Heard the word procurement and switched off? It’s certainly true to say that procurement has had something of an image problem amongst students. Well maybe it’s time to think again and consider a career in procurement. But don’t just listen to the recruiters – read what Sam Teasdale, a business studies student on an industrial placement with National Grid has to say…
I’m currently working for National Grid, taking a year out from my business studies degree. Getting a 2:1 in my first year helped me progress past the preliminary stages for placement applications, as generally placements expect minimum 2:1. I am currently working in procurement (think of it as developing purchasing strategies and then purchasing everything the company requires) and hope that this post will encourage other students to consider this field and also recognise the benefits of taking a ‘year out’ to acquire some professional work experience.
The assessment centre – not as scary as you think!
Personally I thought one of the daunting experiences in the application was going to be the assessment centre; however on reflection this wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. National Grid’s assessment centre is a two day event whereby you attend a dinner with the other candidates on the evening of first day and then complete the assessment day on second day.
The structure of the assessment centre was split into 3 tasks; interview, presentation and group exercise each are designed to test your skills in the 4 competency areas; developing oneself, building relationships, planning to achieve and presentation skills. Ensure you have some relevant examples to back up any questions surrounding these competency areas but overall the process really wasn’t that scary! Honest!
Using the skills I’ve developed at university
My placement is situated within Global Procurement which is responsible for annual spend in the region of £4.3bn globally making this department a crucial function to National Grid, more specifically I work in Global Procurement Strategy (GPS) as a strategy analyst. During my 12 months here I will be spending time in each of the 4 teams that make up GPS; Market Intelligence & Sustainability, Data & Systems, Performance Management and Process. Currently situated in Market Intelligence I am responsible for using my research skills developed at University to create high quality reports for buyers regarding market analysis they may require, this includes who’s out there, regulations, key drivers and generic market information. I then collate this into a slide deck and present back to the buyer, this is a very popular method and the buyers really do use this critical information.
Working in areas I’m passionate about…like sustainability
The second part of my current job lies with sustainability, looking at how National Grid Procurement can become more sustainable for the future, whether the answer is to source more sustainable products or to change the specifications we usually use to procure to include increased energy efficiency, reduced carbon output or reduce our water usage in the supply chain. This element of my placement is particularly exciting as sustainability is a key priority – not just for National Grid – but other large corporations. Being able to do things now that are going to impact National Grid for years to come is particularly rewarding.
Team work, communication, organisational skills? Welcome to the world of procurement
I believe the key skills required to be successful in procurement are excellent communication, you will regularly be talking with your internal team and external teams. Once you start project work you could be working with other areas of this vast business and key stakeholders. Additionally another vital skill is team working, everything we do here in National Grid will centre on working as a team, and whether this is daily tasks or project work you will need to be able to blend with others. You will also need to be highly organised and be able to prioritise tasks accordingly, organisation is key as you will need to organise your workload and you must be able to prioritise your workloads each week for what needs to be completed and what can be put on the backburner for a while.
Why National Grid?
The support umbrella here at National Grid is fantastic, my line manager and the team are really supportive of me and interested in my personal development and how to maximise my potential. If I have any issues I can usually resolve them with my manager or team however if I had an issue that couldn’t be resolved ‘in house’ I have a dedicated Business coordinator to speak to and a personal buddy, as you can see there are enough people to support you during 12 months here. Upon enrolment in National Grid you are asked to join Newnet which is a community of new starters, Newnet organises socials, talks, visits and networking events to really make your experience here at National Grid a good one. This is a great opportunity as the services they offer are invaluable as a networking tool; moreover site visits and talks enabled me to learn more about National Grid as a whole and accelerate your integration into the company. I have felt like a valued (permanent) employee rather than a placement student
Overall I believe procurement is a fantastic department to have a placement, the experience and knowledge gained is invaluable and will ensure you develop as a person ready to secure that graduate job.
* The graduate guide to procurement is worth a look if you’re considering other opportunities within the sector.