Tag Archives: layoffs

5 Things 2020 Taught Us About Our Procurement Careers

After 2020, it’s back to the drawing board as far as career advice goes! Our expert sources reveal their top career tips moving forward.


As procurement evolves as a profession, so too does the career advice associated with it. Most years, we learn a thing or two more that we’ll need to implement. This year though? Not so much. 2020 has been the year that career advice has not just evolved, but changed entirely. It has been the year where we have redefined what ‘success’ might look like, grown an appreciation for the small things, and valued the people around us even more. It has been the year where we’ve challenged assumptions about not only how we work, but also where we work and why we do what we do. 

So what, exactly, has 2020 taught us about our careers? Given the now monumental importance of the supply chain and procurement profession, many experts have weighed on what the very best career advice of 2020 has been. Here’s a round up of the five most important things we’ve learnt this year: 

1. We don’t need to be ashamed of being laid off 

It’s one of most people’s greatest fears for good reason: no one wants to get laid off. Being laid off (especially in this economic environment) can feel overwhelming, frightening and humiliating. But what is perhaps even worse is contemplating how to explain being laid off to future employers. Won’t they think that it was a problem with you? 

No they most certainly won’t, says Imelda Walsh, Manager at The Source Recruitment. Even before the millions of redundancies that happened this year, it was always best practice to be honest with a future employer about why you left your last role. 

And especially this year, Imelda says, the stigma around being laid off has all but been put to bed. Being honest about what has happened helps protect your personal brand: 

“If you’re honest, it shows you have integrity. If you’re not, it casts doubt over your whole personal brand. It takes an entire career to build a positive personal brand, but only a few minutes to destroy one.” 

You can read more of Imelda’s brilliant advice here. 

2. Looking after your people is integral to your success

In the past, many have thought of a career as an individual pursuit. In fact, in days gone by, an autocratic management style and having sharp elbows were considered a requisite to success. 

But not anymore. 

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that if our team doesn’t succeed, neither will we. Being a gracious and empathetic person (and leader and team player) has never been more important. In fact, if you want to succeed, this is the exact advice that Ian Holcroft, Director at Murphy, gives all aspiring CPOs: 

“No matter the technological advancements we have now and into the future, people will still be at the centre of everything we do. In strange and challenging times, it’s even more important to look after your people – understand what drives them, what challenges they have outside work and the status of their mental health.” `

Ian has much more excellent advice, here. 

3. Crisis can help build our leadership skills 

One piece of advice that doesn’t change year to year is that we all need to cultivate our leadership skills. This is so important, in fact, that it is considered the number one skill required to succeed in your career, regardless of your profession. 

Usually, a combination of training, experience and a great mentor can help us develop these leadership skills. But a curveball that 2020 has thrown us is that these aren’t the only ways to develop leadership skills. In fact, a crisis can be fundamental in helping us to develop the ability to lead through uncertainty, which is an essential part of leading. 

Mark Holyoake, founder of Holyoake Search, believes that 2020 has provided us all with a unique opportunity to lead, and this is something that companies look for when hiring senior procurement professionals: 

“Leading through uncertainty and adversity has certainly been required of late. As a CPO, you’ll always face uncertainty – so leading in this way is a great skill to be nurturing now.” 

Mark knows more than a thing or two about what skills companies look for when hiring CPOs. You can read his compelling advice here. 

4. Connect inside – and outside – of your industry 

For as long as we’ve been offering career advice, we’ve said one thing to all procurement professionals: building your connections is key. In fact, building connections is the reason we created Procurious in the first place. 

But this year has made the need to connect with others – both inside our team and industry, and outside of it – even more important. With the nature and complexity of some of the supply chain disruptions we’ve seen, connecting and collaborating with all manner of people is now not just a nice to have, but a need to have in order to problem solve and keep our organisations functioning. 

Ian Holcroft, Director at Murphy, believes there’s been no better time to remember one particular old, yet critical adage: 

“It isn’t about what you know, but rather who you know.” 

Ian has much more captivating advice when it comes to connecting. 

5. Be expansive in your thinking

In procurement, we like to think we’re excellent problem solvers. We’re also (usually) excellent risk managers, organisers, and creators of seamless processes. 

But this year basically obliterated our assumptions about almost everything we do. It is no longer possible to use old solutions and to solve the new problems we’re experiencing. 

They key to solving for this, says Mok O’Keefe, Chief Officer at The Innovation Beehive, is to be expansive in our thinking. He says: 

“To be expansive in your thinking, you need to suspend your judgement and forget about assumptions. Say to yourself: how else could this work? Then, when ideas come to mind, ignore the voice that says ‘this is a crazy idea and it won’t work.’ Instead, ask yourself: ‘Under what circumstances could this be possible?’” 

It’s fair to say we all need to be a bit more innovative with our careers this year. Mok’s got a great formula for this, which you can read here.  

2020, the year careers as we know them changed forever 

Like most things after 2020, our careers will never be the same. But could different mean better? Many experts think so. Let’s head into 2020 with a fresh set of advice, a renewed way of looking at things and even higher aspirations for ourselves and our profession.