Making the Best of a Bad (Procurement) Job

Sigi Osagie’s article last week answering a question from a practitioner is well worth reading if you haven’t already. He talks about what to do if (as the question said), “if your leadership has no idea what they’re doing, has zero procurement experience and knowledge and no plans”?

Sigi’s response was thoughtful and well-judged as ever. Facing the unsatisfactory boss is a dilemma many of us have faced or will face in our career. Whereas I might not go quite as far as that unfortunate person in describing my experience, I had a difficult time once following an internal re-organisation.

I lost a boss who was one of the best I’ve ever worked with and was subjected to someone who …wasn’t! Boss number one was another procurement professional, our global CPO, an inspirational character with a tremendous sense of humour. Number two was an accountant and generalist senior manager with little real interest in our profession who had been ousted from a line CEO role and given a corporate role to keep him happy – including having me reporting to him.

I stuck it for a while, then got out. But one thought to add to Sigi’s comments. Even if things are not going your way, you can and should think about what you can do even in those difficult circumstances both to add value and do a good job, but also to enhance your cv, experience and expertise.

A good example of that came a year or two back when I met a young-ish procurement manager who was facing a major change in his organisation. His role had been a well-defined category manager position, in a spend area where there was pretty much a mandate for the business to use procurement and procurement’s contracts.

But following some internal changes, his job was going to become much more one of persuasion and influence, as procurement seemed to be downgraded somewhat and the line managers empowered. He wasn’t very happy about this.

My suggestion was that he certainly should start looking for other jobs if he felt unhappy. But, I said, you should look on this as an opportunity as well. The “soft skills” including influencing, persuasion, team-working and so on are all incredibly highly valued by recruiters these days. Actually, in his previous role, he didn’t have much opportunity to demonstrate them – but the new role looked like it would give him the chance to do that.

Now he might find that he didn't like the new set-up, but a few months’ experience whilst looking for a new job could give him some war stories to talk about at interview –  answering the “how you handled difficult internal stakeholders” question, for instance. And of course, if he works on those skills then he is likely to contribute more to the current business anyway.

The point is really about looking to make the best of non-ideal situations and think about what you can get out of any job in terms of both real experience and (being cynical) good stories for the head-hunters. Hopefully the two usually go together anyway.

What about our young friend? Well, I haven’t spoken to him for 18 months or so but a quick search on LinkedIn reveals he did change jobs a few months after we spoke, and it looks like he is in a very good company in a good and fairly senior level role now. So a happy ending in this case at least! And don’t forget to take a look at Sigi’s article too if you haven’t already.

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