According to a CareerBuilder survey, most American workers don’t want to move into management. That’s likely a good thing as the available slots at higher levels within any organization are limited. But, for those who do, there are some important steps to take to position themselves to step into these higher-level roles.
Yearning for Management Experience
About one-third of the respondents to the CareerBuilder survey (34 percent) indicated that they were interested in moving into management roles (only 7 percent, though, expressed an interest in serving in C-level roles).
Many of those who yearn for these roles, though, feel the deck is stacked against them. One in five respondents indicated that their organization had a “glass ceiling”—an unseen barrier that keeps women, and other minorities, from moving into top-level roles. An even high percentage of those who sought these roles (24 percent) indicated that a glass ceiling was in place at their organizations. More women (33 percent), Hispanics (34 percent), African Americans (50 percent) and workers with disabilities (59 percent) felt this way.
How can you break through the glass ceiling (real or perceived) in your organization? There are a variety of ways to position yourself to move into a management position.
Let Your Interest be Known
First, make sure that your manager, and others, know that you’re interested in taking on more responsibility. Not speaking up doesn’t do anything to help you land a management role. Having conversations with your manager, HR representatives and other senior leaders will help you raise awareness of your interest and potentially put you on the radar screen when openings occur.
Seek Feedback to Help You Close Performance Gaps and Develop Key Skills
People often try to avoid receiving feedback—especially constructive feedback—when they should be doing the exact opposite. Being open to, and actively seeking, feedback from others about areas in which you excel, and areas where you have opportunities for improvement, can help you position yourself to move into management.
Also read: Rise of Women in Leadership
Focus on Your Strengths
While it’s common for business professionals to focus on areas of weakness, and removing or minimizing them, experts tell us that focusing on strengths may yield better results. The Gallup organization has popularized this notion and even has a StrengthsFinder assessment tool to help business professionals identify where their strengths lie. Then, Gallup suggests, focus on making those strengths even stronger—level your best skills first, then focus on areas of weakness.
Get Some Practice
Even those who are in individual contributor roles can get a taste for management by volunteering to serve on teams or committees and taking on a leadership role. This can be done within your own organization, or through involvement in community events or groups where you can gain this type of experience.
Think Big Picture
Managers are generally not drawn from the ranks of tacticians—those who focus on getting tasks done, checking off boxes, and adhering rigidly to the requirements listed in their job descriptions. Instead, management staff candidates demonstrate that they can think big picture—they’re focused on the strategies and objectives of the organization and know how to pitch their best ideas with business objectives in mind. An important step to take here is to get a copy of your organization’s strategic plan and learn what the key priorities are. Then consider how what you do now—and what you hope to do in the future—can position you to positively impact those strategies.
Find a Mentor, Sponsor, or Both
Mentors and sponsors are important for business professionals hoping to move into increasingly higher-level roles. Mentors are those who provide you with advice and counsel on how to improve your skills. Sponsors are those who advocate on your behalf with others. Some organizations have formal mentor programs but, even if yours doesn’t, it’s a good idea to seek out one or more mentors who can help you develop your skills and provide you with important insights into the world of management.
Identify Role Models
Even without a formal mentor or sponsor relationship, you can look to those you admire or those who have been successful at moving up in your organization, to identify traits and characteristics they possess. Then, do some self-assessment, or seek input from others, to determine the extent to which you possess those same traits and characteristics, or how you might develop them.
Take Advantage of Developmental Opportunities
Whether available through your employer, or something you seek out on your own, there is a myriad of developmental opportunities available to today’s business professionals. Your organization may offer leadership development training or other types of training that can help you build your skills. You might consider taking courses from local schools and universities—or online. Courses offered through sites like Coursera or Udemy are often available at low or no cost. There is a wide range of other resources also available online through trade and professional journals, organizations and consultants. As you take advantage of these opportunities make sure you’re communicating with your manager and others so they’re aware of your self-development interests and activities.
Act the Part
Even while in a non-management level role, you can think and act like a manager. What does this involve? It involves taking a big picture view of issues, as discussed previously. It also involves ensuring that your communications and interactions with others are positive, outcome-focused and clearly aligned with business strategy. In addition, you should dress the part. Commonly held business wisdom suggests that upwardly mobile business professionals should “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”
If you’ve been longing for a promotion that has proved elusive, taking the steps above can help you better position yourself to serve in a management role. Being proactive will also send a message to others that you’re serious about your career and willing to make the personal investment in moving forward.