For those looking for career longevity and advancement opportunities, Supply Chain has always been one of those areas that you’d think has lots to offer. It’s a diverse field and one which is typically hierarchically structured with junior, middle management, and senior management positions.

While there are a plethora of positions for those starting out, procurement typically offers a viable entry point for many and buyer jobs are usually considered both easier to get and more plentiful.

So do these job roles offer both a good starting point and one which offers the right sort of progression?

The role of procurement within a company

Procurement can be a very visible role within a business and can be a key contributor in determining its success. It can be very competitiveness whilst also offering up exciting opportunities

Buyer jobs can vary considerably from company to company. Within smaller companies, you might be expected to have a broader breadth of responsibilities whereas within larger companies buying roles can seemingly tend to be more transactional with much of the supplier selection steps left to more senior members of the team. The determining factor is often the complexity of both the parts and the distribution network.

The key tasks of the buyer remain:

* Finding suppliers
* Agreeing deals (prices/lead time)
* Liaising with suppliers
* Reviewing and agreeing which items need to be bought.
* Co-ordinating relevant transactions (i.e. raising Purchase Orders)
* Problem-solving)
Entry qualifications for buyers

Whilst it’s still true that individuals with little experience can start at the bottom of the ladder and look to be trained up, some organizations might look for people that match certain criteria for example:
* Graduate diploma
* Previous experience
* Recognized industry qualification (i.e. CIPS).

Again this will vary from company to company with many less stringent on the more junior positions.

For those starting at the bottom rung of the ladder, many companies offer either in-house training or sponsorship of external diplomas such as CIPS. Such qualifications, whilst not mandatory, can be industry recognized and help substantially in future career growth.

Buyer career progression

Whilst you might be forgiven for thinking that there is a typical career path (buyer, lead buyer, manager etc), it isn’t necessarily as clear cut as you might imagine. Once someone has gained sufficient experience (and or qualifications) and has been in the role of buyer for a period of time they may look to stretch their wings through advancement or promotion. Buyer jobs through their exposure to a breadth of supply chain experience offer excellent routes into many other diverse areas of the supply chain (planning, distribution) and also offer excellent career paths into management areas.

So what might these senior roles be we hear you asking?

The sort of supply chain Jobs one might consider are being a buyer include:

Category management
Sourcing specialist
Sub-contract management
Lead Buyers
Procurement manager
Supplier development

Many individuals will want some management responsibility, which may include the management of a team. Such progression usually includes taking on greater responsibility, often incorporating larger budgets and criticality. This may be based on the same commodities that you have experience of already or may require you to consider different commodities.

The key message is that following a time in buying jobs, career moves into more senior positions is a distinct possibility with procurement offering an excellent basis for a career ladder. Of course, the time it takes for this will vary considerably, some people find advancement quickly others not. It largely depends on a combination of the individual, the company they work for a pinch of luck. Those in buying roles now would expect to serve around 2 years before their first promotion and expect to reach a senior management level within around 6-10 years.

What are your thoughts on the buyer role being an excellent start for supply chain careerists? We’d love to hear your comments below.