With the world economy in such a state, layoffs, redundancies and furloughs are commonplace – but even so, you can appear indispensable to your organisation.
There’s no denying that this year has been a year that will be remembered, and definitely not for the right reasons. Many of us know of, or personally know, someone who has lost their job, which is unsurprisingly given that more people have lost their jobs this year than during the Great Depression. Fortunately, many of us in procurement and supply chain have been protected thus far, but we do not know for how long. So is there anything we can do to ensure we keep our career on track and avoid being laid off?
When you work for large corporations as many of us do, it can be easy to feel powerless against a potential redundancy. But rest assured, there are a few significant things you can do to keep your career (and your job). Here’s what you can do to keep afloat when everyone else seems to be on the sinking ship:
1. Be visible
In a perfect world, you would be judged on your work and your work alone. But career success requires so much more than that: to learn and grow, you’re also expected to volunteer for extra projects and committees, network, pursue development opportunities, and so much more.
Doing so makes you more ‘visible’ to more people, but it also makes your effort far more visible. And ultimately, if more people value you and your input, it’s more likely that if the time comes to lay people off, your job will be seen as essential.
Of course, visibility has taken on a whole new meaning this year. You may not be able to show up in person anymore, but if you’re looking to keep your career on track, volunteer for that committee you might have skipped in the past. Be as engaged as possible, even when meetings bore you. And make time to connect with colleagues, even if it’s just for a quick social video chat.
Work is not a popularity contest, but the more connections you have, the more likely you will be to stay.
2. Be optimistic
Being optimistic in this environment is challenging at best, impossible at most. And why should you bother? It’s doom and gloom for most of the world for the foreseeable future, with no real end date.
Could optimism actually help your career, though? Science says yes.
When a company is considering layoffs, they will consider how much work each individual or department needs to do. If you’re optimistic and great to work with, you’ll likely get the lion’s share, and will be less likely to be able to be replaced.
3. Support your leader
When times get tough, it’s tempting to make an enemy out of your boss. After all, they often have a say on whether or not you’ll keep your job, and sometimes are in the terrible position of having to deliver you the bad news – while keeping their own job, which can feel crushingly unfair.
Yet if you’re looking to keep your career on track during a recession, going dark on your boss is not advised.
Managers, just like everyone else, suffer through recessions and not many (if any) enjoy laying people off. Recognising this, and showing empathy for them, can help create an important emotional bond. In turn, this bond will help them see you as mature and resilient, and hopefully, all things being equal, an asset to the company, and one that is not easily replaced.
Keeping your career on track in this economy is certainly a challenge, and sometimes you simply go into survival mode. But remember, you’re not powerless. There are things you can do every day to show how invaluable you are to your company, so next year – hopefully – you can not just survive, but thrive.
We asked our LinkedIn community for their top pandemic anthems, and the result was an awesome playlist!
Owing to the myriad Supply Chain disruptions this year, many of us suddenly found that the world was no longer our oyster – or if it was, it clamped shut and trapped us inside. On top of Supply Chain chaos, we had to deal with our own incarceration.
What do I do when my love is away? Does it worry you to be alone? How do I feel by the end of the day? Are you sad because you’re on your own? No, I get by with a little help from my friends
When your personal network is as strong as your business network, its support takes on inertia of its own.
Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
– Greg Parkinson, Director, Turner & Towsend
The right frame of mind is the key to success: a little mindfulness, coupled with an Attitude of Gratitude a la Nicky Abdinor, goes a long way.
Thus set up for success, soon we’ll be poised to take on the world again:
I Want To Be A Billionaire – Bruno Mars
– Matthew Hadgraft, The Faculty
Oh every time I close my eyes I see my name in shining lights A different city every night oh right I swear the world better prepare For when I’m a billionaire
Keep your dreams, goals, ambitions and plans intact because all this will change. Every Procurement and Supply Chain executive knows the importance of a Business Continuity Plan – make sure your own plans are articulated, because who knows what opportunities the future will bring?
Do you have any suggestions for additional songs? Comment below.
What ought to have been a huge success for U2 turned out to be critically panned – and if you’re having a “Rattle & Hum” year, here’s how to turn it into your “Achtung Baby” era.
I bought my Dad Rattle & Hum as a present in 1990. I was only 14 and didn’t really know much about music, but he had played Dire Straits Brothers in Arms for years at me and U2 looked similar but cooler (to me). The LP was a giant doubler and it was all black and shiny. I loved it.
