All posts by Lucy Harding

How to Land Your Dream Job? You Gotta Work For It

Let’s face it – your dream job isn’t just going to fall into your lap. If you want to land it, you’re going to have to work for it.


Landing your dream job doesn’t just happen. Moving your career forward to achieve your ultimate objectives takes planning, effort and time, and the planning needs to start well in advance of when you actually want to make the move.

Be Realistic

Understand what your ultimate goal is and the role you are targeting. Take a good look at your experience and be honest, are you ready for it? Are there gaps in your experience that will ultimately mean there are stronger candidates right now?

If so, take responsibility and make a concerted effort to gain the additional experience needed. This could be areas such as broader industry experience, team leadership, international exposure or a wider set of categories.

If you feel you are ready, at least 6 months before you want to make the move, start to get to know the people that can help you. The right role will take time to come to the market so you will also need to be patient.

Ready, Steady, Go!

Make sure your CV is up to date. Ensure it is concise, fact and evidence based with achievements, not just bland personality statements.

It needs to be the right balance of detail that you can back up at interview, but not so long and winding that your achievements get lost in the 5 pages of narrative. Two to three pages maximum is ideal. Page one should make the greatest impact, otherwise pages 2 and 3 may never get seen!

Then you need to find out who the recruiters are that are most likely to help you. If you know them already, drop them a line and let them know you are open to hearing about new roles. Think about asking to catch up for a coffee.

Ask them for their advice on the market generally, how your skill set compares to their clients’ needs, and what do you need to be doing to ensure you are credible candidate. If you don’t know them, you need to!

Many senior roles are not advertised and are run by executive search firms. You need to make sure you are on their radar. Try to go for a face-to-face introduction if possible.

Use your network of contacts, as well as previous colleagues and bosses who have moved to new companies. They may know of opportunities that again are not advertised. Trusted personal networks are a valuable source when looking for your next role; let them know you are open to new opportunities.

Social media is a vital tool used by recruiters and in-house talent teams to identify potential candidates. Make you sure you have a visible online profile that is professional, and an accurate reflection of your career and achievements.

The Interview

The recruitment process is a long one – be prepared for this. There are usually at least 3-4 rounds of interviews before any offer is made, often more. In addition, psychometric assessment can also form part of the process.

You need to be committed and flexible to put the time in. Hiring organisations, whilst they understand everyone is busy, can get a little nervous of a candidate’s motivation if they are very difficult and inflexible when it comes to interview availability.

We all know the basics. Be on time, smartly dressed, polite to everyone (I always ask our receptionist as well as my researcher and assistant for their impression of the candidate I’m interviewing), and well read on the company and the individuals you are meeting.

Use your network to find out information that may help you be more informed at the interview. Shape your answers to be relevant to the challenges the new company is facing.

Make sure you are concise with your answers, answer the question that is asked, and provide the relevant amount of detail and evidence in your responses. Woolly, unspecific answers create doubt.

Overall, be honest, be yourself and be authentic.

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Supply Chain Sustainability as a Competitive Advantage

Industry leaders understand that supply chain sustainability can be a competitive advantage. Utilised effectively, it brings a wealth of opportunities.

Read the first part of this article here.

Global brewing giant SABMiller embraces the idea that water is strategic. It cut its water consumption by 28 per cent, now only using 3.3 litres to make 1 litre of beer. It is on track to achieve its objective of 3 litres by 2020. Iconic sports brand Nike has adopted 3D printing to eliminate waste.

Companies not focusing their supply chain efforts on differentiation are at risk of falling behind. Innovation can also involve changing consumer behaviour. Here again, collaboration is key between different functions, from R&D to marketing and procurement and supply chain.

One of the three pillars of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan is to halve the environmental footprint of their products by 2020. They have developed a purpose-driven strategy to double their revenues, while still having a positive social impact. Their business model has put supply chain sustainability at the heart of strategy, and they use innovation to embrace it.

Cost of Sustainability

A common misbelief is that sustainable solutions cost more. In most cases, they are more profitable, with a faster return on investment. Business and sustainability go hand in hand, and better solutions have emerged, both for businesses and the planet.

