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Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre

Sales & Procurement

Introduction

An effective sales and procurement strategy is at the heart of any organizations success and consequently there is a need for talented graduates. Opportunities exist in every sector of industry and are open to applicants from any degree discipline. Those posts which involve an element of technical knowledge relating to specific products or services, may ask for a relevant degree (e.g. Chemistry or IT). Sales and procurement work can present opportunities for graduates wishing to utilise language skills and/or incorporate travel into their working life.

The Association for Project Management defines procurement as "the process by which the resources (goods and services) required by a project are acquired. It includes development of the procurement strategy, preparation of contracts, selection and acquisition of suppliers, and management of the contracts."

The Work

AGCAS, the professional body for higher education careers advisory services, has produced Industry Insight for Retail which provides an overview of what it is like to work in this area. There is also an overview of the sector on the Prospects website.

The following occupational profiles come from AGCAS too and provide an idea of the type of work available in this area. They have been written and researched by staff working within careers services across the country. They contain a lot of useful information that will help you with your initial research. These are just a sample, you can look for more on the Prospects website.

 Example Roles

Purchasing Manager
Media buyer
Medical sales representative
Retail buyer
Sales executive

 

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How to Get a Job

Work Experience

As with any profession, work experience is very important in respect of a career in sales and procurement. The positive thing about this particular area of work is that any experience is potentially relevant as all organizations buy and sell to a larger or lesser extent. Irrespective of whom you might undertake work experience with, or the nature of your work, take the time to find out about the processes involved in buying and selling products, materials and services.

Sales and procurement is, by its nature, very commercially driven and consequently any work experience or employment in a commercial environment is valuable. Work experience involving customer service (e.g. retail sales, call-centres, hospitality), possibly via temporary employment, is an excellent means of demonstrating the client focussed skills sought after by employers. As sales work concerns strong market and product awareness, experience in different sectors such as manufacturing, engineering, IT, media and FMCG is valuable. This also applies to procurement as it is possible to work in buying roles within any industry including retail, media and construction. If you have a very strong focus in terms of the context in which you wish to buy or sell then it is important to target work experience accordingly.

Sales and procurement internships are offered by some of the larger recruiters; internships and placements in other business functions are also of great worth. Typically, formal internships are aimed primarily at students in their penultimate year; closing dates can be as early as December and January! The internships last 8-12 weeks; they are usually salaried and involve structured, project based work. Opportunities are advertised via our vacancy service, which is available through the Careers Centre website, but also through the main graduate careers websites such as Prospects, Target Jobs and Milkround. It is feasible to undertake work experience with SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) through the ‘Step’ programme. Inside Careers provides details of internships and graduate opportunities in sales and procurement.The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply provides some useful careers information for graduates on its website.

As sales and procurement is integral to the retail sector it is a good environment in which to explore work experience opportunities but also temporary employment positions. The Retail Week website provides a useful directory of retail organisations; some of these organisations will offer structured work experience opportunities. Vacation and temporary retail posts, but also occasional internships, are advertised via ‘Retail Careers’ and ‘InRetail’. The charity sector can provide voluntary experience in the retail sector. Organisations such as Oxfam, Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation, Barnardo’s, Marie Curie and the Red Cross regularly look for volunteers to work in retail outlets but also within regional head quarters. 

As procurement and sales, in one form or another, is integral to all organizations it is feasible to gain work experience outside of those employers that typically target graduates. In order to be successful, however, it is necessary to proactively approach interesting organizations with an effectively targeted CV and covering letter.

Examples of internship schemes

Nestle run a 10 week sales placement in York or Croydon. They also offer 12 month industrial placements. For more information visit the Nestle careers website.

 

Relevant Employers

Graduate opportunities

Sales and procurement offers the potential to work in numerous sectors of industry (banking, media, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, IT, FMCG etc) and with some very prestigious global organisations and brands. High profile graduate employers include Rolls Royce, Heineken, Airbus, Nestle, Heinz, BT, GlaxoSmithKline, L’Oreal and Kraft Foods.

Sales

Many large organisations offer graduate training schemes in sales; these opportunities can be identified through the online and paper based resources provided by Prospects, Times 100, Inside Careers and Target Jobs. Pareto is a graduate placement organisation specialising in sales opportunities with high profile clients; they will assess and train candidates before moving them into job roles. Other prominent sales recruitment agencies include BMS and Simply Sales. Graduate and trainee opportunities also exist with SMEs (Smaller and Medium sized Enterprises); refer to the resources highlighted here to source these positions but also consider making speculative applications. 

