A Path to the Top
Ideally, a path to the top of the career ladder looks like this:
- You work hard and efficiently, do more than your job description requires and taking additional responsibilities is your own initiative.
- You show yourself as a leader: take an active part in creating a positive environment in the department, motivating your colleagues and training the new employees.
- The management notices your efforts, appreciates your competency and responsibility and promote you to a managerial post.
In reality, this path is not so straight and sure for several reasons. Here are the most common ones:
- Many companies prefer to hire external managers rather than promote any of its own specialists.
- Some companies have a poor evaluation system and the manager might actually not even know about a really good specialist’s success.
- The specific corporate culture has taken root in the company: managerial posts are given not to the most proficient and successful employees, but to people complying with other criteria (for example, they are relatives/good friends of the owner of the company or the owner prefers to assign people to such posts according to their nature, astrological sign, etc.)
- The managerial posts are fully staffed, no new departments appear and existing managers rarely leave their posts.
There is probably one more reason: “I can’t become a manager because no one appreciates me”. Let’s expand on this point.
I deserve a managerial post but they don’t let me manage
When the specialist comes to such a conclusion, he or she usually disregards one important detail.
Deserving of a managerial post means not only being competent and handling everyday tasks perfectly. A potential manager is active, he or she not only does usual work but also looks for opportunities to improve processes so that the system is more effective. A potential manager often suggests ways to work more efficiently and achieve better results, he or she introduces new methods in his or her own work. A future manager is a leader: sometimes his or her opinion is more important than that of a formal leader.
Can a potential manager be unnoticeable? Hardly. On the other hand, only knowledge, skills, experience and leadership cannot guarantee the promotion. For example, the candidate may not comply with some formal criteria, such as the university degree or practical managerial experience.
There may be several reasons why the specialist is stuck at the executive level, but one shouldn’t blame the top management for not noticing the potential leader.
A professional’s initiative comes first, the post - second. The paradox is that a capable leader can perform managerial tasks even without a post. Promotion is a formal procedure. The employee sees the strategy, manages resources, predicts risks, leads the colleagues. The post only confirms the status and related attributes such as bonuses, wages, taking part in decision making and allocation of resources on a larger scale.
If a managerial post is used only as a lever, most probably the manager won’t benefit the company. The post only gives opportunities but doesn’t work as a springboard. Such a springboard is professionalism, the ability to see the situation on the whole and spend time wisely, the talent to aim colleagues to major tasks.
Are you a true manager?
You have been striving for a managerial post for years but cannot reach your goal. Do these statements apply to you?
- You have driven at least one task from the deadlock for the past six months: everyone has given it up but you got it done.
- You have managed to change your colleagues’ opinion on an important question at least once. Everyone told “no”, you said “yes”, as a result, your colleagues considered your words and decided “yes” in the end.
- You share your experience with your colleagues regularly. Not because your manager said so, but because you feel responsible for the common project and you wish to help others cope with difficulties.
- You assess your results every month/three months/six months/a year: what has been done, what goals have been achieved, why others haven’t been achieved, how to reach the desired result, what weak points should be improved.
- You have made at least 2-3 public reports for the past couple of years.
- You like to structure information and keep it in such a way as to find an answer to a question quickly and conveniently.
- You know for sure how much time you spend on each task during the day. You know when you spend your time unproductively and try to get rid of bad habits that do not allow getting the most from this precious resource.
- You can express your point of view clearly and convincingly. You are not afraid of pressing your point.
- You feel happy when your department or the company achieve success. You are glad that you have contributed to this success and this success is your and your team’s common achievement.
- The idea that your colleagues are afraid of you because you have the authority to make them do what they do not want makes you feel uneasy.
You shouldn’t take the results seriously but it is food for thought. If you believe that most statements apply to you but you are not a manager yet, probably you are not quite objective toward your own achievements and skills or you are working in a company which tends to create artificial limits for talented people. In the first case, it is worth working on yourself, in the second - look for another company.
When it is worth growing in your current company
Collect all information and analyze it. Does the company prefer promoting its own employees or hire external specialists for the leading posts? Your candidature will obviously fit in the common trend.
You are in excellent relations with your colleagues. There is a progressive core in the staff and your opinion plays a significant role.
You have been working for this company successfully for a long time. If asked about your achievements for the past year, you won’t have to wreck your head for half an hour before you start to speak.
You have a clear understanding how to develop the department or project you are working at now. You know how to make things better and more effectively.
You understand how the system works: where to get resources and how to allocate them to get the maximum result.
When it is worth changing the company
Being active and competent, you haven’t been promoted in the least for the past 2 years.
Your managers are hired from other companies and their contribution only hinders your productivity and efficiency.
You have leadership experience but no obvious authority on the staff.
How to get a managing post without management experience
Even if you don’t have actual management experience, you can apply for managing vacancies. The key to success is well-presented professional skills and experience in the resume and during the job interview.
Include cases when you managed other people’s work not being a manager formally in your resume. For example, you coordinated the teamwork, allocated resources and duties, analyzed results and suggested solutions for increasing work efficiency.
Add your achievements for that period as well. What results did you get?
Don’t forget about your leadership skills, for example, the ability to unite and motivate colleagues.
Emphasize your personal qualities and skills of the manager (resilience, analytical skills, effective time management, the ability to prioritize and allocate duties).
Mention training, webinars, conferences, etc. for managers that you took part in.