Still Haven’t found. Angel of Harlem. All I want is You. That song captured the essence of my unrequited love for Carol in 4th year. I didn’t even realise Helter Skelter and Along the Watchtower were covers!
I had the documentary on VHS and when Bono chimed up with ‘this is not a rebel song’ to the opening drums of Sunday Bloody Sunday, it made my hairs raise on my arms every time.
It led me on a U2 odyssey, through Unforgettable, War and October, Under a Blood Red Sky. I joined their Propaganda fan club and queued for 24 hours for tickets to see their Zoo TV tour in a big shed in Glasgow.
It was only much later that I realised that Rattle & Hum was considered a critical and commercial dud, their zenith being the Joshua Tree of course and my dear Rattle & Hum being self indulgent, cultural appropriating over-blown nonsense.
I played Rattle & Hum today. Still loved it and it inspired this post.
I look back at my “career” and had a good upwards trajectory. I smashed my 20s, 6 promotions, lots of talk about my ‘high potential’ and was going places. I excelled as an individual contributor. October. War.
My 30’s, I was on a roll. Managing multiple teams, functional directorship level (Unforgettable Fire), knocking on the door of general management.
I was at my peak at 40, having led a team that sold a $200m deal – my own Joshua Tree, (although that value gets larger in every retelling as the years go by and my memory fades).
….but then the wheels slowly fell off.
Don’t get me wrong, 20 years of moderate success gives a cushion not afforded to many. But through a combination of false starts and bad choices (mainly mine!) I will end 2020 having earned less than I’ve earned in any year since I turned 30.
I got to the Joshua Tree late. It’s really rather good isn’t it? If you’re reading this I suspect you like U2 too.
Since January this year, I’ve been looking for work … a.k.a “developing my business” for the self employed. I spent 7 months of 2020 wondering if I’ll ever get the chance to create another Joshua Tree.
Will I ever work at a senior level again?
I was seeking to build my own skills development business and struggling to convert good interest into sales. There were also precious few permanent jobs on offer. I was applying for roles that I wouldn’t have considered ten years ago simply out of the desire to work and stay relevant, but getting nowhere. (This is not a great job search strategy, for reference).
It makes you self-reflect, all the spare time. Makes you highly self-critical and in my worst moments even jealous of others successes. Why isn’t that me? Once upon a time, we were the same (or at least in the same room!).
My list of limitations others may spot although it naturally took me longer to. I am self deprecating, which I think make me friendly and likable but appears to others as low confidence. I want to be liked more than I want to be respected. I still get tongue tied with authority at times. I can be indecisive. I want to please and have sometimes sought to please my boss over my team. I’ve kept quiet when I should have spoken out. I can ramble when clarity of message is important. And on. And on.
If you peruse my linkedin profile for the last years I’ve still had some great roles. I’ve had roles at a couple of big retailers and learned loads. And sometimes the above limitations bit me despite delivering the metrics. I’ve had other consultant and interim roles too where my strengths came to the fore ahead of my weaknesses.
But in all cases, my sense of forward momentum was disappearing: it was like my star potential was falling, my impact diminishing.
Was this it? I guess that’s how Bono and the boys must have felt after Rattle & Hum’s reception.
Rebuilding one’s Mojo, 2020.
Some of 2020 was a struggle: applying for full time jobs and hearing nothing back almost ever; the call from a recruitment agency; the false hope as they ask for your CV; the disappointment when you get nothing back; the days tailoring CVs and cover letters to get a rejection a few weeks later.
Some of 2020, however was hugely rewarding. Of course lockdown. But it was wonderful (for me): Sunny with family at home. Getting fit with my daily exercise … Heaven.
But also, thanks to Linkedin I “met” 4 or 5 random connections who had similar interests and were in similar positions. Over zoom it was weird but some genuine, now firm friendships formed. We created business ventures, simply through graft and enthusiasm, and supported each other in the search for clients and jobs, through the lows (not many highs!). None of us had to play the ‘corporate’ persona, it was liberating and most of all fun. Simply being able to be have a giggle whilst building to a purpose made me want to get up each day.
No money was coming in but I was enthused and energised. I had rediscovered purpose.
They reminded me what my strengths were: corporate life too often focuses on your weaknesses and the weaknesses of your teams. We found areas of common interest and simply started sharing views, research and ideas: each of us seeking to make sure that in our interest topic we were jointly the most informed, and had THE WORLD’S BEST body of knowledge on that topic. And created from there.
