When starting their career, very few think about going into procurement. Why is this and who could be a good fit for this profession? Let me give my personal opinion who could enjoy working as a Procurement professional.
Let’s imagine you got an opportunity to move to procurement. You have some blurred idea what the guys there are doing, and in general, they look like a good team. But is it really for you? Do you have what it takes to thrive and build a successful career, or it will be just a waste of time until you figure out that this is not actually for you?
This is my personal opinion about the characteristics a procurement professional should possess. While this list is a result of a lot of experience and from knowing hundreds of Procurement professionals, don’t take it too literary, as almost everything can be learned.
So, let’s start:
Ability to listen. Many would argue that this is not the most important one but in my opinion a good procurement professional need to be able to understand the need of the stakeholder. People who love the sound of their voice are usually great negotiators but need help to get the right product. As a massive introvert, I am a big fan of the quote from the Greek Philosopher Epictetus:” We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is very important, as most of our work is actually communicating with people. We negotiate with stakeholders to get to the specification within the budget. Then we negotiate with the supplier to get the right price. Then we have to persuade finance to make the payment, and so on… Being able to create relationships and trust with all the parties involved is our ultimate goal.
Very high moral standards. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that other jobs are for criminals, while the “pure” people sit in procurement. But I do have to warn you: one-time award the contract to your friend, even without any financial or other benefits, and your career is gone. Not to mention anything more serious. Procurement fraud gets a lot of attention, therefore do not even think about it. EVER!
Curiosity. In procurement, learning never stops. Not only learning about procurement but about the processes in the company you work for and the product or service you procure. I work in the food industry and follow the latest trends in packaging, healthy food trends, food production equipment. While I am by no means an expert in any of this, I do know what is going on and where to find more information if my production team is asking.
The technical knowledge
Excel, definitely. No matter how many software solutions the company You work for uses, sooner or later you will end up doing something in Excel. Have some knowledge of Pivot tables, VLOOKUP, and be able to make graphs, it will do for the start
Communication software. Especially with the latest COVID-19 crisis, we Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, meet on Teams and use a bunch of other online communication tools. I strongly feel that the times of sitting with a supplier over a cup of coffee will never come back. Therefore, learn how to use all these tools both on your computer and mobile device.
Outside those two groups, I would recommend having some International experience, and speaking a couple of foreign languages, at least at the basic level. You have no idea how greeting a foreign visitor and offering him a drink in his own language can reduce tensions in the meeting room.
This is a topic where opinions are very different and it can be argued as well that a person that has none of the above-mentioned characteristics still can make a great career in procurement. I have to agree, even I would say that it would be a difficult journey.
Below are a couple of links to different web pages that talk about skills and prerequisites for Procurement positions, if you would like to explore further.