Can’t Progress Your Procurement Career? Here’s The Thing You’re Probably Doing Wrong

If you’re an ambitious procurement professional (and let’s face it, most of us are in some way, shape or form), then there is nothing more frustrating than feeling as if you’ve hit a career glass ceiling.

You know, that feeling when it’s clear that your organisation has not or cannot provide you with any opportunities for progression, and that you might just be stuck doing exactly what you’re doing for…ever? 

No one likes a feeling of total stagnation, no matter how comfortable. Yet, with the economy in many developed nations looking less than rosy, there’s every chance that at least some of us feel as if we’ve hit a career wall, but likewise, do not necessarily want to change jobs right now. 

So, what should you do? Here’s the #1 thing that you’re most likely doing wrong…and information on how to do things a little differently. 

What you’re doing wrong 

According to Harvard Business Review author and successful entrepreneur Carter Cast, we are now in the era of ‘do-it-yourself’ career development. 

Owning to the fact that many people change not only jobs, but careers, multiple times in their lives, organisations do not see the same value in investing heavily in people as they used to (although they certainly should be investing at least some).

For this reason, Cast says, employees need to take control of their own career development – and not rely on their organisation to necessarily provide them with training, mentoring, or even growth and promotional opportunities. 

Simply put, then, if you’ve been waiting and hoping that your organisation will provide you with a pathway and the necessary experience and skills to have the career of your dreams … then you’ve been doing career development all wrong. 

  1. Figure out your passion 

It might sound like the simplest thing in the world, but in reality, if someone asked you the question: what area of procurement (and secondly, what tasks within procurement) are you most passionate about, could you answer easily and with clarity? 

If the answer is no (or even if it’s a maybe), then the first step to taking control of your career and career development is answering this question. 

And it isn’t always simple. Perhaps you haven’t had enough exposure to different areas of procurement to answer this, so your first step will then be to explore what you might like. Networking within procurement is a great way to start doing this, as you’ll expose yourself to people in numerous different roles. 

After your period of exploration, hopefully you’ll land on an area that excites you: whether this be sustainability, supplier relationship management, or potentially even people leadership. It’s ok to have multiple passions, but for simplicity, it’s best to begin creating opportunities for yourself within just one area, so as you can ensure you reach your goals. 

  1. Deepen your expertise 

Creating opportunities for yourself starts by becoming an expert in your chosen field. And a great way to do this is by deepening your real-world exposure to that particular field. 

If you’ve decided that you’re passionate about sustainability, then start by ensuring that you know you’re very familiar with your organisation’s policy on sustainable procurement. From here, you can start digging more: is there more your organisation can do? Perhaps your organisation might be willing to learn from others if their policies aren’t currently best practice? 

There’s so much you can do here to help your organisation, and in doing so, potentially create opportunities for yourself. Maybe you create a working group to improve sustainable procurement practices. Or perhaps you research these and present a strong business case as to why change is imperative. 

Taking action to deepen your own expertise and also bring awareness to your organisation is the first step in creating opportunities for yourself. 

  1. Continue learning 

Did you know that as human beings, our brains are hard-wired to crave learning, and to process it as a reward?  Investing in learning something new is not only good for your career and your personal development, but it also has distinct benefits for your health and happiness: people that are constantly learning are more likely to lead happy, productive and successful lives. 

In addition to deepening your expertise in your area through practical experience, to create opportunities for yourself, you need to invest in continual learning. On the surface, this may sound expensive and time-consuming: (understandably) you may not have the time to complete an entire professional qualification.

But continual learning in an area you’re passionate about doesn’t have to mean completing a lengthy and expensive qualification. If you’re interested in sustainability as a procurement professional, as an example, then continuing learning by following procurement news in this area, or even reading a book, can be a great start. 

  1. Create a plan 

If you’re an ambitious procurement professional, then the idea of creating a career plan wouldn’t be new to you. In fact, most of us should already have a five year career roadmap. 

But what would this roadmap look like if it was more of a business case for your organisation to create a role specifically for you? 

It might sound impossible, and of course, not every organisation has the capacity to consider creating a role or changing their operating structure to include something different. However, if you’ve upskilled yourself, and shown value through creating working groups, there’s every chance you may have put your organisation on a different path. If they see value in that expertise, they may well have the capacity to pursue it more formally, by giving you a different title and set of responsibilities, or, at the very least, a different direction. 

In the constantly-changing world of procurement, stagnation shouldn’t happen: and you can ensure it doesn’t. Remember, the only person in control of your career (and your career development) is you, so if you feel you aren’t quite where you want to be, go forth and create opportunities for yourself. 

As a procurement professional, what have you done to create opportunities for yourself? Let us know in the comments below.