In the last month, I had the opportunity to return to consulting with a big-4 player. It’s early days but so far its been really exciting, if startlingly hard work. I feel that I’ve got somewhat lucky given the current environment to get a role at all, and am determinedly bottling up the mojo my new (and some old) friends gave me.
When things are low, particularly when you’re out of work, find a community and get busy. Doesn’t matter what initially, just have some professional fun. That’s essentially my tip from this post. Get busy and you’ll find your mojo again.
I loved Rattle & Hum. And I loved my Rattle & Hum year of 2020.
But watch out: I’m hoping my Achtung Baby (of course U2’s best album) is just around the corner. And yours too.
This article was originally published here – it has been reproduced with kind permission.
This is the most popular month to make a career change, which means there’s even more competition – if you want to stand out from the crowd, it pays to be prepared.
Job-seeking is not a numbers game – all you need is one great job offer.
So, get yourself ready to be open to the right opportunities. Follow my list of 20 ways to get job-ready.
1. Don’t set goals – you will be setting yourself up to fail or to make a bad choice
If you set yourself a target of finding a new job by March, say, or earning a particular salary, you will be putting pressure on yourself to accept a job offer even if it is not the best career move for you.
2. Think about why you’re leaving – just to be sure
Moving jobs takes time and is risky – you have little job security for the first 2 years.
So work out why you are dissatisfied with your current role.
Need more flexibility? Ask to work a day a week at home.
Want to learn a new skill? Then put in a request.
You’ve nothing to lose if you are planning to leave anyway.
3. Make it a positive choice – desperation is not a good look
Not only will you be in danger of accepting any job rather than the right one, hiring managers want to recruit someone who is positive and passionate about the job, not someone who is disgruntled and oozes negativity.
4. Focus on what you’ll gain – it will energise you
Change your mindset by focusing on what you want to gain, not what you want to leave behind.
Make a list of all the positives you want from your new role.
For example, if you are stuck in a rut with no prospect of promotion, then training and development and opportunities to progress should be a priority in your job search. If you hate your commute, the location will be key.
This list will help narrow your search – and help motivate you to make a change.
5. Be patient – it might take time
Remember, it will probably take until Easter (at the earliest) before you start a new role, so don’t rush into the wrong decision.
6. Remain loyal – it will pay off
Yes, it’s hard to give your best when all you can think about is leaving – however, don’t relax just yet because you will want a good reference and you might be working in your current role for some time.
Never badmouth your employer. It could get back to the boss (awkward) or make future employers wary of hiring someone who is obviously so discontented.
7. Identify your strengths – and weaknesses
You need to be clear about what you can offer future employers.
To discover what your ‘brand’ is, ask trusted friends and colleagues to list the 5 or 10 things they think you do well – perhaps you have good technical skills or are good at being collaborative?
Then ask if there are any aspects of your personality or performance that they think need work – maybe you are not so good at organisation?
8. Search online for keywords that will sell you
Next, match what you have to offer with the jobs you are interested in. A quick scan of job boards to see what recruiters are looking for will identify the keywords you need to include in your job applications – from ‘collaborative’ to ‘commercial’.
Make a list. Then rephrase your skills so they fit these descriptions – for example, ‘ambitious’ could be ‘target-driven’.
9. While you are looking, is there anything you are missing?
If nearly every job spec is asking for a particular skill, then perhaps it’s time to get a qualification.
For example, if the spec says ‘must be proficient in data analytics, including Excel’ and you use Excel but don’t have a certificate, go online and do a quick course. If there are any glaring gaps in your skills, perhaps you need to invest in a professional qualification.
Also, check out the Procurious Training & Learning section.
10. Update your CV – only a generic one at this stage
Pay attention to the style: No more than two sides of A4.
Start with a personal statement. List jobs with the most recent first and avoid giving your entire life history. Focus on what you can do rather than what you have done.
Include some examples of where you have met/exceeded expectations using the STAR (situation, task, activity, result) approach. This will clearly demonstrate you are up to the job without appearing arrogant.
Don’t be tempted to invent hobbies and interests to make yourself appear more interesting or to lie (dates, job titles etc. are easy to check).
And don’t forget to double-check grammar and spelling.
11. Remember to tailor your application/CV to each role
When you get to the stage of applying, carefully read the job specification and include all of the keywords listed – using the exact same wording.
