Is procurement a dead-end career?

About half of those working in procurement say they “fell into it” vs. pursuing it as a career option. If you find yourself working in procurement, should you get out?

Is procurement a dead-end career?

The CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide and Insights 2021 found that 49% of the people surveyed actively chose to work in procurement — so 51% fell into it in some way. 

A position in procurement may have been the only job that you could get at the time. Life-long careers are built on such serendipity.

But you may be wondering, is this all there is?

You’re not alone in that question. 

The outlook for professional jobs across the board feels a bit bleak. Major companies have announced layoffs. Many of those not partaking in the Great Resignation are ‘quiet quitting’ instead.

The reasonable question is, is procurement a promising career? 

In the US, the number of procurement-related jobs is expected to decline 6% by 2031. On the flipside, Australia is expected to increase procurement positions by 3.5% by 2026. It’s an essential function for many organisations, both public and private. But it’s not a high-growth area like niches such as automation, data analytics, and robotics.

However, national or global trends don’t matter as much as your personal goals.

The real question is, is it a good career for you?

Procurement career disruption

The pandemic disruption called into question how we work, and the rewards and benefits of the traditional career. 

The conventional career path doesn’t work anymore for a lot of people, not just those in procurement.

Some issues with a procurement career are endemic to professional or white-collar jobs in the current climate. But procurement also has its own unique challenges.

Depending on the organisation, procurement can be a board-level specialty or an afterthought – the order takers and pencil providers. 

To a large extent, your procurement career path will depend on the function’s place within your company.

It’s well known that people go to work for companies but leave because of bad managers and management.

If you’re dissatisfied with your career, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your organisation pigeonhole people with little opportunity for cross-functional movement?
  • Are ideas at least listened to and considered?
  • Are you forced to make do with outdated or no technology?
  • Do you work closely with business partners?
  • Do promised promotions or raises never come through?
  • Does your work provide fulfilment and rewards beyond the paycheck?

In deciding if you’re stuck at a dead end, consider these elements of your work life:


Many workers have found they need to leave their current job for a new position to get a decent raise in salary. But then the company gives the replacement a raise, probably at the level the departing person would have been satisfied with. Plus, there’s the cost of onboarding and training a new person. 

The economics don’t make sense. But that’s how it seems to work these days. 

Would a salary increase alone satisfy your need for growth?

Career path

Not everyone will rise to the C-Suite, but can you see a future in your procurement department? 

If the slots above you are filled, and those folks don’t have any mobility either, you could be stuck. 

It may be time to find a position elsewhere in the company or start looking outside. Any movement can feel better than no movement.


Lots of companies tout their culture on their careers site. But the reality of daily life can be much different. 

That leads to cognitive dissonance between the company’s stated values and the behaviours and practices of managers and co-workers.

Cultural expectations are different now than they were when those at the senior level began their careers. Some level of remote work is an expectation, along with clear boundaries for work hours.

Workplace equality and equity – in terms of hiring/promotion internally and at the companies you do business with – are a high priority for many. 

The old boys’ network is rightfully becoming a relic of the past. But procurement departments typically have fewer women and minorities than average.

Cultural issues may be minor, but can build to outsized disgruntlement. Some problems may be due to your manager’s management style, while others are enterprise-wide. 

Can you make peace with your company’s culture?

Culture red flags

If you feel like the company you work for might have a culture problem, as yourself these questions:

  • Does your company culture value lots of all-hands meetings where nothing is decided?
  • Are ideas and suggestions listened to and accepted from everyone?
  • Is the “we have always done it this way” syndrome running wild?
  • Is procurement – or you – treated like a full partner or an order taker?
  • Are you held responsible for things you have no authority over?


Regardless of the salary, there are some jobs you just can’t continue to do. The work may feel dull or pointless as you’re trapped in a web of bureaucracy and mediocrity. Burnout is a real thing.

Often, not having enough to do can be worse than being swamped with work. Trying to look busy while time seems to stand still is exhausting.

Ideally, a procurement position should offer formal and informal learning opportunities. 

Becoming a strategic advisor to business partners allows you to delve into the intricacies of IT equipment or service contracts or raw materials sourcing, as well as the legal and financial implications of contracts and payments. 

Being able to see the impact of your work is a powerful driver of job satisfaction.

Does procurement mean a career dead end or should you go ahead?

If you’re an early-to-mid career procurement pro and you recognise yourself in these situations, it’s time for some self-examination. 

Procurement is a dead-end career only if you let it become so. 

Changing jobs or companies may be the answer for you. It may seem complicated to decide your future, but it’s actually simple: stay or go.

If you stay, it may take extraordinary effort, but there are ways to address some of the issues. You may have to figure out how to create your personal career path. However, you may be unable to change your manager’s style of leadership.

If you go, be aware that a salary bump may not actually make things better. Hopefully, the new company has a culture that’s a better fit for you.

If you’re at any managerial level, take a good hard look at some of these issues. 

It’s easy to come to work when you’re the boss. Put yourself in your team’s place for just a minute. Things are different than when you started your career.

Do you want to be the reason the people under you are quiet quitting? They’ve given up on their careers, at least until they can find a new job.

The Great Resignation isn’t happening because people don’t want to work. It’s become a reality because people don’t want to work for you or your organisation anymore. The salary and benefits aren’t worth it any longer.

It’s not necessarily a manager’s job to make everyone happy. But you shouldn’t be the reason for people to underperform or leave. What can you do to make work better for those under you?

Is your career heading for a cul-de-sac or an on-ramp? It’s up to you to decide. Let us know your thoughts on the future of procurement careers in the comments.

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