Is it ok to never want to be a people manager in procurement?

When most of us started in our careers, the path we thought we wanted was clear: we’d be an analyst, a category manager, and then, at some point in the future, we’d be a people leader in procurement, or even a CPO.

Sure, it would be competitive getting there, and we’d have to excel in many areas in order to do so, but that goal was the ultimate north star – and  when we achieved it, we’d be ultimately satisfied, as well as extremely well-paid. 

So, what happens if you wake up and realise that you don’t actually want to be a people manager in procurement? 

Is it ok to never want to be a people manager in procurement

Does that mean that your career is over? 

Are you a failure? 

Will you eventually get fired or made redundant? 

Absolutely not. 

Despite corporate careers feeling cut-throat, and as if everyone is vying for the same senior roles, it turns out that a lot of people (66% in fact), don’t want to be people managers, and even more don’t ultimately aspire to executive roles (only 7% of people want to work in the C-suite).

This means that if you don’t want to be a people manager, you’re in good company. 

But it does mean that you’ll need to shape your career path a little differently to the norm.

Here are three procurement career paths that don’t include being a people manager:

Stay at your company, but forge a new path 

Even if you don’t want to be a manager, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to do the same job forever.

Fortunately, especially if your procurement team is large, it’s likely that there are a number of different roles (or at least projects) that you can express interest in, in order to ensure you are consistently developing yourself and adding value. 

If you want to broaden or deepen your skillset, let your manager know.

They may be able to help you move internally, or at the very least, get you to informally work with someone in a different category (or even department) to ensure you stay challenged. 

If you’re staying in exactly the same role, though, there are still numerous ways you can learn and grow, including taking responsibility for projects or initiatives that matter to you, for example, assisting your procurement team to become more sustainable. 

Find a company that shares your values 

Regardless of your individual values and aspirations, ultimately, in some companies there is an ‘up or out’ culture. And in these organisations, you will almost always be expected to be aspiring to manage people. 

If that isn’t the career path for you, then it’s best that you try to find a company that shares your values. 

In the past, almost all large organisations adopted rigid hierarchical structures where management was the only option.

Now, many organisations are more flexible and nimble in how they operate, with some having much flatter structures. 

Many companies, especially technology companies, are increasingly adopting flat structures which enable careers that look substantially different from the rest. Google and Amazon are among many companies to adopt these types of structures, with many others following and enjoying success as a result. 

Become a career contractor 

As much as it’s perfectly ok to not want your manager’s job (or a management job at all), it is still true that some companies still have an up-or-out culture.

If you have found yourself in one of those organisations, then your desire to not become a manager may become a problem. 

But know this: you have options. 

A great one is to become a contractor – or even become a career contractor, someone who continually takes contract roles as opposed to permanent ones.

There are so many benefits to contracting – including, but not limited to, a higher pay rate, the ability to experience new projects and challenges, and the chance to work with different people and expand your network. 

Senior procurement professionals with highly sought-after skill sets can earn as much as a thousand or several thousand dollars a day, so contracting can also be an enviable way to work hard and then take regular well-earned breaks, if that’s of interest to you. 

Most of us start our careers thinking we’ll climb the ladder and eventually we’ll manage people and/or a function, but it’s absolutely ok to realise that aspiration isn’t for you. 

Have you taken a different career path within procurement? We’d love to hear what has worked for you. Let us know in the comments below. 

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