Last week a reader, Beth, asked me this question:
“I’m interested in learning how to become a manager. So far, I haven’t had a proper leadership position. What do you think is the best way to become a manager?”
Great question! As someone starting out, knowing how to become a manager can be tricky.
One of the problems with starting out in management is getting that first leadership role. It’s a chicken and egg situation.
People hiring a manager want experience in leadership. But to get that experience, you need that leadership role!
But all is not lost. Let’s look at some good ways to become a manager, without necessarily having previous management experience to fall back on.
How to Become a Manager
1. Tell people you want to become a manager
One of the best ways to achieve your first leadership role is to tell people you want to become a manager.
It seems obvious, but some people don’t tell anyone about their leadership aspirations because they feel embarrassed that people might laugh at them.
“You want to be a manager? No chance!”
In reality, this rarely happens and if it does? Screw those people.
Tell your boss that you eventually would like to take on a leadership role. Speak to your family and friends outside of work. Put the word out. Ask other people’s advice on how to become a manager too.
Speaking your goals out loud opens up opportunity
When you tell people about your aspirations, you open yourself up to opportunity. Once people know about your goals, there is a chance they’ll give you a shot. If you don’t say anything, you have no chance.
That’s exactly what happened to me.
I was in a job interview for a non-management role. During the interview, my soon-to-be-boss asked me what my goals were. I said that I would like to eventually lead a team.
I got the job and two days after I started, my boss called me into his office.
He asked me “Would you like to move into that leadership role a little bit sooner?”
I said “Yes” and the rest was history. An opportunity had arisen for someone to lead a team.
And that someone was me.
2. Help your boss perform their role
Another great way to become a manager is to build experience by taking some tasks from your current boss.
The chances are, your boss is busy and she might need some help with things. If you can take some workload off your boss, use this as a mentoring opportunity and build some experience in the process, it’s a win-win situation.
Also, when you understand more about how your own manager’s role works and what’s involved, you’re less likely to be surprised when you do get that first management position.
The point is, you need to be thinking of the future.
Don’t get upset because you aren’t a manager right now. Start building experience that will get you there.
3. Take on leadership wherever you can find it
You need to play the long game and build experience in leadership, however you can.
Even outside of your job, you can build valuable leadership experience by joining committees, clubs or volunteering.
During your day job, volunteer to take part in projects or take responsibility for something in your team. Identify improvements that could be made and offer to implement them. Suddenly, you’re leading a mini project.
All of these types of experience can be added to your resume. Even if your job title doesn’t have the word “manager” or “lead” in it, the tasks you perform can be included so that people can see what experience you do have.
4. Be patient and build experience at one company
Particularly early in your career, it pays to stay in one place for a while. You can learn how the workplace functions and become familiar with what managers do.
Not only that, staying in one company allows you to build relationships and a network of people that trust you’ll do a good job.
People are more likely to take a chance hiring somebody they know and trust, than somebody off the street. When you don’t yet have that management experience to fall back on, having people know, like and trust you can make all the difference!
5. Don’t wait until you know it all
Lastly, don’t keep waiting until you have the perfect experience for a role.
If you see a management role advertised and you can tick six out of ten of the job criteria, go for it! The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t get a call for an interview.
When you’re applying for a “stretch” role like this, make sure you address some of the concerns of the employer in your application.
If you can explain how your experience is relevant, and that you are also looking for an opportunity that is a step up and looking to perfect your craft, some employers might take the chance and give you a shot.
Don’t give up when you’re trying for that first leadership role.
Think of the future and build experience now that will help you get that position.
It can be tough to get the first foot in the door, but it’s certainly not impossible and it gets easier from there!
Tip: If you are trying to get your first leadership role, or you’ve just started one, Thoughtful Leader has got you covered. Check out the Becoming a New Manager Audiobook, for tools and techniques to get off to a great start in your leadership career. Try the audiobook today.
Are you trying to get your first leadership position? What have been your biggest challenges? Leave a comment below!
Alternatively, if you would like to ask a question or need some help, you can send me a private message through my contact page.