Fine Tuning Your Career

14 March 2016

My daily commute to work is usually accompanied by a daily dose of BBC Radio 2 or BBC 5Live; listening to either the upbeat manner of Chris Evans or the more factual and occasionally irritable tones of Nicky Campbell. Without revealing my age, I grew up listening to both of these DJs who at the time plied their trade across on Radio 1.

This got me thinking about the critical importance of having a clearly defined career path, as their colleagues Simon Mayo and Steve Wright have also headed in the same direction. Whilst not every organisation needs to have a team of aspiring CPOs, it is essential that you allow time to sit back, analyse and understand where your career is heading – where do you see yourself in 5-10 years; a classic interview question.

Are you gaining the right sort of experiences in your current role or the role you are considering applying for? If you successfully get the position you are applying for and I am sat interviewing you 3 years from now, would the move have made sense from a career development perspective? What would you have learned and gained from the experience? It is extremely rare if not nigh impossible for an individual to join an organisation, progress up the ladder within the procurement team and reach the CPO position. Key skills and experience are frequently only gained by moving organisations, and indeed sectors, to give yourself a more rounded and enriched view of procurement and the wider business world.

This could take the shape of working across a diverse range of category areas, gaining experience across a multitude of industry sectors, developing your people management skills, working on a regional or global basis, or working abroad. Possibly for those of you striving for a CPO position, it may also prove fruitful to step out of the function for a period, perhaps into the operation, to enhance your appreciation of the impact of procurement across the business.  

Whatever your career aspirations are, it is important to reflect on where you are heading and make sure you take careful and logical steps along the way. I can recall on several occasions where clients have rejected candidates due to the fact that the role doesn’t appear to be a logical next step, or candidates fail to address convincingly that they have a career plan and this opportunity is a key stepping stone in terms of their development.

Working with your recruitment consultant in an honest, open and reflective manner will allow you to analyse your current skill set, where the gaps lie and to help shape the journey to allow you to reach you career goals.

I wonder if in a further 10 years having moved on from listening to BBC 2 I will be hearing Simon Mayo presenting Desert Island Discs or Jo Wiley on Woman’s Hour?

Richard Guest is a Consultant in the Procurement & Supply Chain Practice

Categories: Procurement and Supply Chain Recruitment

Ken Sanderson at 07/09/2016 10:14 said:

I'm not employed in supply chain management at all but was interested in your article and have a couple of points to make. I am a CEO in the 3rd sector but my route here has hardly been planned or direct.

I remember my dad telling me to grasp every opportunity and learn so you can build your knowledge and increase your hands on experience. I've done this throughout my career. I started as a trainee accountant after leaving education, I then went on to act as a Change Director in a private limited company so the founder could float or sell to retire. I then worked in a very large multinational leaving to cope with a family emergency and ended up starting my own business building it from start up to over £1 million turnover in less than three years. I've also worked in the public sector and for the last seven in the third sector. As you can see, not much forethought or planning involved here!

The good thing about this matrix of experience is I've been able to learn from experts along the way, make some mistakes and learn from that experience and I'm now in a position where I can do the type of role I want to do and I guess you could compare me currently with Chris Evans or Simon Mayo in that I'm confident in my ability, I sometimes take risks but try and ameliorate any bad outcomes and I'm still learning.

My advice would be exactly what my dear departed dad told me "grasp every opportunity and learn so you can build your knowledge and increase your hands on experience." It seems to have worked out pretty well for me.


Richard Guest at 08/09/2016 14:21 said:

Hi Ken

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It sounds like you've had a wonderfully fulfilling career and I do fully endorse your late Father's comments. Indeed Richard Branson has a very similar and famous quote "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you're not sure you can do it, say yes - then learn how to do it later". Life after all is about grasping every opportunity and making the most of it.

Equally I do feel you need to think about some sort of long term plan – its neigh on impossible for someone to know exactly where they will be in 5 or 10 years’ time, but every move you make from a career perspective ought to further develop your skills and experience, whether that be in a new industry sector, moving from public to private, changing functions or indeed spending some time working overseas.

Thank you once again for taking the time and effort to respond, it was interesting to hear your thoughts and see how your career has developed.