The future of your career – part 2

What are your training and education options?

This is the second in the series where my objective is to help procurement professionals equip themselves with the skills to embrace the digital procurement revolution. Each article will share valuable resources to help facilitate personal development. The links at the end of this particular piece focus on training and further education resources.

Imagine this scenario. You hear about a job opportunity that sounds really exciting, you might have seen an advert, heard about it through your personal network or been contacted by a recruiter about it, but it’s really got your attention. You think: “that’s what I want for the next stage of my career”.

Now this job offers the chance to really embrace the potential of procurement technology and that’s where you see your career going, but your current employer has been held back from supporting your ambitions because of internal barriers to adopting the latest spend management solutions.

But this other company has a visionary procurement leader and one of the best solutions available in the market today. You’ve read that they are really using it effectively and seem determined to get the best value they can in S2C, P2P, supply chain collaboration etc in future. That’s what you want – a chance to work in that environment.

This is a situation I envisage becoming more common because we are approaching a tipping point in the professional job market, particularly in procurement. I’ll come back to this tipping point subject later in this article.

So how do you make yourself stand out from the crowd if you haven’t got experience in a relevant spend management solution?

Before I answer that, here’s something to consider. The other side of this particular coin is the problem facing the hiring manager at the company in question. He or she is struggling to find these skills for the salary range they want to pay because they are in such short supply in the market generally, and everyone who is interested in applying for this role wants to develop the skills in question but doesn’t have them yet.

So what’s the solution?

Well my advice to the hiring manager in this situation would be to take a very pragmatic approach to this piece of recruitment.

This is because the perfect candidate (which rarely exists anyway!) might not be available to them because they are ahead of the curve on the use of procurement tech, and most external talent won’t be at the same level as their existing people.

So the manager needs to identify a list of essential and desirable skills, but he/she must understand that they may have to hire principally on transferable skills and the ability to develop the other key skills in the medium term. So they need to really think about longer-term potential rather than hiring someone who can do the job from day one.

So back to you. You are in competition with people with similar procurement skills, the same aspirations, but little or no direct experience of using the relevant generation of technology.

How do you make yourself stand out from the crowd?

In the absence of suitable opportunities within your current employer, the answer is a program of self-development using relevant studying resources.

By doing as much as possible to learn about your skills gaps, you can bridge that gap and send a very powerful message to the hiring manager in the process. You are effectively saying “I haven’t been able to get these skills in my current job, so I’ve invested a great deal of my own time learning about them”.

That gives you a steeper learning curve that will get you into a position where you are effective, more quickly than those who haven’t done this AND it tells the hiring manager you’ve got the right ambitions, attitude and qualities. THIS CAN BE HUGELY PERSUASIVE TO A TOP FLIGHT PROCUREMENT LEADER.

So what resources are out there to help you on this journey?

Unfortunately, there are no specific training courses available on the CIPS website for digital procurement. However here are some alternatives.

Procurement Technology

If you are particularly interested in focusing on the use of spend management solutions in the future, then this route may be for you.

Most vendors offer online training services to support the use of their solutions. It may be worth contacting them directly to see if you can pay to use these services if your employer isn’t a customer.  Here are some examples of what’s available:

Many of the vendors offer free webinars to demonstrate their solutions. Of course, they are designed to sell the solution and generate leads for their salespeople to follow up, but they are generally a worthwhile exercise to see how it all works. Spend Matters promote quite a few of them so keep an eye on their site and/or register on the individual vendor websites so they email you with dates.

Even if you can’t make the exact time it’s still worth registering as you can usually access the content afterwards via a recording. You’ll also hear about their events if you are on the mailing list and they are generally worth attending if you get invited.

Professional bodies like The P2P Network also produce some good content. Here’s a link to their webinar archive.

Similar to eWorld, The P2P Network also have an event that offers some interesting content where you can learn from the various presentations. The next eWorld is on the 5th March 2019 whilst the P2P Networks Annual Summit is 5th June. Here’s the speaker line up (I’m delighted to have been invited to take part): Both events are also a great opportunity to network with peers.

Further Education

An alternative way to approach your personal development is further education through a formal qualification. The benefit of something like an MBA is that it could give you a broader business perspective which would help with the development of skills like business partnering and supplier collaboration which are perceived to be of greater value moving forward.

There’s also a variety of MSc courses in procurement and supply chain. Here’s a useful article on the various options.

So I hope you have found this article useful. I talk about this sort of thing nearly every day of my working life but hopefully, it will be helpful to you as a guide to what you can achieve and the value of it. Some might say that this is obvious, but even those who “get it” are rarely able to find the time in their busy lives to dedicate some time to self-education.

My advice is to find that time, whether you take a few days off, promise yourself you’ll do an hour every weekend or commit to enrolling on a new course because time invested now will pay dividends in the future. I’ll talk about why this is the case in one of my forthcoming videos entitled The Tipping Point – the future of the procurement job market. Watch out for that in January 2019.

Andrew Daley