Look through your list of skills and keywords that sell your brand and include those that are required or you think will add value to the job. Remember, at this stage, you need to show that you are an obvious fit for the job.
12. Have a professional photo taken
While many recruiters hate photos on CVs, they do like to see them online – either on your own website (if you have one) or your online profiles.
A really good photo (remember to smile or at least look approachable) is, therefore, a must. At the very least, avoid holiday or party selfies.
13. Get your online presence ready – LinkedIn in particular
Think of this as your shop window – a potential employer or recruitment consultant might come across your profile and at the very least will check it.
Ask a few key contacts if they will provide you with a recommendation and add a bit of personality by posting a few blogs or sharing some newsworthy links. Also, boost your network by requesting others to join it – the more senior the better.
14. Use Procurious as a resource
Make sure your Procurious profile is more than just a bland description of your current job.
Use phrases like ‘passionate about’, ‘driven’ and/or ‘highly experienced’ and really sell yourself – don’t forget a photo.
Also, click on ‘Build your network’ and start to reach out to professionals in key positions – someone might even approach you to offer you a job.
15. Don’t forget to clean up your social media
An inappropriate image or even just liking a less-than-tasteful joke can rule you out of a job.
16. Get signed up to job boards
Get the apps (you can search on your daily commute) and sign up for job alerts (so you don’t miss an opportunity).
17. Identify your ideal employers
Make a list of the firms you would like to work for and start researching them – you will want to talk their language in your job applications and be prepared for interviews.
Also, check out glassdoor.co.uk to see how existing employees rate them – to avoid making a bad move.
18. Engage in strategic networking
Find ways to network with staff who work for your ideal employers to find out what it is like to work there.
You can then ask them if they have a referral scheme (existing employees are often given a bonus for recommending a new employee) or to let you know if there are any opportunities.
19. Encourage approaches – a bit like putting up a ‘For Sale’ sign
Many job movers don’t ever apply for a new role. Instead, they are approached.
Go to LinkedIn and click on ‘Show recruiters you are open to job opportunities’. (Don’t worry – you can control who sees this, so the boss won’t necessarily find out.)
Also, get on the books of recruitment consultants specialising in your area so they can put your name forward for any relevant jobs.
20. Practise your pitch – it will keep you positive
Some people find it awkward to self-promote while others just come across as arrogant.
So practise telling stories that showcase how you have met a challenge, achieved a target or developed a skill – you can use these on application letters, when networking and in interviews.
It’s also a very self-affirming – and will help you deal with the disappointment when employers don’t even bother to acknowledge your application or reject you.
So keep these 20 tips in mind to boost your spirits while job-hunting – and increase your chances of success. Good luck!
And if you want to move up in your career, change industries, or even need some extra motivation for the new year (and new decade!), start 2020 off with a bang in our upcoming webinar – Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Register here for free.
We have assembled a panel of experienced senior leaders from different industries and different parts of the world – Lara Naqushbandi (Google), Christina Morrow (Ricoh USA) and Imelda Walsh (The Source) – to offer career advice.
And they have plenty of great insights to share with you.
Plan to succeed
Top of their list of recommendations is to have a plan.
Some people like a fully worked-out, detailed action plan. Others prefer a few tasks on a to-do list.
Either way, you’ll benefit from having made a plan. It’s a good place to start to identify the things you need to do.
And – as Imelda points out – you’re much more likely to succeed when that plan is written down.
But once you’ve made the plan don’t feel tied to it. Don’t feel you always need to stick to the programme.
Because sometimes doing that can stop you considering potential new roles that could be a great fit for you.
Take Christina’s advice and ask yourself how you would define professional success. Use that as your guide to consider whether to stick to or deviate from your plan when a new opportunity arises.
Ask what’s important now
Although the financial side of work is an important consideration, the panel members stress the drawbacks of being blindsided by the money associated with a role.
‘Look at the whole package, not just the pay cheque,’ Lara advises.
In her experience getting the balance right between work and home life is something that everyone should consider before taking on a new role.
Having a passion for what you do is something all our panel members cited as important. Imelda reports that she’s been most successful when she has a role that focuses on her passion.
Christina has always taken time out regularly to reflect on what she enjoys doing so that she’s clear on what she might want from any prospective new position.
Be open to taking risks.
This may involve deviating from your plan or exploring options to try something new.