True, there are more expensive examples. Traceable palm oil, which ensures zero deforestation during production, is one of these. However, renewable energy solutions, such as windmills and solar panels, can be profitable immediately.

Many companies also put a lot of effort in reducing transportation, with the objective to decrease gas emissions, as well as the transportation cost itself. From a labour perspective, the overall cost could be diminished by improving productivity and respecting minimum wage.

When companies take the long-term approach that sustainability requires,
 initiatives can be cost neutral or 
better. Some companies have increased their revenue by as much as 20 per cent, while reducing supply chain costs by up to 16 per cent. According to the World Economic Forum report written with Accenture, this has been done by implementing sustainable supply chain practices.

Best practices have been identified to support companies achieve a “triple supply chain competitive advantage” of increased revenue, reduction in supply chain cost and added brand value. The result is improved competitiveness and reduced operational risk.

Employee Engagement Key to Sustainable Success

46 per cent of CEOs reported that employees would be among the most influential groups in guiding their action on sustainability over the next five years – second only to consumers.

When it comes to employee engagement, it is important to communicate internally to all levels of the organisation. Best practice should come from within, and companies should ensure that their external actions on sustainability are also reflected internally.

Taking care of the workforce, engaging them in implementing a corporate commitment to sustainability, will drive greater productivity, and thus greater profitability.

Giving employees a purpose and empowering them to have ideas and find solutions at a local level could make a real difference in supply chain sustainability. It is more challenging to have sustainable operations in some global regions than in others. Leading supply chain executives encourage their teams to go beyond their own boundaries, inspiring, guiding and supporting them.

Companies who are leveraging supply chain sustainability as a competitive advantage are outperforming their less sustainable peers. Many studies show that these sustainability leaders have higher, faster-growing stock value, better financial results, lower risks, and more engaged workforces.

Aligning employees’ engagement with supply chain sustainability strategy is key to building an innovative, environmentally responsible, and socially conscious business. Workers on the front line are often in the best position to identify inefficiencies and propose solutions.

The best companies integrate their sustainability strategies into their employees’ day jobs. This is done by incorporating sustainability targets into the employee’s annual objectives, and incentivising them.

Shared Responsibility

Sustainability is the responsibility of everybody, but especially those involved in the supply chain who are in a position to act.

Communication and training are important factors in generating awareness across the workforce. To attract talent, particularly millennials and future generations, companies behind on the subject will lose in this battle too.

Many multinational organisations have set sustainability targets to be reached by 2020. Winning companies will master the balance between commercial gains and “it is simply the right thing to do”. They will embrace internal and external collaboration and will drive supplier and consumer behaviour.

In a world where social conscience is fed by social media, and fear of the speed and scale at which information can disseminate globally, it is crucial to behave responsibly. Those organisations which do not act now on supply chain sustainability face the risk of long term brand and reputational damage.

Supply Chain Sustainability: A Strategic Responsibility

Supply Chain Sustainability is in the spotlight, thanks to the influence of social media. Companies realise that they must lead the way in this area.

The supply chain function has evolved significantly over the past decade, becoming a key strategic pillar of business. Going beyond its core role
 of delivering goods on time, in full, it has a vital role to play in customer experience and brand perception.

Supply chain now has a seat in the boardroom in many organisations. Barely a week goes by without a supply chain issue – be it supplier failure or reputational risk – hitting the headlines and the share price.

The proliferation and influence of social media has put supply chain sustainability and risk firmly in the spotlight. Companies are publicly held to account for the actions of all tiers of their supply chain. This is why companies must lead the way on sustainability issues.

Supply Chain Sustainability

The sustainability discussion evolved from companies purely focusing on taking from society and wanting to give back, to realising there are risks to reputation from non-compliance.

Sustainability issues are often supply chain issues. For example, the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act aims to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in businesses or supply chains.

Today, however, organisations are now seeing supply chain sustainability as a strategic opportunity that can increase competitive advantage.

Two main streams have emerged:

  • The risk dimension: what do companies have to do to avoid risk of brand damage?
  • The aspiration dimension: what is the strategy for the long-term survival of the  business?

Creating a Positive Impact

Supply chain sustainability is increasingly seen among senior executives as essential to delivering long-term profitability. A sustainable supply chain captures value creation opportunities and offers significant competitive advantages for early adopters and process innovators.

