Tag Archives: career

Don’t let your career break become a career breakdown

We know the story; a promising career comes screeching to a halt! But how do you ensure your career break is the start of something brilliant and not the car-crash it, at first, appears to be!

The first part of my professional story sounds exactly like scores of other professional women’s: college, work, apartment, graduate school (nights), wedding, better job, travel, better job, and… family!

Suddenly, the career I had been working so hard to build came to a screeching halt. I went from being the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris to… well I didn’t know what. My newborn daughter was completely unimpressed with my title, my two graduate degrees, or my extensive knowledge of spend management principles. I honestly didn’t know if and when I would return to the workplace, in procurement or otherwise.

Then I received a completely unexpected, unsolicited invitation to join Buyers Meeting Point. Anna was 18 months old and her little brother Timmy was expected in a few months’ time. Could I juggle two small children and a fledgling business? I labored over the decision, but ultimately came to the realisation that I might never get such as opportunity again.

I am not a natural entrepreneur!

Here’s the funny thing about that: I am not a natural entrepreneur. I know a lot of entrepreneurs. They are a very unique and amazing group of people. They have vision. They have passion. They act with confidence even when they don’t particularly feel it. They have a tolerance for risk that I can hardly comprehend. In fact, I’m such a NON-trepreneur that when I was getting my MBA at Babson College (home of U.S. News and World Report’s #1 graduate program for entrepreneurship in the nation for over 2 decades) I did not take one class in entrepreneurship. Why? I was never going to own a business… doh!

I found myself at home with 2 children under the age of 2 and no schooling in entrepreneurship building a business. As I look back 8 years later, part of me is still shocked that I made it work. I think the key was my goal: to never, ever, ever, (ever!) return to a cube again.

My kids are now 9 (Anna), 7 (Timmy), and 4 (Joseph). They are healthy, active children, and since the kitchen table is also my executive conference room, my business life and personal life often collide. If your career break becomes a brand new beginning, here is my advice for balancing family and work from the joyful chaos of a home office.

Partner with your calendar and task list

When you have a lot of disconnected moving pieces in your head, your best bet is to communicate with yourself in writing. I am disciplined about keeping my calendar(s) up to date so that podcast interviews and new prospect calls do not collide with horseback riding lessons or meeting the school bus.

The same goes for managing tasks. I am not kidding about this piece of advice: if you do not write it down, it will not happen. Period. There are daily tasks, weekly and monthly recurring writing schedules, and one-off writing contracts. They all have to be kept in priority order so that deadlines are not missed. I find it helpful to work with a hard copy to do list each day, putting work tasks alongside family ones. That way, if the vet calls while I am finishing an article, or I see a request come in from a colleague to share something on social media while I am making lunches for the next day, I can jot it down without breaking off to find my phone.

Build a network

Something I know I share with procurement colleagues working in traditional positions is that feeling of dread that arises when someone at a party asks what I do for a living. “Procurement? What on earth is that?” Sigh.

It is even more important that non-traditional professionals have a strong network of peers to lean on. The major downside of working from home is that you can feel isolated without ever being alone (not even for a second). Using Skype and social media sites to build connections and invest in peer relationships is a must. Figure out who is really a ‘friend’ and who just wants another number in their connection statistics. Make sure you reach out to people and engage with their topics on a regular basis – not just when you need something.

And… most importantly, laugh!

For years, I have scheduled calls around nap schedules, archery lessons, half day preschool, and parent teacher conferences. In the summer (when book manuscripts are inevitably due for some reason…) I keep Italian ice in the freezer because it takes my kids so long to eat it. One of my final book manuscripts received a little additional editing from Anna – she drew a shark on page 137. I have presented webinars with Joseph driving Matchbox cars at my feet and once I tripped over a Minion toy during a podcast interview. Luckily, the sound was not picked up on my microphone!

When work and home life share the same headquarters, your best case scenario is two-way immersion. I like to think that I show my children that the only thing that can hold you back in life is the limitation of your own imagination. They have been at my side (cheering!) as I brought each of my final book manuscripts to FedEx to overnight to the publisher. My husband (a hardware engineer) has been called upon more than once to work ‘IT magic’ for some accessibility or conversion effort. I get to continue working in an industry I love without being tied to a desk.

