One thing all of us wonder, at some time in our careers, is how to get ahead. How to separate ourselves from the pack. Most of us aren’t content to fill a seat. And because the ambitious, forward looking candidates are some of our favourite candidates to work with at Argentus, we cater a lot of our advice towards those people. So if you’re an aspiring superstar in Procurement, settle in while we offer some of our hard-won advice about how you go about taking your career to the next level.
These tips are aimed at junior to mid-career candidates who want to advance:
1. Get Strategic
Time and again, Procurement careers stagnate when they become too transactional. An entry-level or 1-2 year role will often be fairly transactional (concerned with the administrative side of buying rather than thinking about buying as a driver of competitiveness). That’s to be expected. But you need to take every opportunity you can to try to move past a transactional mindset and into a strategic one. Even if you have a transactional role, work to figure out improvements in the process. Build relationships. Learn how to deliver cost savings, and you’re sure to advance.
Key skills: sourcing, Rf(X), research
2. Get Communicative
Thoughtful, impactful Procurement is about breaking out of silos. Not those huge cylinders that hold grain. Siloes as in the invisible walls that rise up to separate various parts of a business from each-other, as a company grows. Various departments have their own way of doing things. They have their own culture. But Procurement is about working across a company to help buy better. The cool thing is that you get to touch all aspects of a business. The uncool thing is that those aspects don’t always want to be touched. True Procurement superstars are skilled communicators, able to demonstrate how they add value. Procurement often languishes if its achievements aren’t recognized – and it’s up to each individual to work for that recognition.
Key skills: verbal and written communications
3. Focus on your Soft Skills:
Soft skills are the most important thing for any executive evaluating your leadership potential. That means the communications and presentation skills mentioned above, as well as negotiation and relationship-building. No matter how well you understand the category, you’re going to be more effective as a Procurement professional if you can effectively advocate for what you do with internal business you’ll be serving. A stakeholder (the person you’re doing the buying for), a good Procurement person feels like they’re adding to the process. A bad Procurement person feels like a roadblock. Soft skills are a big part of that distinction.
Key skills: presentation, negotiations, relationship-building, people management
4. Think Beyond Cost Savings
To a lot of people, cost savings is the point of Procurement. But one thing we hear again and again from senior executives is that Procurement does itself a disservice by focusing only on cost savings. By integrating your company closer with suppliers, you can add value to the operation in tons of different ways: by partnering on innovations, by learning how to improve your product, by reducing risk. You can make your company more nimble and more competitive across a variety of metrics, beyond buying things as cheaply as possible. It’s worth it to keep this in mind, so you can think more creatively about your role as a Procurement professional.
Key Skills: Vendor Management, Supplier Management, Contract Management, Business Process Outsourcing, Risk Management
5. Improve Your Knowledge
Procurement superstars are always looking to improve their skills. They jump from one educational branch to another. This means being dedicated enough to consider continuing education opportunities like certifications or university courses in Procurement. But you don’t need to be that formal about it. There are some great online resources like Procurious and the Art of Procurement podcast to help you develop your skills even further – and to think more broadly about what it is you do.
6. Amp Up Your Personal Brand
This goes for everyone, but it’s extra important in Procurement, where you have to recognize and advocate for your achievements because they sometimes happen below the radar of employees. Pay attention to your social media presence. When looking at, say, your LinkedIn profile, think about how you come across; do you seem like an ambitious person rising through the ranks? Do you seem like a “find?” Or do you seem like a seat-filler? This is the social media equivalent of “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Make sure your LinkedIn profile lists accomplishments rather than “duties.” Make sure you put the specific categories you’ve bought for. It’s not just potential employers checking you out – suppliers are paying attention to, and a strong social media presence can even help give you the edge in negotiations.
These are the broad strokes. Obviously there’s a lot that goes into being a Procurement superstar, including a certain amount of inborn talent. But this should get you thinking about some big-picture priorities as you develop your career.