CPOs explain how to boost your career

5 October 2012

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5 October 2012 | Lorna Blackwood

Find a mentor, identify your strengths and enjoy the moment more was among the advice a panel of senior procurement professionals gave purchasers at yesterday’s CIPS Annual Conference.

During a lively discussion, three top CPOs offered the audience some interesting and diverse tips on how to develop their careers. When asked what career guidance they would give their 25-year-old selves, the senior buyers came up with a range of responses.

Gail Roberts, director of supply chain at The Royal Mint, said: “I think if I had a mentor, someone you respect and trust, I would have achieved more and quicker. I was still working out the difference between a job and a career at that age, a mentor would have helped me focus.”

Diageo CPO Thibaut Eissautier suggested his key advice would be to focus on understanding his strengths, as “you get promoted on your strengths, and it is hard to know what they are at that age”.

And Adrian Turner, European head of corporate procurement at Apple, said he would have told himself to enjoy the moment more. He confessed he was always too focused on achieving his next goal.

Other suggestions to boost your career mentioned by the panel included:

•    Develop some cross-industry experience. Complete at least one assignment away from procurement. This will benefit you when dealing with those outside the profession.

•    Come out from the cold. The buying community needs to become more engaged. Get people out into other stakeholder functions departments and learn more about the product they are buying.

•    Stay curious, read widely and focus on results not the process.

•    It is always good to ask for advice, but the hard bit it is understanding what advice to take and what to discard.

•    Determine the strategy of the company and how procurement can help achieve this. There is a risk procurement can become a support function and it shouldn’t, because it is strategic.

The panel was also asked how the profession can raise awareness of career opportunities. Roberts and Turner were in agreement. Both spend time in schools, further education and training academies promoting the profession to the next generation.

“If I look at the demographic in the room, I don’t see many people coming up behind us. More of us need to get out in the community to raise awareness of procurement,” said Roberts.

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