With today’s connectivity and open-mindedness about contract labor, there are very few things that you can’t turn into a career from home. If you have the determination and discipline, there is no reason that you, too, can’t say good-bye to a ‘cube dwelling’ life forever.

Please Fire Me: I Just Can’t Quit!

Stuck in a miserable, but well-paid, job you can’t afford to quit? Don’t get yourself into that position in the first place!

Philip H. “hates his life”. Those are his exact words. Specifically, he hates his all-consuming job. The work bores him and he no longer believes in his firm’s mission. The gruelling hours he puts in cost him time with his family that he can never recover.

Here’s the kicker: Phillip earns several million dollars a year heading a major office of a top-tier advisory firm. So, you might ask, why doesn’t he quit?

He’s says he can’t afford to.

There’s a big mortgage on a luxury apartment, and another on the beautiful beach house he and his wife bought two years ago. (“The summer weekends we spend there are the only thing that keep me sane,” he says.) Then there are the three kids—all enrolled at a private school. The eldest will start college in a year; the others will follow soon. Tallying up his obligations, Philip envies his Wall Street friends who earn ten times as much as he does.

A couple of days ago I mentioned this story to a well-known financial columnist. “I hear this all the time,” he said. “Lots of people moan about how miserable they are at work but they can’t see a way out.”

“Boo, hoo,” you might say. “I’d trade places with Philip in a heartbeat.” But would a huge income really make up for feeling horrible about your life?

You might think that you could put up with a few years of misery for the freedom it would buy you. You’d put a lot of money in the bank, and then walk away to do whatever you like: launch a small company, or spend the rest of your days lolling on the beach. Maybe you’d devote the rest of your life to doing good in the world. Whatever your goal, you’d collect your last paycheck and say, “Adios.”

It’s not that easy, though. You wouldn’t make a bundle starting out. You’d have to put in your time first. And when serious money began to come in, it would be tempting to reward yourself creature comforts for all the stresses you endure. The higher you climb the ladder, the harder it will be to leave. Then one day you’d turn around and find yourself in Philip’s unhappy shoes.

It might seem that I’m writing about a problem that affects only a small set of people. But I think Philip’s case illustrates issues that apply wherever you are now in the organisational hierarchy, and whether you love your job or loathe it.

Most work choices aren’t either/or

It’s late in the game for Philip, but assuming a different role in his firm might be rejuvenating. Going on sabbatical might set a great example for other colleagues. By framing his decision as stay-or-go, he’s missing other opportunities.

If you’re unhappy at the office, other people know it

Philip’s negativity must come out sideways. If he hates his own job, how can he be enthusiastic when a colleague lobbies for a new project? A big part of his job is evaluating other people’s performance. His attitude is bound to warp his judgement. (I also worry about what he’s like at home.)

Toughing things out is not a career plan

Somehow Philip drags himself to work every day. Maybe he takes pride in his perseverance. As they say, however, “persisting in the same behavior expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” The way things are headed, he risks getting pushed out by his peers. Maybe that’s his subconscious agenda, but it would be an ugly way to go.

Plan your end game

When you take on a job, set a date when it will be time to move on to something else. You can always revise it one way or another, but it’s usually better to leave a year early than a year too late.

The most important lesson of Philip’s story is not getting into his situation in the first place. If Philip had kept these precepts in mind, he would have been alert to his growing feelings of frustration. At an earlier point, a lateral move to another firm or an entirely different field might have been easier. And if he had allowed for the possibility that the job might get stale, he might not have saddled himself with so much debt. But by the time he realised he was on a treadmill, he had gone so far he felt he couldn’t step off.

Sunk cost traps aren’t just financial. They can also be social, emotional, and deeply personal. Philip may have trapped himself with worries about what others will think about his walking away from what most regard as a dream job. I’d remind him of Samuel Johnson’s advice – that we’d worry less about what others think of us if we realised how seldom they do.

In the end, Philip’s self-respect is what counts. Walking away might feel as if he’s repudiating how he’s spent his recent years. But to me, belatedly changing an unhappy life sounds a lot better than doubling down.

