Lucy Harding knows what CEOs want from procurement leaders
Lucy Harding knows what CEOs want from procurement leaders

How to get your dream procurement job

1 September 2017

…according to Lucy Harding, the woman responsible for filling some of the industry's biggest roles

As head of the procurement and supply chain practice at executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, Lucy Harding knows a lot about what CEOs want from their procurement leaders. She spends her days finding the best talent, and matching it to the biggest and best jobs in the industry.

So, when it comes to advice on getting your dream job, Harding is certainly worth listening to. These are her top tips on making it big.

Seize the opportunity

Now is the best time to work in procurement, says Harding, as CEOs see its value. “There’s been an evolution in the expectation of what procurement can do,” she says. “It’s not seen just as a function that cuts costs; it’s an enabler, bringing innovation into the business.” The opportunity is there to be grabbed by ambitious procurement professionals – if they step up. “This shines a light on expectation of leadership capability,” she says.

Broaden your experience

Being a procurement leader means having a wide range of experiences, in terms of categories, industries and geographies. “You need to have breadth to be a standout candidate,” she says. That means having managed several types of spend (direct and indirect), working in more than one industry and working overseas. It is not enough to have travelled to different markets, Harding warns. You need to be have spent enough time working –and living – there to truly understand the culture.

Manage your career path

How do you get all of the above points onto your CV? The only way is to strategically manage your career. “People that reach the top of their game don’t just do it by luck,” Harding says. “You need to take control.” That could mean asking for an international secondment or putting yourself forward to lead a project outside your comfort zone. This doesn’t always require finding a new job, Harding says, although sometimes you may need to move on to move up.

Expand your network

The best leaders are well networked inside and outside their organisations. Harding advises building your profile internally by networking with people outside your immediate sphere of influence. Externally, getting on a headhunter’s radar means raising your profile. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, speak at roundtables and conferences and contribute thought-leadership to industry titles. See it as an investment in your future; the perfect role could come up when you least expect it. “Be mentally prepared that it could take six, 12 or 24 months for the right opportunity to arise, and for you to be the right person,” Harding says.

Business first, function second

Finally – and this is the case for all functional leaders – make sure you speak the language of the business. “You need to be a business leader rather than a functional leader,” Harding advises. “You have to talk about the business and helping the organisation – not just about what your function is doing. It’s really important to develop your wider business understanding.”

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