How to be more confident (and seem more competent) in your procurement career

Does this sound like you? You put 110% into everything you do at work. Everyone knows that you’re the most knowledgeable and hardworking person in your procurement team. Everyone likes you. Sure, you doubt yourself (who doesn’t have a bit of imposter syndrome?!), but you’re pretty sure it doesn’t show. 

But something’s still quite wrong. Because while you’re busy working hard, others around you seem to be advancing much faster in their careers.  

What’s going on?

confident procurement career

You might be surprised to learn that people in general – even the most experienced procurement managers, supported by the best possible HR teams and systems – are not always great (or even good) at spotting competence, and likewise, ensuring that everyone’s contributions are seen and recognised. 

Sometimes, the problem is not your competence, but others’ perception of it. In this case, you need to ensure you can confidently communicate your competence. 

Here’s how to do just that. 

Why we cannot separate competence from confidence 

Have you ever heard the term ‘fake it until you make it?’ While we certainly aren’t suggesting that would be at all possible in procurement, confidence can go a long way, for a number of important scientific reasons. 

In general, human beings naturally believe what they are told, especially if you project confidence. When someone is speaking confidently, people believe they must know what they are talking about, and as a result, they filter information that may point to the contrary. 

This unfortunately means that even if you are the most competent procurement professional in your team, your manager might be more likely to invest in the most confident person, even if they aren’t as skilled. 

While we all hope our managers are more observant than this, unfortunately it’s human nature to be attracted to confidence. 

Fortunately though, there’s a number of ways you can more confidently communicate your competence. 

Make a habit of communicating your achievements

Many procurement professionals are naturally humble. This can be especially true for women, who are culturally conditioned to be modest and unassuming, and who can be penalised for being forceful and assertive. 

Unfortunately though, humility at work doesn’t really pay off. Research has shown that humans subconsciously regard modesty as someone hedging against potential failure, so being too modest can, in fact, undermine others’ confidence in your competence. 

This being the case, it’s important to make time to regularly communicate your achievements in meetings, via email, or in person with key decision makers. You can do so by: 

  • Being specific about the value you added. For example, instead of saying you’ve had ‘a big win with a supplier’ in a meeting, specify what exactly you’ve done to make that so. 
  • Giving due acknowledgements to your colleagues. For example, saying ‘We all worked hard on our supply chain issues, and I was delighted to be able to contribute by doing XYZ’. 
  • Having another person talk about your successes. If you find it too difficult to talk about what you’ve achieved, enlist a friend at work to help you (and help them in return). 

Don’t be self-deprecating 

Self-deprecation, or the act of belittling or undervaluing your achievements, is, unfortunately, one of the fastest ways to kill others’ confidence in your competence. 

And even more unfortunately, women are also culturally conditioned to be self-deprecating, especially when it comes to downplaying big achievements, apologising, or prefacing their ideas with phrases such as ‘I’m not sure if this is right, but …’, or ‘This may not be a good idea, but …’ 

Changing something that you are culturally conditioned to do is difficult, especially if you don’t realise you’re doing it (as an experiment, try to count how many times you apologise in a day!). 

Yet, doing so can help others’ perception of your competence immensely. 

Not sure where to start? Try here: How to Stop Writing ‘Like a Girl’ in The Workplace. 

Be optimistic 

In 1982, psychologists Barry Schlenker and Mark Leary asked 48 people to rate the competence of 60 imaginary people on an exam. The raters had access to each imaginary person’s perceived competence (from very good to very poor), but also to their result. 

Something interesting happened. Even where the imaginary people performed poorly, if they’d rated their competence as very good, the raters tended to agree with them – even though they had information to the contrary. 

Being optimistic about your performance – even if you don’t feel like the most competent person in the room – has the power to convince your procurement colleagues and your manager of all manner of things. And as hard as it might be to discuss your achievements sometimes, it’s important to think about your discussions of your achievements not as bragging, but as simply informing those around you. 

Confidence and optimism might well get you just as far as competence will. 

Do you have any additional tips on how to be more confident at work? Let us know in the comments below. 

Nine out of 10 women admit to feeling a sense of imposter syndrome – even the highest achievers often feel they are not qualified for the positions they hold. Join BRAVO-The Event this November to hear from inspiring leaders that will help shift your mindset and set you on the path to finding your power and shine a light on your opportunities for growth.

BRAVO-The Event has been designed for women in the procurement and supply chain profession. Click the link to learn more and register your place.

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