This article was written by Professor Michael Wheeler and was orginally published on LinkedIn.

Professor Michael Wheeler’s Negotiation Mastery course on Harvard Business School’s HBX launched earlier this year. Applications for the next wave of students, starting in September, are now being accepted. Version 1.4 of his Negotiation 360 self-assessment/best practice app is available for both Apple and Android devices. It includes coaching videos and a tactics exercise.

5 Ways Employers Can Appeal To Talent On Career Breaks

Prospective employees returning from career breaks have a pretty good idea of  their priorities. Want your organisation to appeal to them? Follow these steps…

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

When I returned from maternity leave I realised just how important it is to have policies and benefits in place to support people returning to work after a career break. Although mat leave for female talent is not the only type of career break businesses should consider, women returning to the workforce offer a valuable resource to employers, plugging skills gaps and boosting diversity.

So what do they look for when re-entering the workplace, and how can your company catch their eye?

After surveying 1,000 female professionals, the Robert Walters Group discovered that a strong salary and company benefits (90 per cent), career progression (88 per cent) and well-being initiatives (82 per cent) are top of women’s priority lists when returning to the workplace.

Flexibility (79 per cent) is also a main preference, with over half of respondents keen to move into a more family-friendly sector once their career break comes to an end.

However, there seems to be a disparity between the attitudes of employees and employers towards flexible working. While 84 per cent of female professionals want the option to work from home, it’s offered by just 39 per cent of employers. And although two-thirds of women would welcome the chance to work part-time, only 35 per cent of businesses provide this opportunity.

With all this in mind, it seems employers will only attract the brightest talent if they’re open to the idea of flexible working.

Top 5 tips when recruiting those on a career break

Of course, flexible working isn’t the only thing your business needs to consider when recruiting people after a career break. The following points are also key:

1. Understand what women want from their jobs

Flexibility, competitive salaries and career progression all remain important issues. Since only 24% of female professionals go back to their previous employer after a career break, it’s worth delving deeper to understand what they’re after.

2. Don’t make your recruitment messages too restrictive

Many women returning to work are looking to move into a new area within their sector, or to embark on a career that’s connected with, but different from, what they did before. So ensure your job ads and interviewing make it clear that you’re open to good people with transferable skill-sets and experience.

3. Learn more about flexible working

As we’ve mentioned, try to embrace flexible working – but avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Flexible working covers everything from job sharing and home-working through to part-time work. Further information is available from the Government

4. Provide childcare support

Half of professionals consider financial support for childcare to be important. This gives employers the chance to stand out from the crowd by offering family-friendly policies.

5. Make it easy for women to come back

Avoid the loss of talented staff members by keeping in touch with them during career breaks. Office visits, newsletters and social channels can all help. Some 79% of women say they’d find a mentor helpful during their transition back to working life. Mentoring schemes could ultimately give women a better idea of their future career options.

Our webinar, Out of Office: Your Career Break (Through), takes place at 1pm on 10th August 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here. 

This article, by Deborah Keogh, was originally published on LinkedIn. Deborah is Associate Director – Strategic Client Development at Resource Solutions.

A CPO ’s “To-Do” List for the First 100 Days

100 days of being a CPO….What’s on your to-do list, where do you start and how do you develop your action plan to transform the procurement team? 

You’re hired!  After the jubilation of accepting a job wears off and you’re successfully on-boarded to your new company, you learn you have 100 days to develop a plan.  This plan that will begin a journey of procurement transformation that surpasses the expectations you shared during the new hire process.  The opportunity is ‘greenfield’: building out a procurement function where one didn’t previously exist or where the function never took hold for one reason or another.

You’ve been appointed CPO. You have 100 days to develop a plan.  What’s first? 

There are various approaches to transformation and the key is to find the right one for your project.  The approach I will share is based on my personal experiences building out the procurement function (source-to-settle) at a Fortune 50 company, at a hyper-growth entrepreneurial company, and (most recently) at an established, well-diversified healthcare company.

