Across almost every industry, progression up the career ladder eventually involves one universal rite of passage: an employee's first official shift into management. The day an employee is assigned to her first direct report (or reports) will usually happen sometime between the first day of her first real job and her arrival at the high point of an ambitious professional climb.
This is a big day for most employees. And it can be a risky period for their supervisors and a rocky chapter for the companies that depend on them. There's a simple reason for this: the responsibilities and skills sets of a manager are very different from those of an employee, and in some cases, the inability to let go of one skill set while taking up the next can actually lead to a surprising amount of struggle and confusion.
If you're an employee in the process of making this move, here are a few things you'll need to keep in mind. These considerations can also help you if you're gunning for a promotion that will put you in charge of others for the first time.
You're a Leader Now, Ready or Not
- As an ambitious, talented employee, you quickly learned the value of obedience, and you learned how this single trait can bring an avalanche of attention and approval your way. Employees who do what they're told with a cheerful smile and no hesitation are worth more than gold to their bosses… at first. But as soon as you become a manager, you'll need to blend that hard-earned obedience with a balance of other qualities. You'll need to take a closer look at what you're being asked to do and how it benefits the company. And you'll need to learn to suggest smart alternatives, understand the big picture, and speak up for the greater good. This may be difficult and confusing at first, but the faster you get the hang of it, the better.
- You'll need to be a jerk sometimes. Followers get ahead by jumping when they're told to jump. But leaders get ahead by providing constructive criticism and making the right decisions, even when those decisions are unpopular, annoying or upsetting to those around them. You've always been taught that your smile is your best asset, but those were the old days. Sometimes leaders frown.
- You'll need to figure things out on your own instead of always asking for help and instruction. Naturally, this means you'll make mistakes. Know that these mistakes are coming, and don't be afraid. Be bold.
- You'll need to take action, offer assistance, ask questions and provide solutions, even when nobody has asked for your interference. Are two people on your team struggling with a personal conflict? The old you would have been wise to stay away from this mess. Good employees mind their own business and don't rock the boat. But the new you bears full responsibility for the success or failure of your team. So overcome your social instincts, get in that boat and start rockin.'
Keep Your Hands on the Wheel
The transition to leadership may be a rough road, but throughout the process, keep your eyes focused on the path in front of you and maintain control over the growth and direction of your career. Start with a trip to LiveCareer. The site offers career tests and aptitude tests that can help you determine your leadership style and find the specific management roles that might be right for you.
If you know you're ready for a promotion to management, but your current company can't offer you the advancement you need, use LiveCareer's resume formatting tools, interview practice sessions and job search resources to find an employer who can help you get where you're going.