What are your suggestions for people lacking experience in a particular industry or raw material?

Hi Tim, my frustration at this stage in my career, is that I do have the experience and many skills in procurement and supply chain, but my industry experience is wholesale in home decor, arts/crafts , which is a huge limitation to those roles where the employer pays attention only to candidates who have relevant industry experience, for example, food, automobile parts, healthcare, electronics.

I have seen many jobs that I like and I am very confident with my ability in handling the job duties, but because I do not have the experience of a particular industry or raw materials, I am not even given an opportunity for an interview. Do you have any suggestion in this scenario? Thank you so much and any suggestion from you will be highly appreciated.

Tim’s reply

I guess the easy answer is ‘it depends’. What essentially you’re asking is ‘how do I make a transition over to another functional area of procurement, when I don’t have experience in that area?’

I’d like to review your resume in any regard, but I think a lot of your ability to transition to another sector would depend on how much you’ve ‘learned and earned’ in the supply chain so far. Some sectors like the auto, pharmaceutical, and / or food sectors, are often very hard to break into, and with good reason; These could involve substantial job requirements and involve quality and safety restrictions (like ISO, HACCP and QS to name a few.)

Other areas like electronics have myriad levels of specialty, some of which might include buying EEE components, or have TS16949 requirements used for military and aerospace. Let’s face it, if you make errors there, people could die or be severely injured.

But there’s an old saying which is “A buyer, is a buyer, is a buyer” suggesting that if you’ve learned the basics of contracting and procurement, you should be able to take that knowledge anywhere in any sector. The problem is that nowadays, it’s getting harder and harder to make that easy assumption, with so much specialization required out there.

Personally, I do think the old saying is a good one, with certain exceptions, but again, you’ve got to convince the potential employer of that first. One of the easiest ways is to explain, perhaps in your ‘Career Profile’ at the top of your resume and in your covering letter, why it is that you are seeking a job in their particular sector. Then I’d be sure to outline fully, your Supply Chain education in areas of common functionality in their sector (such as Purchasing, contracting, ethics, law, quality, presentation abilities, etc.,) and how these skills would easily apply and be directly related to their role as well. You may not have the direct experience; but hopefully you may have a great foundation on which to build on, for a successful transition into their field.

I would suggest to you that having your CSCMP credentials as well, could make the transition easier. It’s not a given, but it shows you have more than just the basics in Supply Chain. It’s up to the employer as to how much they will take that into account, and how much training and patience they may have, to wait until you gain the knowledge and understanding they require. (Essentially, how much of an investment they’re prepared to make).

Your ability to build supplier relationships, contracting, negotiations, and a solid track record of achievements in cost savings, implementing effeciencies, and obtaining results, should be of interest to any employer, no matter the sector.

And oh, let’s not forget your enthusiasm and commitment to learn whatever is required to be successful in your new job. You have to show them you’ve got the right stuff!