Lara is a great believer in having an openness to risk. Going off the beaten path can often bring great benefits when thinking about the next step in a career. That’s an approach that has definitely worked for her.
But taking a step up can present new challenges and in Christina’s experience, there is always something from a previous role that you can use to build on for the next.
So don’t stay too long in one job and get bored is her advice. Take a risk and try something out of your comfort zone.
The soft skills we use every day in procurement and supply chain – like leadership, negotiation and collaboration – are just what are needed for the challenges of a new role.
Hone your network
Having a network is a great resource you can use for securing a new role.
Imelda sees many candidates who have used a mentor to help them develop and grow, achieving great success.
And mentors can help you think about how to adjust to a culture and brief that a new job can bring.
Moving between different companies can mean adjusting to completely new working environments and procedures – and even sometimes changing continents.
Lara has found she’s had to adapt her style to accommodate each company’s culture and management style.
Why not listen in to our webinar to find out more from our panel about how you can create your path to the top by: Planning your route Asking what’s important Taking risks Making the most of your network.
Register for our upcoming (free) webinar here and start 2020 out with a bang!
Looking forward to the holiday party season? No? You’re not alone. But even if you don’t enjoy them, there are some things you just can’t do.
Only 1 in 4 of us actually look forward to our workplace holiday party. It’s not just the cost or the dread of being stuck with the office bore – there’s also the risk of doing something so embarrassing it’s career suicide.
So, what are the five things you should never, ever do?
1. Not Turning Up
It may be tempting to give the office party a miss. Yes, you may have to chip in for drinks, pay for a babysitter and spend your hard-earned cash on a taxi home. It’s a lot of money for an event you really don’t want to attend.
However, not going singles you out as an employee who is either: not committed to their company, antisocial, a miserable scrooge or someone who thinks they are above attending a ‘boring’ work event. None of these are things you want to be known for.
So go. You don’t have to drink excessively or stay too late, but you should attend.
TIP: Say you really want to come but you have to be at a meeting at 8am/the babysitter has to go at 10pm/you need to be at your spouse’s work event too (or a similar excuse). And for the few hours you are there make sure you look like you are having a good time.
2. Getting Drunk
Even if you work in a culture that
doesn’t seem to have heard of #MeToo or where everyone is encouraged to do
shots and dance on the tables, be aware of your behavior. If you want to get
smashed, do it on your own time.
A work event, should be viewed as just that. Work. So, behave accordingly. If you make a joke that is in poor taste or engage in banter that can be seen as offensive, these can all be disciplinary matters leading to dismissal.
With smart phones and social media, you may not even be aware that your rude comment about the boss is being posted online or your sexually suggestive dancing with an embarrassed and unwilling colleague is trending. It’s hard to dispute evidence like that.
TIP: If you fear you will drink excessively or don’t want to drink alcohol, say you have left the car at the station and don’t want to drink-and-drive. Or set yourself a strict two drink limit. Your holiday party may only last a few hours – don’t let it ruin the rest of your working life.
Did you know? When it comes to the most embarrassing moments at work nearly 1 in 6 admit to getting “too” drunk at the work holiday party. Don’t let that be you.
3. Revealing too much – TMIs and PDAs
You’ve had a few drinks and are feeling a bit nervous – and that means you end up babbling. But in a bid to make your conversation more interesting you share too much information (TMI) on the gruesome details of your recent illness. Or a mile by mile account of your training schedule for your next triathlon.
Or your long-list of online dating disasters including all the intimate details, or every little thing your little ones have ever done with the photos to prove it.
Remember you need to have boundaries and know when to stop. Just because you are at a party, it doesn’t mean you should overshare. Nobody is interested, and if they are, it’s probably because you’re saying something you shouldn’t.
Anything you say can and probably will
be used against you. Just because you have a hazy memory of the party, does not
mean everyone else will. So revealing that you once snogged someone on a work
trip might come back to haunt you.
The same applies to kissing your partner in front of your colleagues (keep your hands to yourself…until you get home). There is a time and place for everything and the work party is not one of them.
And if you are tempted to have a public display of affection (PDA) with a colleague, bear in mind that this can cause friction within your work team. And, as worst, it can even leave you open to claims of sexual harassment.
TIP: Drinking less can help you to realise when you need to shut up or your behaviour is getting out of line. If you are taking your other half along, ask them to interrupt you if you reveal too much and/or everyone appears bored.
