Editor’s Note: Charles is founder, president and chief procurement officer of Next Level Purchasing, which offers the SPSM (Senior Professional in Supply Management) Certification.
Be sure to check out Charles’ Purchasing Certification Blog.
“I’d love to break into procurement, but I have no procurement experience. Is it possible?”
This is a question that I get a lot. And my answer usually begins with “Anything is possible.”
But just because it is possible to break into procurement without procurement experience doesn’t mean that it is easy. There should be some type of “connection” between your qualifications and procurement that would allow hiring managers to overlook your lack of experience. In this article, and Part II coming soon, I’ll share five characteristics that can enable one to become a procurement professional without direct procurement experience.
Negotiation Experience. Many procurement professionals spend much of their time negotiating deals for purchases that their organizations are making. If you’ve had a sales position in the past, perhaps you didn’t negotiate to buy something, but you may have done a lot of negotiation to sell something. There are many common parallels between good procurement negotiation and good sales negotiation: the preparation, the assessing of your leverage and that of the other party, the ability to control your emotions, the ability to persuade another human being, and so forth. Plus, having sales negotiating experience may actually be an advantage for you: you will know what motivates sellers to concede, understand how the sales management approval process works, and which procurement negotiating tactics are often ineffective.
Leadership Experience. Next Level Purchasing has a video on its YouTube channel entitled “What Does It Take To Become A CPO?” This video talks about our research into qualifications of real-life chief procurement officers. We examined 13 CPO hirings made by huge companies within the same time range. Interestingly, we found that only eight of those CPO’s were promoted directly from procurement. Five came from another function, and one of those five even came from a different company. The common thread is that, while not all of them were proven procurement professionals, they were all proven leaders. So, if you have a track record of leadership in middle- to upper-management positions, you can certainly be considered for a procurement leadership position. Your subordinates can handle the details associated with specialized procurement work.
A Procurement Certification. One of the concerns of hiring managers who might consider someone without procurement experience for a procurement position is obviously whether the candidate will even be good at procurement. Another concern is whether the candidate will even like procurement work. Procurement is a different type of job and it’s not for everyone. So, one way to prove that you have the knowledge to be effective at procurement and the interest in the profession to thrive in a procurement role is to obtain a procurement certification. While some procurement certifications require documented procurement experience, others do not. So, if this is an avenue that you want to explore on the road to starting your procurement career, be sure to check with the certification provider to learn what, if any, experience prerequisites there may be.
Stay tuned for Part II in which I’ll share two more characteristics that can enable you to break into procurement without any procurement experience.