How to start a career in Procurement
As we enter a new year of new opportunities, you might be considering a new career. It’s true that some careers have more appeal than others. An astronaut, a pop star, a footballer – or more realistically a lawyer or a teacher; some jobs simply have the ‘wow’ factors that attract many to these professions. But, have you ever been tempted by a career in procurement?
Procurement can offer those seeking employment many benefits including the opportunity for international travel, a high salary, and the chance to help protect the planet by sourcing sustainable goods and services. For those aiming for the very top, procurement is a career that can take you there. Often, the heads of procurement and chief procurement officers have a seat on the board and influence major decisions for their respective businesses.
Since the 2008 financial crash, the need for procurement has become increasingly important. Many businesses require skilled professionals who can implement cost savings through spend reduction techniques to help meet company targets, making it a profession that is in high demand.
So, if you want to get in the ‘thick of it’ and start a career in buying, here’s some helpful advice to get you started:
Education and industry qualifications
There are a few different routes that you can use to help prepare yourself for a career in procurement.
In the UK, a CIPS qualification is usually the preferred path for many hoping to improve their knowledge about procurement and the supply chain, offering a choice of classroom-based courses or distance learning. This is designed to work around you and how you work best. They’re available at a range of levels – including entry-level – all the way up to an advanced professional diploma.
Another option is to study for a degree in a procurement-related field, whether this be at undergraduate or post-graduate level. However, with a master’s level course, students should have studied something related such as business studies, marketing or law.
Many skills are transferable to procurement, meaning you don’t always need to start your learning from scratch. For example, if you have previous experience in the finance sector or being a data analyst, you should be able use your knowledge to identify patterns in spending to help recommend business savings.
Likewise, those with expertise in law will have experience dealing with contracts. Speaking to prospective vendors and checking through paperwork to ensure that the terms are fair won’t be an entirely new task.
Soft skills are key
Procurement isn’t just about your education and experience. It’s crucial to ensure your soft skills are on point to be successful in a procurement role.
Some of the most important skills include:
- Negotiation skills – negotiating contracts with new or existing suppliers can be challenging. Be prepared to tackle tricky situations and find ways to meet the suppliers in the middle. Also, when going for an interview you should have examples of negotiating with stakeholders to hand.
- Time management skills – good time management is vital to a procurement role in order to maximise cost-savings and efficiency. You should be able to appropriate enough time to tasks, whilst making sure you don’t exceed the time you have allocated.
- Communication skills – confidence is key when communicating with a wide range of stakeholders, both inside and outside of the business. Even in some entry-level jobs, you could be responsible for negotiating contracts worth thousands of pounds, so it’s important to be confident, coherent and succinct.
- A team player – working within a team is important as the decisions you make will be felt across the entire business. This responsibility could range from choosing the hardware your company uses to sourcing the materials needed to produce a product.
Be prepared to work hard!
Whether you want to become a head of procurement or a senior category buyer, be prepared to work hard, apply yourself, suffer some setbacks, but most importantly, make use of any opportunities that may come your way.
While procurement isn’t the dream job for many, it’s a great career for those looking for a good salary, as well as a varied role. For these reasons, it might be a career worth thinking about.
And if you are on the receiving end of a career move into your procurement organisation, here is a similar post about How to identify and attract top procurement talent.
By Daniel Ball, business development director at Wax Digital