4. Talking about Politics or Any Other Divisive Topic
There is nothing worse than someone asking you who you are voting for, if you are pro or against Brexit, or your opinion on any other political topic. So do not introduce this into any conversation.
If you are talking to someone more senior and they want to talk politics, it can be very awkward and you may feel you have to agree with them to avoid them thinking badly of you. Whatever you do, don’t get into an argument.
TIP: Change the subject, offer to buy a round, go to the toilet, or say you have to ring and check on the babysitter. Anything to avoid touching on politics unless you are absolutely sure you all agree on the subject.
5. Engaging in Office Politics
The other type of politics you need to
avoid are office politics.
You may see the office holiday party as the perfect opportunity to get chatting to the boss about a promotion while he is in a good mood. Or see it as a chance to network with the right people.
The only problem is that they will see
right through you. And you may be the 20th person to try the same
thing at the same party.
So, introduce yourself (if they don’t
know who you are) and if you want to get the conversation going stick to
subjects that interest them.
TIP: It’s relatively easy to find out what people do in their spare time (just look on social media). So, if you want to start a conversation with someone senior talk about their hobby or other interest or find common ground.
Perhaps you went to the same uni, have volunteered with the same organisation or are both vegan and are avoiding the buffet. Make it about them, not about you. The aim is to leave a positive lasting impression.
Whatever you do, do not bad mouth anyone. Who knows who could overhear?!
It’s easy to associate competence with job titles in a generic sense. However, given people’s performance will depend on the context in which they operate, all notions of competence should take context into account…
The same, but different
Is a graphic designer at a major accounting firm the same job as a graphic designer at an early-stage startup? There is an obvious overlap is functional skills, but that’s where the similarity ends.
A designer at startup will have limited resources and even less time. They’ll be required to “ship fast” because the clock is ticking and everything is an experiment. Management will have a relatively high tolerance for mistakes, and decisions will be made on the spot.
Conversely, a large accounting firm will be far less tolerant of risk, decisions are made by committee, perfection will be prioritized over speed and autonomy will likely be low.
How similar do these roles sound now?
While the fundamental craft is essentially the same, the context is entirely different. Success is measured differently, and the respective operating environments have very little in common.
Context is everything
It follows that the best person to do the job at the accounting firm is probably not the best person to do the job at the startup. In come cases the same person might be able to excel at both roles, but they’ll need to apply themselves and behave quite differently.
This means that competence is dependent on context, something James Clear emphasizes in his book Atomic Habits.
There is no such thing is a “good graphic designer”. Rather, there is a good graphic designer in your particular context. That context might be unique to your company, or it might be broadly applicable to companies in your industry or of a similar size, for example.
This is a departure from the way many companies, and indeed many talent acquisition professionals, think about competency frameworks. It’s easy to associate competence with job titles in a generic sense. However, given people’s performance will depend on the context in which they operate, all notions of competence should take context into account.
How to build context into your recruitment process
When filling a role, it’s important to think of what it takes to be successful in that role at your company. It’s helpful to divide the requirements into two components. The first is the skills that are specific to the role itself and would likely be required in any context. In other words, what does the person in the role need to achieve? The second component is the skills that are unique to your context. In other words, how do you expect the person to approach their role? This can include cultural aspects, attitude, behavior and so on.
The next step is to come up with a way to test candidates for those skills. Following this logic, a generic “graphic designer test” doesn’t make much sense because it only addresses the first component. In order to identify someone who will excel in a role in your context, the test must take into account both components. It must be context-dependent because competence is dependent on context.
Thinking about candidate selection in this way will help you identify people who are more likely to be successful in your environment. This makes sense because it’s also unlikely that the people who want to work at a startup will also want to work at major accounting firms, and visa versa.
Is your news stream flooded with negativity? Do you unknowingly pass this negativity on to others? Perhaps it’s time to try something radical and be optimistic.
As a species, the human race is hard-wired to react more strongly to fear and bad news than to positivity.
If you think back to our ancient ancestors
living as hunter-gatherers, this biological reaction made sense. It was
necessary to keep them alive in the wild, where curiosity about an ‘unknown’
within their environment was more likely to lead to death than it was to a
In today’s world however, such
life-threatening situations are rarely experienced, yet we still find our
monkey brains on high-alert, fed by stories of drama, outrage and anxiety via
social media and 24/7 news feeds.
These dramatic, fear-based headlines that are
so common in today’s media prey on our anxiety and insecurity and leave us
cautious at the best of times.
