The bad days are becoming more frequent, the work is no longer challenging and your procurement career seems to be floundering. The question arises: what must you do to kick your work life into action? If you have a general feeling of being undervalued or not being fairly recognised for your achievements, now is the time to take stock. Work takes up at least 40 hours of your week. Life’s too short to be miserable, this is decision time.
It is unlikely that your current situation will improve much unless there is a radical change in management or strategy. The options are:
- Move into a new role at your current employer or
- Move on to a different employer in a similar or different role
Assuming that procurement is still the place you want to be, there are some steps you need to take whether you plan to stay with your current employer in another role or move on to new adventures.
Do a personal gap analysis
Take a deep, introspective look into yourself. The aim is to identify the knowledge gaps between the skills you need for your chosen direction and those that you currently have. What changes should you begin making to prepare yourself for the kind of job you want? As Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Be realistic about your current capabilities. Then go and fill the gaps.
Consider further education
There’s no doubt that further education and continued professional development play a part in opening up opportunities. The reality is that most the attractive roles require some tertiary education or certification, especially in a tight job market. If you are lagging in this area it may be an opportune time to upgrade. If your current employer can subsidise your work-related studies, take advantage. No funds? There are lots of free training available, there’s no excuse. What about a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)?
Learn the new skills
There are roles that didn’t exist ten years ago and those are where experience is in short supply. The application of I.T. technologies to procurement problems is growing fast: consider data analysis and warehousing, supplier relationship management (SRM), and procure-to-pay (P2P). Also, both the public and private sectors struggle with issues of fraud, corruption and conflict of interest. Companies need people who can exercise constant vigilance over supplier risk, governance and contract compliance.
Sustainability issues are placing new demands on procurement leaders and their teams. “Green” procurement is a growth niche where there is a limited number of experienced applicants and pressure is building on companies to limit their negative impact on the environment. Focusing on fields that concern you (and the consumer) and those that play to your strengths will deliver the most work satisfaction.
Get a grip on the numbers
Whatever direction you choose, advanced analytical abilities are becoming mandatory. An in-depth understanding of financial ratios and the triple bottom line can give you the edge over others competing for similar roles. If you don’t know what macros or what a cash flow crisis is, now is the time to find out. If your current company offers in-house courses that can enhance your computer skills, sign up.
Influence and persuasion
A survey conducted recently by Accenture amongst global CPOs noted that traditional areas of knowledge and experience are less important to success than the ability to develop and sustain high quality internal and external relationships. Stakeholders can influence your project’s success or failure. Good stakeholder management just means being able to win support from any and all interested and affected parties such as end-users, subject matter experts and key suppliers.
Attitude is important, that much is clear. It seems behaviour and demeanour can impact on career progression as much as technical know-how. Always do what you promise to do. To paraphrase J.F.Kennedy, don’t think about what your stakeholders can do for you, think what you could do for them.
Communicate your successes
Keep an on-going record of what you have done well, e.g. reported cost savings, accolades you have been given, and positive feedback received from internal customers. This information can be used to enhance your CV. Don’t be shy to share your successes; it’s a good confidence booster.
Moving on to another employer or launching yourself as a consultant or contractor may be a choice, or it may be thrust upon you. Protecting yourself fully from downsizing and “restructuring of the workforce” is pretty much impossible. Don’t despair. Review your achievements to date, fire up your CV and take yourself to the market. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forwards.
The best a person can do to rise above the mainstream is to have a good attitude, stay relevant, keep up with trends, communicate well and keep the networks alive. Sometimes the current environment is not going to deliver the options you need. Then it is time to move on.