At the same time, supply chain is one of the key components for organisations 
to create a positive impact in the world, with an estimated 80 per cent of global trade passing through supply chains. Many large corporations, such as Nestlé and Nike, want to do good business and do the right thing.

A recent study on the global supply chain community saw three current trends emerging on supply chain sustainability in 2015/2016:

  • Industry collaboration is the biggest opportunity
  • Eliminating supply chain risks is the main driver
  • Traceability and environmental concerns are the biggest risks to watch out for

Industry Collaboration

Starting with ethical and responsible sourcing, supply chain professionals have begun to understand the importance of building long term relationships with suppliers. Having a win-win partnership is crucial. Companies who are a valuable customer to their vendors will have a considerable competitive advantage.

Organisations are demanding more 
from their suppliers. Traceability and transparency are key requirements. Companies sharing their big picture vision with their suppliers, and their role in the long-term strategy, will get more from their partners. Too many businesses are still failing to achieve this. Partnering with suppliers empowers them to unlock innovation quickly.

Working on more collaborative partnerships helps to minimise the risk factors too. Companies are liable for all tiers of their supply chains. Increased collaboration with others is vital to be
 able to efficiently assess all layers of the supply base.

Organisations can never 
be too informed if they want to prevent risk. They also need to demonstrate they have acted responsibly when risks are exposed. Companies must start with themselves, and build open and transparent relationships with their suppliers.

Codes of Conduct and Audits

Some pharmaceutical organisations,
 like Takeda, have recently established
 a supplier code of conduct in line with
 their international business ethics. They proactively audit and monitor their vendors to review performance in line with this code. It helps Takeda to have a much stronger supplier selection process, as they are able to build stronger relationships and reduce risk exposure.

Collaboration with other industry leaders can be very valuable in sharing information when it comes to supplier audits. Takeda recently joined the Pharma Supply Chain Initiative, composed of 20 companies. It has a supplier audit program and engages with the suppliers on behalf the member companies to make sure they comply. It also raises awareness from an environmental and ethical point of view.

Collaborative Platforms and NGOs

However, collaboration between businesses from the same industry is not widespread. Many companies fear a loss of commercial control and competitive advantage by working closely with others. As a result, there is an emergence of collaborative platforms. One of these is EcoVadis, which works with many global brands to provide supplier sustainability ratings for global supply chains.

Collaboration can also take the form of partnering with NGOs. They can help and guide organisations on environmental
 or ethical issues. Greenpeace is one such organisation. In the past they have worked with Kimberly-Clark to practice responsible forestry management, as well as Unilever and others on palm-oil sourcing. In building those partnerships, the willingness to talk is key, particularly when there is a history of conflict.

Supply Chain Sustainability can also be a source of competitive advantage for organisations. Stay tuned for the second part of this article to find out more.

What Does the Board Look for When Hiring a CPO?

In the second part of this series on CPOs, we look at what Boards look for in their CPOs.

Read the first article on expectations of CPOs here.

The successful procurement leader today is expected to establish credibility by embedding the basics. Good financial data consistent with the reporting model of their business, robust controls across a lean supplier base, and well negotiated contracts that are fit for purpose. They must build a function that operates across international boundaries and divisional corporate structures.

Comments from Board level executives in the last three months include:

  • “I want someone smart, quick and innovative. In my business if we can make a 1 per cent saving on our cost base we will increase profit by 50 per cent. I will judge success by the MDs wanting to spend time with the CPO”
  • “I need someone who can sit with my Divisional MDs and help them create a profitable business. Procurement is absolutely critical to the operating model of our organisation. We are in turnaround, and its success is linked directly to the cost base”

How Do You Compare?

When you are invited to interview for a CPO role, be it an internal promotion opportunity or an external process, remember you are not operating in a vacuum. Assume your competition is the highly respected, experienced CPO in your direct competitor and ask yourself, “How do I compare?”.

It is most likely that an executive search firm would have been engaged to identify the best possible talent in the market and competition will be fierce. At this level, everyone is good. So, what makes the difference at the margin?

