This career is for people that are outgoing and really know how to talk to people. A buyer is such a fun challenging job! I have the chance to interract with vendors, and have the power to negotiate them and make decisions for the company. I love the responsiblilty and enjoy the challenge of a heated negotiation. Sometimes the hours can be long, and if travel is a concern, it at times can be a bit much, but overall it has pretty predictable hours and commands a decent salary depending on what your buying.
I have spent the past 20 years working as a Supply Officer (buyer) for a UN Organisation. These years have been very fulfilling. The various posts that I have occupied have enabled me to bring commercial practices to bear on humanitarian causes. I have been exposed to a wide range of different cultural and commerical practices and have had the opportunity of exercising my skills and experience in many countries. I have worked at my organisation's HQ in an European capital, but I have also been responsible for procurement and logistics for humanitarian operations on the ground. Never a dull day!
The routes into this job are many and varied. I possess a BA in history and happened to find myself in the right spot at the right time. Practices and expectations have, however, evolved over the years and now most organisations are looking for persons with specific skill sets. A background in product engineering, pharmacology or mechancis can be very attractive to a future employer, although this background complemented by buying experience would be the ideal combination. Alternatively, a contracting background combined with relevant legal experience is also a way forward.
The profession is what you make of it. There is certainly the potential for development for anybody so motivated. I would however, advise anybody considering a career in the organisation to carefully consider the promotion path of this profession within the hierarchy. You will also have to make a decision if moving every 2-4 years is part of your lifestyle.