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Career ROI

CAREER ROI: Advice From Senior Leaders


Jill Bossi, C.P.M.

March/April 2013, eSide Supply Management Vol. 6, No. 2

Your career will be what you make of it, so have respect for others and yourself in order to achieve your goals.

"Hindsight is always 20/20." It's easy to look back on my career and assess what I did well or what I could have done better. When I began my career, there were very few supply chain courses in college, and there certainly weren't undergraduate or graduate degrees in supply chain. I didn't even attain my business degree until I was already successful in my career. In fact, when I started my career, ISM was still NAPM (National Association of Purchasing Management) and it had just begun its journey to change the common view of the transactional purchasing manager into that of a strategic supply management professional.

As I wrote this column, I realized the best way to share some of the lessons I've learned along my career journey was to correlate them to strategic sourcing lessons.

One of the best ways to remember steps in any process is to keep it simple and find an acronym or catchy phrase to remind you of the key points. With that in mind, the ability to RESPECT the person, situation, task or problem in front of me was an important factor in my success both in strategic sourcing and my career. The term RESPECT can serve as a guide if it's broken down into an acronym:

  • Research: Do the research, get your facts straight. Whether it's a school, program, company, role or even a future boss, thorough research will always help you make good decisions. You don't have to be a walking Wikipedia — but being able to recall facts in key situations will make you stand out from those who never do their homework.

  • Engage: You can't stand around waiting for life to happen to you. You have to engage in life and make it happen — in big ways and small ways. Be willing to put yourself out there and risk failing. Some of the best lessons I've learned have come from failures. And I've had many! While you may try something during a sourcing event that just doesn't work out, you will learn from the experience, and it will help you be better next time.

  • Strategize: Don't leave things to chance. Don't take just what comes your way. Think through your strategy to get you where you really want to go and detail how you will get there. The first step in building a strategy is defining your passion. What excites you? Figuring out what you like to do will help clarify the types of tasks you should avoid. For example, if you're someone who enjoys negotiating, then you're not going to be happy doing materials requirement planning (MRP) projects. If analysis and numbers are your passion, speaking to large groups or leading a team may not be the best fit. You have to have a strategy for your life, just like you need a strategy for the project you are working on today. Big or small — it is the vision that sets your path.

  • Plan: You have to keep planning, because it keeps you thinking about what comes next. Now that you've set your strategy and think you have it all planned out — life will come along and change everything! Dwight Eisenhower once said, "Plans are nothing; planning is everything." Good planners in supply management know they have to keep adjusting the plan because things change every day. There could be staff reductions that bring more responsibilities, or a new position you'd like to take on may become available. Nothing stays the same, so be ready for anything. Your plan will work the same way. Even if the first career strategy you had doesn't go as planned, you can take the next turn and keep going.

  • Execute: Follow through. So many people take the first steps in their journey but don't follow through. And when everything comes crashing down, they wonder what happened. The problem was they did not execute against their plan. While those plans may change, how you execute and move forward will help determine how you succeed. Writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, "A really great talent finds its happiness in execution," and I agree.

  • Communicate: The most important thing you can learn is how to communicate with truth and honesty. The ability to communicate sets our species apart. You communicate and build relationships with others through words, so imbue your words with truth and honesty. Stephen Covey once said, "Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships." Always remember your word is your bond.

  • Timing: Sometimes the best things happen because of being in the right place at the right time. Timing can't be underestimated. For example, you may meet someone at a conference who will be the key to landing your next job, or you may be presenting in a meeting when the CPO joins and you have a moment to shine. While timing is crucial, it can't be planned. But it can be capitalized on — so be alert to those little clues and cues that timing is about to present you with opportunity.

Respect yourself. Respect others. In the end, your career and your life will be what you make it. Spend the time to make it something great.

Jill Bossi, C.P.M., is vice president and chief procurement officer, supply chain and real estate management for the American Red Cross in Washington, DC. For more information, send an email to

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