Would 50% of all procurement professionals really choose a different career?

Posted on November 23, 2015


At a conference at which I was speaking, I posed the question how many of you in the audience chose procurement as a profession? Specifically, did you consciously say I want to be in purchasing or, did you just sort of fall into it?

Not surprisingly, the vast majority indicated that they just sort of ended up in purchasing as opposed to choosing it as a career.

I then asked, if you had to do it all over again, how many would have made the decision to pursue another career path. Or to put it another way, how many would have made the decision to chose a career other than procurement.

50% responded that they would in fact have pursued a career path other than procurement.

What is even more notable, is that the response was almost identical with another audience of similar size, during a different session.

While somewhat surprising, the above revelations were also quite disconcerting.

In an effort to get a better understanding of what this 50% actually means, I did some research into what I will call the discontentment factor, in other professions.

For example, a January 11th, 2015 Forbes article titled 1 In 4 New Doctors Would Change Careers If They Could Start Over, reported that 25% of new physicians would choose another field if they could. The reason given as being “paramount” for their second thoughts, centered around whether or not they would “have a life” outside of the profession.

In addition to the above findings, the article also refers to a 2015 survey of residents in their final year, in which said residents indicated that they would rather go for the security of a 9 to 5 employment position with a salary, as opposed to launching their own private practices.

Given that procurement professionals are for the most part working in a 9 to 5 capacity and, have an employment salary, the 50% figure is even more perplexing.

If job security is not the issue with procurement pros, then what is?

When I asked those in the audience why they would choose a different career path, one of the more prevalent answers I received was the feeling that their contributions did not make a difference. There were also those from within the public sector who expressed frustration with the bureaucracy that, for the most part, prevented them from doing what they believed was the best job possible.

Once again, a certain level of job dissatisfaction within any sector is nothing new. However, the 50% number should be of concern to those occupying the executive suite both within, and external to the procurement industry. After all, it is hard to operate at maximum capacity when half your team is disenchanted and/or disengaged.

Besides ascertaining if there is a general malaise across the board -or if the response was an unusual blip that was confined to these specific audiences, another important question that needs to be asked (and answered) is simply this; what has to be done going forward?

This is a particularly important question given the up and coming generation’s mobility i.e. willingness to change jobs or even careers.

The fact is that if 50% of those in our profession regret their being in it, industry leaders have to find a way to either reengage and re-energize this group, or move to replace them. Of course the latter only makes sense if in replacing them, they understand why the other 50% are satisfied with their career choice, and seek to hire those who fall into this category.

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Posted in: Conferences