First course of business – assess the current state if you didn’t do so during the interview process.  Have a conversation with anyone willing to engage starting with your new team, executive leadership, and cross-functional stakeholders.  You need to understand your inherited brand firsthand – including the perspectives and opinions of your inherited procurement function.  These discussions are important on several fronts because they:

  • Baseline the present-day function and capture a snapshot of where you started your journey. This will be key as you look in the rearview mirror to see how far you’ve come;
  • Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats across the categories of people, process, and technology;
  • Provide key insights on brand perceptions and the history behind them;
  • Help identify advocates, influencers, and distractors; and
  • Finally, provide insights to what ‘should’ be next and offer a semblance of preferred timing

I recommend partnering with a change management guru and a project manager to articulate the business requirements that will form your vision, set a definition of success, and develop a communication strategy and cadence.  Do not underestimate impact of change and the new behaviors that are required to effect better business outcomes.

At my current company, we took a slightly different approach to transformation based on our unique combination of vision, culture, and employee demographics.  Early on we reached out to Marketing to create a ‘drip campaign’ comprised of video vignettes, campus signage, and direct outreach. The whole effort centered on our mascot – Moolah, a big fury, purple creature that was accompanied by a tag line – ‘Spend It Like It’s Yours’ (loosely based on the acronym ‘SILIY’ – pronounced silly).

The objective was to have fun with the initiative, which is one of our values.  The result was celebrity status for Moolah and greater acceptance of the initiative.  Frankly, it was fun to see employees taking selfies of Moolah at all-hands-on-deck meetings.

Included below is a checklist based on my experiences to help develop your plan.  Again, model or pivot based on what you observe in front of you and the expectations of procurement.  There is no absolutely right answer.

Discovery

    1. The Initiative
      1. ‘Why’ is the initiative being undertaken and why now
      2. ‘Who’ – who is the advocate and what role to they play and their plans to stay active
      3. ‘What’ is the motivation, business reasons for the initiative
      4. ‘When’ – expected timing – launch for the initiative and drivers
      5. ‘Where’ what is the geographical, business reach for the initiative, i.e., domestic only, certain BUs only, etc.
      6. ‘WIFT/M’ – beneficiaries?
    2. Your company
      1. Culture
      2. Vision, Mission and Values
      3. Story – market, penetration, success, competitors, …
    3. Existing function and talent
      1. Who plays the role today within the business
      2. Partner with HR to run a title & role search across the company
      3. Ask the pre-existing talent to provide their CVs and interview them
    4. Needs of the organization from the perspective of the business
      1. Functions value
      2. Brand (good, indifferent and what needs to change)
      3. Successes and failures
    5. Identify partners and executive support to advocate for the initiative
    6. Subset – players
      1. Active vocal participants (supporters)
      2. Points of dissension (naysayers)
      3. Bandwagoneers – those on the sidelines waiting for results and uncommitted in the interim

Baseline

  1. Performance to date
  2. People
    1. Skills and gaps
    2. Investments to date
    3. HIPOs (High Potential Employees)
    4. Investments and jettisons
  3.  Process/Policy
    1. Does one exist?
    2. Are there accountabilities?
    3. Spend authority
    4. Document signing authority
  4.  Technology
    1. What do you have?
    2. To what extent is it implemented?
      1. Vanilla
      2. Customizations
      3. Partials
    3. What is next and why?
  5. Quantify behaviors
    1. Buying behaviors of customer
    2. Willingness for change
      1. BUs
      2. Function
      3. Other Shared Services Centers
      4. Legal
      5. Execs

Initiative governance structure

  1. Agree roles/oversight for initiative, for example:
    1. Steering Committee
    2. Advocates within the business
  2. Other key constituents
    1. HR
    2. Legal
    3. Information Security
    4. Finance
  3. Develop RACI

Change Management strategy, approach, methodology

  1. Campaign
    1. Partner with Marketing on drip campaign (pre-planned, gradually released communications)
      1. Tagline
      2. Mascot
      3. Video vignette
  2. Change management leader
    1. Messaging
    2. Signage
    3. Cadence
  3.  Access
    1. Execs
    2. BUs
    3. Leadership
    4. Management
    5. IC’s

