Is it better to be a procurement generalist or a procurement specialist? In this two-part article series, we explore the benefits of both.
In the workplace, a generalist is described as someone whose skill set is varied and oftentimes unspecialised. While their role might be more loosely defined than that of their specialist counterparts, generalists will typically have a broad range of knowledge to draw from, making them highly valuable and sought-after employees. In procurement, for example, this enables professionals to observe connections and correlations that a more specialised employee may overlook.
In today’s world, it’s expected that procurement professionals will excel in a wide range of both technical and soft skills, while a core understanding of all business functions, whether it’s marketing, HR, or finance is also important.
In the first article in this two-part series, we explored the benefits of becoming a procurement specialist, but there are also many advantages to following a more generalist career path.
1. Become a CPO
As a professional rises through an organisation’s ranks on their journey to becoming CPO, technical procurement skills matter less and less. Hiring managers and recruiters at this level of seniority will be more interested in assessing how you communicate with key stakeholders, your ability to lead a large team, and your understanding of the business’ goals and objectives.
In many cases, professionals with experience in different functions will be more preferable candidates for a CPO position.
2. Relationship building with internal stakeholders
Procurement is often criticised for alienating other business functions. No one quite understands its purpose or, in the worst cases, it’s simply seen as a roadblock to getting things done.
In negotiations with key internal stakeholders, such as the CFO, an inability to “speak the language of the business” can be further detrimental to the profession’s reputation and ability to impart meaningful change.
With a more holistic viewpoint, generalists will better understand the motivations of their internal stakeholders, which means they can nurture relationships and elevate procurement’s position more effectively.
3. Better employment options
In a tumultuous and unpredictable job market, organisations may be wary of hiring highly technical procurement specialists on a full-time basis. With business priorities and needs changing at a rapid rate, who knows how long an employee with a very specific skill set will be required or if their talents will soon become obsolete.
Generalists, on the other hand, possess a wider range of both timeless and transferrable skills. They can quickly adapt to changing circumstances and will be open to upskilling or re-training as required. As a result, hiring managers and recruiters may consider hiring generalists as part of a longer-term, solid investment.
4. Career flexibility
By committing to a career as a specialist early on, you run the risk of pigeon-holing yourself. This could turn out ok, if you’re lucky enough to have found your passion, but what happens if you change your mind?
In being a generalist, you’ll have the opportunity to explore multiple career paths, try your hand at different things, and avoid becoming bored or stuck in a job you grow to loathe.