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Many people think about their career goals only when they start looking for a new job, or at their annual appraisal, but ongoing career planning and management is vital for any procurement professional.

Nicky Taberner, Director at Hays Procurement & Supply Chain, gives her top tips for keeping your procurement career on track.

Career management starts and ends with you. The most crucial thing to remember is that nobody cares more about your career than you. Only your determination to invest time and effort into your professional development will drive your career forward. Once you know where you want to be, it’s much easier to figure out how to get there.

1. Find a mentor – Look for someone who has worked their way up the procurement ladder and can coach you on topics such as how to engage with difficult stakeholders, how they have proven the value of procurement in their own organisation and how to keep focussed on your career management. You should ideally seek out someone who is two or three steps above you in the career ladder or who has at least one decade’s experience on you as this will give them the perspective you need to succeed.

2. Study toward a procurement qualification – If you are not already, studying toward a procurement qualification will keep you up to date with the latest best practice in procurement. Also look for opportunities to gain either continuous professional development (CPD) or shared learning experiences on different external training programmes. Negotiation courses or better supplier relationship management workshops are a good way to develop your expertise and ensure your core skills do not become outdated.

3. Attend industry eventsNetwork with local procurement groups to increase your connections and see best practice outside your own team. Attending industry events and being involved in topical discussions will help you to stay up to date with trends and will aid you when benchmarking yourself against the profession.

4. Read industry publications – Subscribing to industry publications is another great way to stay up to date with industry developments. They offer useful insight into the latest hot topics in procurement, legal updates and case studies on successful procurement teams and leaders.

5. Make the most of social media – Online conversations are happening everywhere, all the time, so do not be shy, get involved. Whether it is commenting on a blog post or responding to a discussion in a LinkedIn group, this is a great opportunity to showcase your procurement expertise. Make sure you keep your LinkedIn profile up to date – the procurement community actively uses LinkedIn to share ideas and network.

6. Develop your skill set – Identify what knowledge and experience you are missing and think about how you will bridge the gap between the skills you have and the skills you need. Aim to gain as much category experience as possible. This will help to make yourself more versatile across multiple categories and, therefore, more employable.

7. Prove value add in your appraisals – In your appraisals look to demonstrate the value add procurement can bring to your organisation, this will go a long way to increasing your exposure within the business. Provide facts and figures on not just cost savings but things like suppliers hitting their KPIs or meeting SLA objectives, or a product or service you have sourced that delivered exactly what your internal customer wanted that they did not have before.

8. Strive to be an award-winning procurement professional – Submit an application for a CIPS Supply Management award to profile your team’s achievements and project successes. The profile from winning accolades like these will ensure you are recognised and rewarded within your own organisation and will generate interest from other employers – the kind of interest that will help you to make your next career move.

9. Recognise when you need a new challenge – Try to think ahead and plan your career goals, this will help you think about the sideways moves and different jobs you may need to take to end up where you want to go. If you are setting regular career goals and objectives you will soon know when you need to start looking for your next challenge.

This article first appeared on SupplyManagement