1. Business first, procurement second

This point was stated clearly in a recent discussion with a CFO of a global Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) company and experienced Non-Executive Director. When you get close to Board level, everybody is expected to know their “job”. The differentiating factor becomes what else you can contribute to help the company achieve its goals or solve its problems. The ability to understand the business strategy and its challenges, and align procurement to it, is essential and execution is non-negotiable.

2. Leadership 

The ability to build and lead a diverse, global team is vital to being a successful CPO. Generating energy, creativity, ambition, commitment and loyalty amongst the broader team are key attributes of a successful leader. This is particularly relevant in a complex corporate environment. Leadership amongst peers is also critical. Being seen as a credible and well respected leader by colleagues in other functions across your business is vital for your individual success and that of the function that you lead.

3. International Experience 

Many organisations operate in a global environment, from its operations to its supply base and customer markets. Those with experience of living and working outside of one region (Europe, US, Asia) will be more desirable than those who have not.

4. Breadth

Procurement can be viewed as quite a narrow skill set and, therefore, gaining experience across all elements of spend (directs and indirects) will be viewed positively. Exposure to pre- and post-merger acquisition work, integration and delivery of synergy benefits would be another tick in the box. Outsourcing is also on the list, along with experience gained in more than one industry sector.

5. Commercially Astute 

To be respected internally it is vital that your reported numbers and achievements are accurate. Many times, in discussions with CEOs and CFOs, they state that the reported numbers bear no resemblance to their data. They joke that if procurement saved as much as they said year on year, their spend would be zero in three years’ time.

You must be able to build a function that is aligned to the way the business measures and reports its numbers. They need to believe you. A recent McKinsey study stated, “Companies that have invested in developing best- in-class purchasing capabilities have nearly double the margins of those that have not”.

In a recent NED appointment, we specifically targeted the global procurement and supply chain community. The press comment from the FTSE 100 Chair on the successful appointment was “…their extensive expertise in driving efficiencies in manufacturing processes and procurement in global organisations will be of real value to us”.

And Finally…

The good news is that the momentum is building and procurement is getting on the Board agenda. Having been a headhunter in the procurement marketplace for the last 13 years I can confirm that the quality of talent at the top has improved significantly.

The reality however, is that expectations are higher than ever and competition is tough. If you want to reach the CPO role, it’s worth taking a little time to reflect how many boxes you can tick and take steps towards closing any gaps.

What Does the Board Want From its CPO?

In the first part of a two-part series, we look at what organisational boards are expecting from CPOs and the procurement function.

Purchasing, Procurement, Strategic Sourcing, Category Management, Spend Management, Supplier Relationship Management…the list goes on.

The Procurement profession has created a myriad of titles over the last decade, which can be confusing to those not involved in the function. To complicate matters further, the role of procurement varies by industry depending on its strategic dependence on third party suppliers.

Regardless, the “bread and butter” role of procurement remains a valuable function of any business – to source fit for purpose goods and services and to deliver on time, in full and at the right price to meet the business needs.

Procurement has been moving up the corporate structure, gaining visibility in the Boardroom over the last decade or so. Today, it is increasingly viewed as a function that can offer significant strategic value. Effective strategic procurement has become a Board priority.

Establishing Good Practice

For some CPOs, their focus is on limiting exposure to commodity price fluctuation and managing supply chain risk. This comes not just in the form of supply chain disruption but increasingly reputational risk, exacerbated by the social media phenomenon. For others, it is harnessing innovation from the supply base. In addition there is the ever present expectation to deliver cost savings.

The challenge is to deliver this within a complex matrix of geographical regions and business divisions. The Procurement Leader of today must exhibit a high level of leadership capability, personal gravitas and cultural dexterity. Creating the balance between global strategy and local need is an ever present conundrum.

Establishing good procurement practice is fundamental to building the trust with business stakeholders and the Board. Building strategic partnerships with suppliers can prove vital in stormy economic times and constrained supply markets, and will be a valuable competitive advantage in a more buoyant global economy. Increasingly important is the on-going management of suppliers in terms of service delivery and cost management.

More focus is required to harness supplier relationships that drive innovation as an enabler to improved quality, productivity and speed to market.

In the second half of this series, we will be looking at what a Board looks for when hiring its CPO, and what they are expecting from these individuals once they are in place.