Business case to effectuate a different outcome

  1. Executive summary – overview of the initiative
  2. Detailed description of the initiative
  3. Why – what is it in for them/me – market analysis
  4. Organizational design
  5. Funding requirements
  6. ROI/IRR
  7. Anticipated outcomes
  8. Necessary executive support
  • Gain support for initiative
  • Execute
  • Reflect
  • Celebrate your successes

Appreciate that procurement transformation is a journey with a starting point that is unlikely to ever end.  You iterate, detour, and adapt to meet the needs of the organization.  Investment is required in the three buckets of people, process, and technology – and most importantly, the leadership team – to stay relevant.

You will encounter setbacks, and your ability to recover will test the team.  How they (and you) respond will determine the overall success of the initiative.  Most importantly – have fun if you are fortunate enough to have that as a key value at your company.

Greg Tennyson is the CPO at VSP Global.  This article was originally published on The Art of Procurement. 

Buzzwords, Jargon and other LinkedIn Problems

One person’s Head of Procurement is another person’s Procurement Executive and another person’s Vice President of Procurement and Supply Chain. How do you ensure your LinkedIn profile isn’t confusing employers and holding back your career?

LinkedIn currently boasts over 460 million users and two new signups per second. If that makes you feel like a very tiny fish in a very large pond, don’t worry, you’re not alone! But that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to stand out from the crowd.

Some members are scouting for jobs, others are scouting for new hires, and some would like to consider themselves passive users, not placing much importance in their online CV. But, whatever your motivations or opinions, a vast amount of people will have their LinkedIn profile vetted by a prospective employer; it could be the make or break to getting that job. So you really ought to get it right!

How are people finding me on LinkedIn? 

Recruiters, headhunters and employers will visit your profile for a number of reasons. You might have been recommended or referred to them by a colleague or friend. Perhaps they searched for someone with your skillset or career history and stumbled across you by chance or maybe you’ve already applied for a role and they’re performing a final suitability check.

Whether you’re looking for a new role today or in five years time you need a LinkedIn profile that’s ready to go. Don’t take the risk of missing out on a dream role you didn’t know you wanted because a recruiter landed on your empty shell of profile.

Here are my top tips for making your profile shine.

Profile Summary

The latest LinkedIn update gives a huge amount of weighting to the top 2 lines in the summary field of your profile. This is the first thing anyone will see when they view a preview of your profile, which makes them the most critical. Keep it as engaging and informative as possible.

Keywords

LinkedIn searches work by users highlighting keywords. If you want to be found by the relevant people, you need to use the right buzzwords. Do some research into the market you want to be employed in; what sort of job titles and job descriptions are used? Which key words are used over and over again? What words would your dream employer use to try and find someone like you?

Job Title/Headline

Job Titles are an independently searchable field. You have 100 characters, make sure you use them wisely.

What would someone searching for you look for? Somewhere, somehow that’s what your job title needs to have in it.

Instead of having one searchable string, you can have more than one title in your profile:

The second example would result in the profile coming up in significantly more searches.

Company

It might sound obvious but make sure you are listed as working for the right company. Your company might have 30 or 40 subsidiaries, countries, brands associated with it. GSK, for example, has 514 results (and that’s ignoring GlaxoSmithKline which has another 350)!

But again, this is a searchable field so make sure you are on the one with the largest population or the most obvious one.

If you are a recruiter searching for a specific brand you might not take the time to make sure you’ve got exactly the right company. Don’t take the risk – get yourself on the biggest and the best (or most relevant).

Role

If you’ve been promoted within a business make sure you represent that explicitly on your profile. Adding a new position gives you the opportunity to tick the majority of these boxes again:

  • Successful
  • New summary box: more keywords and success
  • New job title: more job title keywords

Jargon

If keywords are the No.1 thing you are searching for, jargon is exactly the opposite. If your company calls it one thing but everyone else calls it something different your current boss is going to be the only person that will find you!

Be aware, too, you might not be aware just how jargon-filled your job title is if you’ve worked in the same business for a while. So take some time to find that out. Search for someone similar to you and see what they call it. And then such for some more for verification!