“In a ditch calling for a shovel” is a favourite saying from my husband’s long repertoire of business expressions.
In my recent blog 6 sure-fire ways to become a CPO, I talked about the high levels of frustration people feel when roadblocks get in the way of their ambitions and career progression.
It started me thinking about the many times I felt frustrated as a category manager. Sometimes, there were genuine business delays or hiccups that de-railed my ‘perfect world’, but other times it was just the sameness, the daily grind, which left me feeling less than optimistic about my future in procurement.
Suspecting that some of you may face these challenges, I thought I would share five ideas to help you break the cycle, get out of that rut, and reset your career trajectory.
1. Get out of the office – Sorry, I’m not suggesting that you start working from home or have coffee with all your friends because you’re bored or frustrated with work.
If your contract negotiation or rollout has come to a standstill, why not try and re-ignite activity and the relationship by organising site visits to your supplier, their competitors and, ideally, their customers. Taking a different, and potentially more relaxed, approach to communicating with your suppliers or stakeholders will create a new atmosphere for collaboration.
You will also gain a lot of new ideas and information from these interactions, which will hopefully inspire you to take a new approach and alleviate the current stalemate.
2. Update your online profile and look at other jobs – Before you get excited and think I’m going to advise you to quit your job because you’re bored, I’m not.
My point here is that updating your profile is a great way to remind yourself all you’ve learned in your current job, and allows you to reflect on the progress you are making in your career. Even though you may be frustrated now, you need to see that you are building an impressive story with your career to date.
I’d also encourage you to just look at other jobs, although not to apply for them. I suggest this approach in order to help you realise two things. Firstly, that the grass is not necessarily greener; and the importance of continually developing your skills in order to be qualified for your next career opportunity.
So take some time to look the job you want (the aspirational one), understand what you need to develop to get that role and get to work aligning your skills. You’ll find this will spark your motivation back in the workplace.
3. Organise a team event – Many of our workplace frustrations are focussed on our interactions with our peers, direct reports, or bosses. Often the root cause of these frustrations are that neither side really understands where the other is coming from.
Social events are the ideal way to break down some of these barriers and better understand your peers. A team event could take many forms – a volunteering day, a fun learning exercise, an activity, a party. The important thing is that it is something that most of the group would be interested in and is appropriate for endorsement by the company.
4. Offer your services to your CPO – Hopefully you have a very open and positive line of communication with your boss. If so, you should broach the concept of you helping complete one of the many “team development” projects they have on their plate.
There is always some work to do on the performance management process, or the SRM framework, or some communication material that needs updating. I would be surprised if there wasn’t something that you could help with.
Your CPO should be delighted with your initiative and provide the opportunity for you to demonstrate how you handle this type of leadership project. Completing such an assignment is a brilliant way for you to ensure that your name stays on the radar as a high potential employee – so make sure if you volunteer for this, that you give it 100% and complete the project on time and to specification!
5. Get connected – The best people to consult when you are having a tough time are people who understand your role, but are not closely involved and can therefore act as an unbiased third party to talk through your challenges. If you have a mentor, this is the perfect time to be talking regularly with them to work your way out of your rut. If you don’t have a mentor, it’s time to get one!
Make sure you reach out to the right contacts in your network – either through your professional association (CIPS, ISM), the Roundtables or networking groups your company subscribes to (Faculty, Hackett, Procurement Leaders, PSC), or your on-line networks (Procurious, LinkedIn).
There will be a number of people within your broader network who can provide invaluable advice on how to get out of your current career gridlock. This is an invaluable, yet free, source of support for you and it’s only a click away!
Search for Ladders, Not Shovels
The suggestions above may be nothing more than temporary diversions away from your negative thought-trains and frustrations. Throughout my career I have found that by occupying my mind with another task, even for an hour or so, helps to reinvigorate my motivation and allows me to step back and see the big picture. This perspective means I can return to task at hand with a new drive.
It’s normal to get frustrated about your role from time to time, particularly if you are ambitious and have plans to succeed and progress. What’s important is that you look for ladders, rather than shovels, to get yourself out of these holes.