When the holiday decorations start going up, New Year’s resolutions can’t be far behind.
As the year draws to a close, people start taking stock of their lives, figuring out where things could be going better, and giving themselves deadlines to take action.
The more sober of these New Year’s resolutions involves one’s career. Much like during the fourth quarter when companies make a big push to close out the year successfully, many employees evaluate their own careers to determine how to move to the next level. For some, that might mean parlaying the company’s year-end success into a new management position.
Ask anyone who’s been successful moving into a management position, and they’ll light up when telling you how challenging yet rewarding it can be. But they’ll also caution that it can be very stressful, often involving intense amounts of work that is neither particularly interesting nor intellectually stimulating (for example, processing invoices). That technical brilliance or award-winning performance on your current job will do little to prepare you to skillfully navigate bureaucracy at your office, find and allocate resources, organize tasks, provide direction and perform many administrative details you didn’t even know existed.
These same people will light up once again, though, when they tell you that they never regretted moving into a management position, and will offer you warm and hearty encouragement as you contemplate joining the management tribe.
Now you need to make your next move. You’ll have to switch into job search mode by calling on some of the same skills that got you your current job, and to assess your opportunities, build the business case for yourself, and communicate your value to those above you.
Here are three things to do to advance to a management position in 2019:
- Do a thorough assessment of yourself and the opportunity
Before seriously pursuing a management position, it is critical that you understand what the position really entails (time, energy, training, etc.), what your motivations are, and whether the two align.
The first thing to be clear about is whether you will be managing people, processes or technology. Managing processes is very different from managing technology, and managing people is very different from those two. Most management positions involve all three, but in what proportion? What is your background, what are your skills, and what is in your wheelhouse? In addition, will the position require you to be a hands-on manager, meaning you’ll share some of the same duties as those you supervise? That requires excellent time management skills as well as keen emotional intelligence, two areas where new managers often overestimate their abilities.
Another thing to consider is if you are motivated externally or internally. If the former (e.g., by prestige, status, money), how will you handle situations if your motivators fail to materialize? If the latter, do your personal measures of satisfaction line up with the organization’s objectives?
Also, to what do you attribute your success? If, on the one hand, the answer is to your own abilities and talent, how will you handle matters when you get confused or intimidated by a problem or come up short on results? Be very careful with how you attribute fault. On the other hand, if you attribute your success to hard work and discipline, what will you do to find the resources to work harder or smarter when challenges inevitably arise?
- Round out your skills
Be sure that others whose judgment you trust, such as current managers, feel you are ready for a management position. Take counsel from those who can assess your aptitude for management, especially regarding whatever skills you will need—and especially people and communication skills, which are absolutely fundamental to being effective as a manager. You’ll be attending more meetings than ever before, and your day-to-day job may involve intense extracting, distilling and conveying of information.
Consult with HR to determine whether you have the skill set, experience and credentials that would appear in the job description or salary band you are seeking. If you don’t, you’ll have to first address any glaring gaps. Take the time to become familiar with tools that management consultants frequently use, especially analysis frameworks, issue trees, and leadership styles.
- Make the business case for yourself
As a manager, you’ll be dealing with some type of business issue every day. Show that you are ready for a management-level position by creating an effective business case for yourself. Use your jobseeker skills (like tying your background and qualifications to the specifics of a job ad when you wrote your resume) to map your background and experience to the needs of the management position you want, and always conclude by demonstrating your value. You may also want to create a 90-day success plan, outlining what you aim to achieve as a new manager.
You will definitely want to create a new elevator speech. Why? After you have decided to pursue a management position, you will need to make that desire known. You may want to do some internal informational interviews or consult with HR or managers in other departments to see if there is a management path already established, or an opening available that you were not aware of. Every conversation about why you want to become a manager will likely begin with your new elevator speech.
Assemble as much support as you can. You will need it to get the position, and even more so after you land it. Trusted advisors and colleagues can help you gain or maintain perspective, good judgment and self-awareness. Work to be seen as a leader and try to collect some early wins to prove that management was the correct logical next step. After you’re comfortable as a manager, you can even become a mentor to someone else seeking a management position.
Above all, make sure your timing is right. You’ll know you’re ready when the consensus is that you are the right person, for the right job, and at the right time.
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