re about to step into a meeting, you can save it to read later.

You can also save articles from your email and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

Working From Home – The Great Productivity Debate

Does working from home increase productivity at the expense of innovation? And does it suit you and your company? Join the debate!

working-remotely

Ten years ago, remote working or working from home would have been unthinkable for organisations. Advances in technology and connectivity have played a major part. But just as important has been changing attitudes to the concept of home working.

Gone (or perhaps going would be more accurate) are the days of the perception of home working as a way to skive off for a day. Earlier in my own career, people from my office who worked from home were viewed with suspicion.

The thoughts were that they would log on in the morning, go off to do other things, and return periodically to check e-mails to make it look as though they were busy.

While it absolutely wasn’t the case (the people needed an extremely good reason to be doing it), it might have come from a desire for parity, and knowing that the opportunity could be theirs too.

Seeing the Benefits

But as time has moved on so have attitudes. People are more receptive to the benefits of working from home.

Australian bank, ANZ, polled their employees, and 81 per cent of them stated that they believed that the quality of their work should be measured by what they do, rather than where they do it.

Last year, a survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics found that one in seven people in the UK worked from home. In the USA, 67 per cent of employers were allowing occasional remote working by 2014, up from 50 per cent in 2008.

Companies have woken up to the fact that not only can they offer a better work-life balance to employees, but they can offer a more attractive package to retain their best employees. This is on top of the financial benefits that they can realise too.

Sun Microsystems’ telecommuting programme was saving them $64 million in real estate costs and $2.5 million on electricity each year. Additionally, employees were saving an average of over $2000 each on commuting costs.

Productivity vs. Innovation?

It came as a surprise to many, then, when Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer banned the company’s 12,000 employees from remote working. While agreeing that productivity was higher when people were at home, she argued that innovation and collaboration were suffering from people working separately.

Yahoo stood by their decision, and another big name, HP, followed suit soon after. However, more recently, both organisations have softened their stance.

In some industries or organisations, the concept of home working or telecommuting is considerably easier. In industries requiring more face-to-face interaction, or physical presence, things will, of course, be more difficult.

Ultimately, it’s going to hinge on how a job is performed, and whether there is even scope for remote working.

The Great Productivity Debate

But how much of a difference does working from home make on productivity? Speaking from personal experience, I would say that I’m probably more productive working at home than I was working in an office full time.

However, working from home suits both my job – a role that can be done from anywhere with a power socket and decent wifi – and me personally.

And that’s what I believe the productivity debate boils down to. Some roles don’t suit working from home. And plenty people will admit they couldn’t, or wouldn’t want to, work from home.

Some people are more productive when they can get their head down in isolation. Others are more productive when they have other people, and the buzz of an office, around them. And there are people who thrive in both settings.

The ideal situation would be where organisations are in a position to offer both home and office working. Knowing that working from home is an option may be enough for some people when the occasion arises that they need that flexibility.

Making it Work – And Maintaining Your Sanity

Even if you thrive on working from home, you need to plan your tactics in order to make the set-up work. After two and a half years working from home, here are some of my tips to help you stay sane!

  • Plan Your Tasks

Start the day with two to-do lists. One will be tasks you can do on your own, the other tasks you need you colleagues for. Doing this will allow you to line up your next task if you can’t get hold of people on the phone.

  • It’s Still a Work Day

Don’t get distracted, treat your day as if you were in the office. Take breaks and get up from your desk, but remember, you’re working in your house, not doing the housework.

  • Get the Tools

At Procurious, we use Slack and Skype to communicate, Google Drive to share documents, and a good, old-fashioned phone call (at least one a day in my case), to stay in touch. It’s allowed me to continue working remotely, while still feeling like part of the team.

  • Find a Third Place

You’ll inevitably need a chance of scenery at some point. Find somewhere local where you can work. It might be a coffee shop, or a library, but it’s going to help you stop staring at the same four walls.

  • Breathe the Fresh Air

Get out the house once a day, whether it’s a walk before or after work, or running an errand at lunch. Plan some exercise into your day too. You’re going to be less active when you don’t have to leave your house to go to the office.