We find ourselves unable to think rationally
or creatively or produce solutions that might otherwise benefit those around
believes that if we want to be more influential in our work environment, to
think more creatively and produce solutions to problems that might otherwise
remain unsolved – we need to become more conscious of maintaining a ‘healthy
diet’ when it comes to the information we consume and share.
So how do we do
your information diet
The first step is to think of your consumption
of news in terms of a diet.
Negativity is like junk food – it’s fine to consume
every so often but indulge too much and your mental state will start to suffer.
Just like the physical body, the majority of
your mental diet – the information you consume each and every day – should
consist of healthier options that nurture, nourish and energise you rather than
prey on your mental fears and anxieties.
Remember, all media news feeds (including
newspapers) as designed to ‘feed’ us information that we have shown interest in
in the past. Each and every time we click on headlines that promote anger,
outrage and drama we’re telling these companies that we want to see more of the
It’s essential that we make a more conscious
choice around the ‘information diet’ that we consume, to minimise the negative
information stream and make sure that we’re staying in a productive and healthy
Now – let’s be clear – this does not mean
ignoring important information in relation to your field, industry or the world
at large. It helps no one to stick your head in the sand and pretend that bad
things aren’t happening.
What this means is that – if you can maintain
a healthy balance in what you consume – you will be more resilient when
the bad things appear on the horizon. This means you will be able to easily
think of effective and creative solutions. As opposed to being so beaten down
and overwhelmed – that a fast and considered response is impossible.
optimism to stand out
Politicians from Julius Caesar to Donald Trump
have always known that fear, drama and outrage are an incredibly effective tool
for capturing the attention of others.
Take the rise of automation, for example. How
many headlines have you seen out there that focus on the negative possibilities
of robotics, such as mass unemployment or even an existential threat to the
human race? Good news stories about how robotics will improve our quality of
life tend to be lost among the negative noise because – again – we are
hard-wired to pay attention to bad news.
But here’s the secret. If a single person in
your network, your organisation or your team chose to reframe these developments.
Took the time to research, communicate, or write a list of exactly what
opportunities these situations might create – would they stand out?
The answer is absolutely yes. To stand against
this negative tide and broadcast their message through optimism and positivity
– they’ll get noticed. Not only that – but my money is that that person will be
the one invited to the table, offered the promotion or requested at the next
hard-wired preference for negativity isn’t easy, but it can be done.
around the globe are today coming to understand that they’ve made a critical
error in spreading the message about global warming through a narrative of fear
– talking about the disastrous consequences of climate change certainly won
everyone’s attention, but progress has been slow.
Compare that to
the new messages that are now appearing – where we’re being shown the limitless
possibilities of renewable technologies and a greener world. Where we’re being
given real and actionable ideas to help the situation.
Now that’s an
approach to influence that will change things.
Most procurement professionals will one day
face the challenge of trying to get their business stakeholders on board with
some sort of change agenda – whether it’s getting them to use a new system,
reducing maverick spend, or simply engaging procurement earlier in their
There are two ways to get people on board –
through fear or positivity.
It’s a bit more complex than the carrot versus
stick approach, but it boils down to replacing threats and cajoling with a
positive, what’s-in-it-for-you message.
Instead of telling stakeholders that failing
to engage with procurement will risk their project or earn them a slap on the
wrist, educate them instead about the benefits – lower costs, higher savings,
and better outcomes that align with their goals.
In the end, you want stakeholders to come on
board with your initiative out of enthusiasm rather than out of fear.
In short, be aware of the power of fear and
replace it with positivity wherever you can. Most of us made a 2019 New Year’s
resolution to improve our diet – now it’s time to pay just as much attention on
the fuel we give (and offer) our minds.
When things get bad at work do you find a way to fix it or consider a career move?
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.
Looking for a new procurement job? The good news is that there are a whole load available that are yours for the taking… you just need to broaden your vision!
Do you have your eye on an exciting opportunity in international category management, predictive data analytics, or do you have a passion to make sourcing more sustainable? The good news is that new job roles like these are emerging in procurement and they are waiting for you. Conventional manual processes are disappearing as we automate routine tasks, even contract management is deemed at risk: artificial intelligence and algorithms are already being used to draw up “smart” contracts.
Where are all the great jobs?
