Movin’ On Up – The Challenge of Getting Into Management
This is a common discussion with candidates. We get it all the time. How do I get from an individual contributor role into management? Help! I am stuck in my job with no promotional opportunities and I want to leave for a management position. Maybe that’s your situation. Are you turning down new opportunities because they are lateral moves?
Well, you shouldn’t, and I am going to tell you why.
It is almost impossible for someone with no management experience to change jobs and walk into management role on Day 1 at their new company. Why? Because, when an employer decides to hire someone externally for a managerial position, they are bypassing the internal individual contributors already at their firm. If they are not promoting them, it looks horrible for them to bring in an outsider who is at the same experience level as the people they bypassed. If that has happened to you, then you already know how badly that made you feel. By exclusively limiting your selection to defined title promotions, you may be hurting yourself.
In reality, there are three paths to management. One is slow and the other two are faster. The first is obvious. You can wait for your boss to retire and hope you are chosen to move into that slot. Of course, the problem is that it may require patience, especially if your boss is young. And, you are gambling 5 to 10 years of your career hoping that you are the one eventually chosen for the promotion. A risky gamble indeed.
The second, a better strategy, is to look for lateral moves that have a succession planning component embedded in the job. We regularly get assignments for people who are going to be groomed, as senior staff members, for a managerial role when an incumbent retires in a year or two. That scenario allows the employer to bring in an outsider as a perceived peer and train the person for the next step. If your career tactic is an adamant statement that you won’t leave unless you get a management title, then you will never get exposed to a succession planning scenario. Not every lateral move is a dead end. Some are designed to be an escalator.
The third, also good strategy, is to find a growing company. I’ve written about this before. A growing company can be a career rocket ship. Like a rising tide and boats, it lifts all careers. How? Well, imagine you are the first accountant at a 50-person manufacturing firm. At the age of 26, you report to the owner or GM. Two years later the company employs 74 people and you have an AP/AR person reporting to you as an Accounting Manager. Two years later it is a 125 person company and you are a Controller with a Staff Accountant, AP/AR and a credit person reporting to you. Growth keeps the trajectory going in your favor.
Of course, there are caveats in the last two scenarios. One, you need to be promotable. Two, you need to grow into the job. If you can check those boxes, your next step is almost guaranteed.
So, look beyond the specific title of the opportunity and consider other, more complex possibilities. If not, your next promotion can depend on a rare combination of patience and luck.
Keep an eye out for our next White Paper “The One Thing You Should do Early in Your Career to be a Better Manager.” Please connect or follow us on LinkedIn so you don’t miss it.