It was fall back in 2008-2009 during the recession, and we were a one-income family of five facing the possibility of being a family of five with no income. Our three boys were all in school full time, and as a family, we decided that I would look to return to procurement.
I knew I wasn’t going to just jump back into a supply chain position after being at home with our boys for 12 years. I appreciated that I was able to spend this time with them and felt fortunate. I gave myself a one-year timeline.
Reskilling for a Return to Procurement
I knew I needed to make a plan.
The first step I took was to get professional, so I went out, got a suit, dusted off my portfolio, got out a good pen and got a haircut. I also refreshed my resume and cover letter.
I belonged to PMAC, which is now SCMA, before I left the workforce. I went to the SCMA website and found they had a free event coming up in Toronto—Sustainability at the Westin Harbour Castle hotel on the beautiful shore of Lake Ontario, so I signed up and got my free pass.
I reached out to the contact in charge of annual memberships. Given my current situation, I explained that I was “having a challenging time” getting back into the workforce. I also said that once I could land a job, I would be working on my designation. To my surprise, the program’s head offered me a free one-year membership and wished me well on my return-to-work journey.
First Moments in my Return to Procurement
I hopped on the Go Train with my free pass, new haircut and a handful of personally made networking cards from Staples stock business cards in my portfolio. I spent the next 45 minutes on the train trying to convince myself I could walk into a room full of a couple hundred professionals, presenters and vendors and introduce myself.
I walked down to the shore of Lake Ontario and entered through the large doors of the Westin Harbour Castle hotel.
I made my way to the conference room entrance, stood back, paused, and gave myself a once over and made sure everything was in place. As I stood back watching the attendees enter and get their hello tags, I thought to myself: you are no different than them; you just don’t have a company name below your name on your hello tag—now let’s go and get an opportunity.
I walked through the giant doors into a large conference room facing the lake. I must admit I was a little overwhelmed as I had not been to an event in a long time. I made my way around the room, checked out the vendor displays and talked with the attendees and presenters.
One of the ladies I spoke to was really interested in my efforts to get back into the working world after being a stay-at-home mother. It turned out she was the editor of Purchasing b2b magazine, which is now Supply Professional. She asked me if I would write an article for them. I couldn’t sit still through the rest of the event or on the train ride home. Spoiler alert, I celebrate 12 years of being back in the workforce this year, and last month I published my eighth article for Supply Professional in the October 2021 issue.
Solving Problems – Personal and Procurement
I knew my return to procurement would not be easy. I considered my return-to-work journey like a case study. You know that saying sometimes you are the problem? Well, that’s how I mapped out my game-plan, I thought of myself as the problem.
I took the problem-solving steps and combined them with a gap analysis tool. I had a minimal budget of $1600 from working lunch duty while the boys were in school. I took the Durham region economic report and determined which industries were doing well despite the terrible economy.
From there, I researched which positions were the most locally posted. From there, I took the three most common skills and compared that to my existing skill set. I was trying to get a position to get back in the workforce, which would let me gain experience and afford to pay for my courses to reskill and get my necessary designations.
I determined I needed at least intermediate Excel and Word along with first aid (receptionist required). I would also need PowerPoint and Visio if I were applying to Hydro. I ranked these in the gap analysis tool and included time and cost. I didn’t have enough to cover all the upgrading I wanted to get.
I had access to a used laptop, so I asked for manuals of PowerPoint and Visio for Mother’s Day. I self-taught myself these over the summer page by page, diligently working through both manuals. I had taken Excel and Word in college, so I just needed to refresh those.
Do it Yourself Procurement Reskilling
I found the Durham region adult learning center, and they were offering a one-day free course for Word and Excel. I got my father-in-law to watch the boys for two days, and off I went. While I was there, they had courses for each level for both Word and Excel. The problem was I didn’t have time to spend in class for each level nor the money for all these levels.
I was successful with the one-day courses and asked the teacher if I could see the manuals for the advanced course; she said sure and gave me a funny look. I glanced over them and thought, I can do this; I can save a lot of money and time if I just take the advanced levels.
You should have seen the look on her face when I told her I signed up for the advanced week for each. I arranged for my father-in-law to watch the boys for two weeks, and off I went. I was successful; I ended up with a 78 for Word and a 98 for Excel. Getting my first aid certification felt more awkward than the courses. I walked into a room full of high school kids at the local community center; they were all training for their lifeguard certification, and I felt like I was their mom.
From there, l left on the voice mail of an HR manager of a local company which distributed products, some with which I had previous experience. I found her contact details on the company website. Not expecting to hear back, I continued to canvass local businesses in the surrounding areas to see if there were any opportunities and left my networking card whenever possible.
I did hear back from the HR manager for whom I left the message, and she politely explained they didn’t have any current openings. That said, she told me that I was welcome to send in my resume and cover letter. I sent both to her attention, thinking nothing would likely come of it.
This is the beginning of my story of a return to procurement. It’s not the end — and to all the people that have been out of procurement for years, there is a way back in.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my story.
By Lisa Fenton, CSCMP, Supply Chain Manager