You’ve gradually been working your way up the ladder. Finally, your hard work has been recognized. You’ve landed the job you’ve been eyeing for a while: procurement manager.
What’s the first thing you do? You call home to share the good news. Hopefully, your significant other knows a thing or two about what you do. If he or she doesn’t, it’s easy enough to take the time to explain over a romantic dinner.
That Dreaded Question
The tricky part comes when you try to describe what you do in a memorable sound bite to somebody you’ve just met. Invariably, at every social gathering you attend, someone will ask, “What do you do?” This question will be asked at family gatherings, cocktail parties, weddings and happy hours. It will haunt you for years, and it would be easy to explain if you were a doctor. Or a lawyer. Or a teacher. But no, you’re a procurement manager. If you can’t think of a quick answer, your conversation partners’ eyes will begin to glaze over. They mumble something about wanting another drink and wander off in search of someone more interesting.
You may turn to Google for a simple explanation, but it’s not much help. The Wikipedia definition of procurement is a mouthful. Most articles on procurement are of no help, either. They tend to be filled with jargon indecipherable to anyone outside of procurement.
Instead, here are a few ways you can describe your job in procurement.
You’re the man (or woman) behind the scenes who waves a magic wand and – poof! – your company has the supplies it needs to produce a product your customer loves. Granted, waving a wand implies managing suppliers, negotiating contracts, and making sure your company gets the materials it needs when it needs them. But if you do your job well, it looks like magic.
Totaljobs.com thinks procurement management is a lot like being an eight-armed sea creature: “Acting like a human octopus across the business, procurement managers can expect to find themselves getting involved in a number tasks that are critical for both the profits and the development of the company they work for.” Each tentacle connects you to a different department – research and development, production and design, marketing, communications, and more.
Imagine your company is a VIP guest at a five-star hotel. When that guest wants a bowlful of yellow M&Ms at 3:30 am, it’s your job to find out where to get them. You make sure your company gets what it wants but in the least expensive and most efficient way possible.
Imagine you’re an auctioneer. But instead of trying to get people to buy something for a lot of money, you’re trying to get people to sell you high quality products and services for as little money as possible. If you’re lucky, you won’t even have to talk reallysuperfastwithoutbreathing to do the job right.
The One to Avoid
You may want to avoid referring to yourself as a procurer. While it can mean “one who obtains goods or services,” it’s more commonly used as a synonym for pimp. In fact, “a person who obtains a woman as a prostitute for another person” is the first definition that shows up when you plug it into Google. Pimping your ride might be a fun way to spend your weekend, but telling your mother you’re the company’s pimp may not go over well at Thanksgiving.
How do you describe procurement to strangers? Let us know in the comments section below!