  • Meet the Team

You might be a remote worker, but you still need to meet your team. Getting into the office once in a while will help you stay up to date and connected.

If you want to work from home, make sure you sell the how as much as the why. With all the tools on offer, there’s no reason that communication should be what’s stopping you.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!

There’s More to Public Sector Procurement Than Red Tape

Public sector procurement frequently evokes the image of red tape, governance, and over-the-top bureaucracy. The truth is something else entirely.

red tape public sector

This article was written by Kate Brown, Head of Procurement for the Eastern Shire Purchasing Organisation (ESPO)

It’s that time of year again when the new students are heading off to University. And as usual, perennial favourites such as IT, law and sociology remain the courses in most demand for another year.

Sadly it would seem that procurement hasn’t made the top 10 most popular courses list again. I would imagine it would struggle to make the top 20. So what needs to be done to raise procurement’s profile and help attract new, exciting talent to our profession?

We all need to do our bit to help raise the profile of our profession. It’s not uncommon for those at graduate entry level to come for an interview with us with little understanding of what the role of a procurement officer actually entails.

So clearly there’s a job to be done to help educate school leavers and graduates as to what a career in procurement has to offer – beyond buying things and saving money. As we all know, it’s a challenging and varied career and CPOs are increasingly becoming important members of most boardrooms.

Challenging the Public Perceptions

In the public sector, we have a reasonable pool of procurement talent available. However, attracting new and experienced professionals from outside of our sector has always been a challenge. It’s fair to say that in our experience, we see limited movement from private to public sector or vice versa.

There’s always been the perception that the public sector is less challenging, but far too bureaucratic. The Government’s continuing spending squeeze isn’t helping things either. Many candidates are keen to avoid the public sector altogether because of fears over long-term job security.

However, the public sector has a lot to offer both those starting out in their procurement careers, and experienced practitioners alike.

For example, as a professional buying organisation for the public sector, we work with and provide national solutions for a wide variety of customers. These include local and central government, schools, universities, hospitals and charities, through to unique organisations such as the House of Commons and the Royal Opera House.

Our procurement officers procure a vast range of goods and services. From asbestos removal services to biomass, from catering equipment to domiciliary care, from training services to wheeled bins, and everything in between. So it’s a diverse and challenging environment in which to work and requires a whole raft of commercial skills.

Of course, salaries are always going to be part of the debate for anyone considering taking a role in procurement, but there are obvious advantages here too.

As you would expect, everything in the public sector is transparent. There’s a published salary for each pay grade, and a clear pathway for moving up the career ladder. And flexible working is offered to allow for a better work-life balance.

Growth and Success

In a bid to attract graduates to ESPO and grow our own talent we launched our graduate recruitment scheme in 1984.

Each year we take three or four individuals on to our graduate programme to train to work as procurement officers. Each trainee is assigned to a team and is given a mentor to support their progress through the scheme.

Our graduates work with us full-time and one day per week they attend university to study for their MCIPS qualification. This training is funded by us and our graduates are also given time to study and sit for their exams. We currently employ 30 of our past graduates and five current trainees. This makes up a total of 74 per cent of our procurement staff.

I am a graduate of the scheme and worked my way up to my current position as head of procurement. Our first ever trainee is now our head of catalogue and supply chain, so we’ve both proved that career progression within the public sector is possible.

Hope for the Future

There are many advantages to working in public sector procurement. It can be an attractive place for people to come and learn the trade, receive the support they need to further their training, and enjoy a diverse and challenging career.

Business and management was the most popular university course chosen this year. Surely there’s hope that procurement’s popularity will start to rise in future.

Clearly its profile needs a shake up and regardless of whether you choose to be in public or a private sector organisation with the right focus and enthusiasm, both paths will offer a challenging and rewarding career for those starting their working life.

The Procurious Boot Camp will increase your stamina, get you in the best career shape of your life and help you to punch above your weight.

It’s not too late to sign up. Enlist here and get access to our 15 free podcasts from some of the best career coaches around. Don’t miss out – your career will thank you for it!