Traditionally the most desirable careers were to be found in the big multinationals that have mature procurement organizations; this still holds quite true. Some of the companies in the fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) sector are leading the way in strategic procurement. Unilever, P&G, Amazon and Coca-Cola are listed in Gartner’s Top 25 companies in supply chain. Any one of these companies may be a good place to get a foot in the door and gain solid early experience.
Procurement solutions providers and consultancies
With the development of software solutions for procurement functions such as strategic sourcing, contracting and supplier management, many companies are outsourcing some functions to technically proficient service providers. These problem solvers service a range of industries, locations and functions. Spend Matters publishes a list of the top 50 solutions providers To Know and another top 50 to Watch. This list includes some consulting firms, both big and small. Phil Ideson of the Art of Procurement says that this type of experience can be valuable if you want to go back into a corporate leadership role. He says “I am a believer that procurement is a service provider to our stakeholders and not a function. Being with a solutions provider really helps you experience the need for customer centricity.”
Not-for-profit and Public Procurement
Public sector procurement is a real job option. Don’t disregard the experience that you can get from working on big-ticket items and major projects that positively affect your region or your city. It may not seem as cool as working for Apple Inc. but it may be more rewarding. There is some perception that working for a non-profit organization means a drop in pay, not so. Love to travel? Opportunities to work abroad abound in the many divisions of the United Nations, the World Bank and the Red Cross, at market-related salaries.
Should you get certified or get a degree?
Unlike in finance and legal, there isn’t a license to practice in procurement. However, most employers prefer candidates with a least a bachelor’s degree in business or a professional certification in supply chain or procurement. Which one depends on whether your targeted employer has a preference for certification over a formal degree and what your desired end-game is.
1. Getting certified
Many of my colleagues without a professional certification have never felt that that impeded their career growth or work opportunities. However, in the early stages of a career, it may be useful especially in locations where professional certifications are held in high esteem. CIPS, CAPM, IACCM and ISM are examples of certifications and affiliations that you could follow. In the UK and in Australia the push for certification and affiliation is stronger than in some other parts of the world.
2. Educational qualifications
Formal degrees in procurement are actually quite rare but there are lots of possibilities in supply chain management (SCM), of which procurement is a key element. Leading employers source their talent from the best-ranked colleges internationally that offer supply chain advanced education and from the top UK universities with registered supply chain degrees. If you are thinking it is too late to start, it really isn’t. Many of these degrees are available online. Always take advantage of an offer of financial or other educational assistance from your employer.
Sometimes it’s all about the piece of paper, sometimes it’s about the affiliation.
“If I knew then what I know now”
I asked some mature and experienced colleagues what they would tell their 21-year old self and this is what they said:
Soak up everything. Read widely to stay on top of new trends, changes in regulations and advances in technology. Don’t always accept commonly held positions, beliefs or strategies as absolute truths. Question what you see and what you hear. You can look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes.
Get wide exposure
Take advantage of any job rotation that you are offered, opportunities to get exposure to many industries and many categories don’t come along every day. Be open to change and chances to diversify your skills. Transitioning between functions helps you build your knowledge and helps you to better understand your stakeholders.
Find a mentor
It may be useful to get guidance from someone who has been through a similar experience. A well-chosen mentor provides advice and helps navigate you through the trials and tribulations of your career. Gordon Donovan (FCIPS), of Epworth Healthcare, says a mentor can come from anywhere, even another industry.
Ask for feedback (and act on it!)
Actively seek feedback on the things that you do well and things that need improvement. Sometimes it’s hard to take criticism but it can help develop both your technical and behavioural skills.
Networking does not come naturally to everyone but it is worth developing some skills in this area. Meeting new people is so important because you never know when it’ll be someone who can help you to open doors or change your direction. Tanya Seary is a champion of networking, you can follow her example here.
6. Job descriptions are not cast in stone
Many advertised jobs that you come across may be cut-and-pasted from descriptions used in previous recruitment activities. Too many times employers and recruiters look for what they looked for last time, not what they need now. If you think you would fit their needs, go for it, there’s nothing lost.
What the under 30’s say
Most under 30’s surveyed agreed with the boomers talking to their 21-year-old selves. They suggested working hard to keep learning and gaining new qualifications and ask lots of questions. As Christina Gill, one of the “30 under 30” stars with over a decade of experience in supply chain, said, “This is an exciting time in your career. Be open, be adventurous, be a sponge, listen, learn, and take risks in your career.”
A final thought: organisations that focus on supplier collaboration, unlocking innovation and making the best use of their precious data make attractive employers.