If you are seeking a job in a very particular area of sales, such as medical, finance, media, property or IT sales, there are agencies and jobsites that are much more specific. The simplest way to indentify such resources is to refer to the appropriate industry articles on the Prospects website. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation website allows you to search for recruitment agencies by sector and location.

Examples of graduate schemes

Procurement

Vacancies in procurement can occur across a number of different industry sectors e.g. manufacturing, service sectors, wholesalers. Buying is a significant element of retailing; some companies (e.g. mail order companies, food retailers) recruit graduates straight into buying functions. Fenwick is one example of a company whose graduate scheme is specifically about buying. Tesco also offer graduate opportunities in buying; this includes food, clothing, electrical and general merchandise but also corporate purchasing. This concerns all other materials and items that are not resold but which are essential to the effective functioning of any organization (e.g. office equipment, signs, uniforms etc). Buying Assistant positions, although competitive, represent an additional route into a buying career within the retail industry.

In certain sectors and organizations (e.g. engineering, manufacturing, technology) procurement is more specialised; graduate schemes are still available but in some cases only to appropriate degree disciplines. Rolls Royce, for example, offer a graduate programme in operations management. This scheme incorporates purchasing and is open to students with a numerate, scientific or technical degree. GSK also provide a graduate scheme in procurement but in contrast to Rolls Royce, this is open to students from any discipline. It is not always possible to enter a purchasing role as a graduate; in certain cases employers will expect you to have worked in another business area for at least a couple of years before moving into head office functions such as procurement or buying.

Public sector employers such as local authorities, the Civil Service (Government Procurement Service) and the NHS employ graduates in procurement roles. Procurement is integral to the construction, engineering and manufacturing sectors and consequently it is worth exploring graduate opportunities in these areas, particularly if you have a relevant degree background.

A list of graduate recruiters, as well as additional careers information concerning procurement, is available through the Supply Management website. Inside Careers offers a list of graduate and internship schemes within the area of purchasing and supply management. Target Jobs has a useful section on retail, which includes buying. The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply has a recruitment section on their website.

Examples of graduate schemes

Other opportunities

In addition to graduate schemes, it is not uncommon for organizations to recruit graduates on an individual basis into trainee roles. Non-graduate level employment with a relevant employer is another means of entering the profession. The resources below are appropriate in respect of both graduate and non-graduate employment opportunities. Refer to the Recruitment Employment Confederation website for details of appropriate recruitment consultancies.

Useful vacancy websites

The following resources are useful websites to help you to find vacancies within this sector.

Sales Target
  • Find a wide range of opportunities within sales
  • New opportunities are added regularly
Modern Selling
  • Trainee and graduate level opportunities advertised
Supply Management Jobs
  • Sign up to receive email alerts of relevant jobs
  • Search for opportunities by specialist area
CIPS GPA
  • Specialist recruitment agency for procurement
  • Service to graduates provided
ISMM Jobs Board
  • Graduate jobs advertised: use keyword search to access these opportunities
CASTUK
  • Specialist executive recruiters for retail in logistics, supply chain and buying/purchasing/procurement

  • Opportunities available throughout the UK

 

Courses

Postgraduate study is not necessary for a career in sales; it is an area in which there are established training programmes for graduates in addition to entry level and trainee roles. Postgraduate study options are available, particularly in the broader context of business, finance and marketing, which may enhance employment prospects but are not required by employers. The Institute of Sales and Marketing Management does provide information on accredited qualifications at different levels. 

Procurement is different in that those embarking on a graduate scheme may undertake accredited professional training leading to a Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) qualification. An alternative route, and one that might enhance your employability, is to consider an accredited postgraduate programme in purchasing or supply management. The CIPS website contains information on the study options that are available; it also provides a directory of accredited courses at postgraduate level.

Further information on postgraduate courses can be found on the Prospects and FindaMasters websites. Research the courses on offer before you apply; don't assume that they are all the same, particularly as both sales and procurement represent such a diverse range of opportunities. It is vital to approach admissions tutors at an early stage to establish specific entry requirements. Courses that are specific to procurement or supply chain management may require relevant experience and/or academic study. There are no absolute deadlines for postgraduate courses in this field but it is recommended that you apply early.

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Professional Bodies

In the sales profession the main representative body is the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management . This body is an excellent source of sales related news and events; it also actively engages in professional development and learning related to the industry. The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply  represents the procurement profession; the organisation is involved in raising professional standards and actively supports research related to purchasing and supply chain management.

Other relevant professional bodies include: