Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 11: pursuing a first management position as a right career step for you 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 15, 2013

This is my eleventh posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-320 for Parts 1-10.)

I have been writing over the course of the past four installments in this series, about next steps for after the completion of a new job probationary period (see Part 7: best practices for after the new hire probationary period, starting with the performance review that ends it 1 and its continuation as Part 8, Part 9: best practices for positioning yourself for early stage advancement along the right career path for you and Part 10: pursuing a first management position and knowing if this is the right career step for you.)

At the end of Part 10, I left off on its discussion with a working assumption to continue from here, that a management track is the right one for you. My goal for this posting is to outline and offer some best practice approaches for pursuing that goal. And yes: that makes this my fifth consecutive posting to this series that can be seen as directly addressing and focusing on the job stage that comes immediately after that initial probationary period. Beginnings are always particularly important steps to get right. Though I add that as with the above four preceding postings, preparation for after the probationary period and for after that first formal performance review begins earlier, and even in how you present yourself as a candidate in trying to get that job in the first place.

• Assume that your goal is to enter into and pursue a management-oriented career track and you have just started a job that you would seek to develop into a launching pad for that, and at a place where you can take on a first, entry level management position. How did you prepare for this, and prepare your manager for this so that they would see and think in terms of your potential for management?

My goal here is to address that and succeeding steps, with a checklist of points to at least think in terms of as you build a foundation for moving forward – and from your job search preparation on:

• Start this during the search itself. Look for businesses to apply for jobs at that are expanding, or that at the very least offer in-house opportunity for professional advancement. Make this your management track A list. Now look for businesses that would offer you opportunity to develop resume bullet points that would show your leadership and management potential. These might not be the businesses that you can directly move into management at, but they can be good places to work at to help you build up the experience and credentials needed to get into such a business. These target companies constitute your management track B list. And apply for positions at both. If you already have a solid resume for demonstrating your management potential, you might want to focus on your A list, and if you see weakness in your experience up to now, focus on your B list. This is a place where mentoring advice can be of real help in separating your wishes from what you actually currently offer, and as others would see that.
• This, of course, brings me to the issues of specific experience and of what you can already offer as accomplishments on your resume and in any meetings that you can arrange. Read the online job descriptions and requirements lists for the types of management position that you would realistically seek out as your first management position. Specific businesses often, and for many industries even usually post job openings and descriptions and details as to what they are looking for on their own web sites. And even if they do not post them there, they probably do through one or more third party job search sites such as Monster.com. And along with researching the specific companies you are interested in working for, for what they would look for in an entry level manager, you can find out if they would in fact be an A or a B list company by finding out if, when and how often they even advertise for candidates for management positions. To take this out of the abstract, career advancement in the nonprofit sector often requires moving to a new employer, where headcounts are kept as minimal as possible so there are rarely any real openings upward, in the nonprofit you might already be working at. A rapidly growing business, or one with fast employee turnover might, if appropriate, be more of a pure A list possibility.
• That bullet point addressed experience and resume bullet points in very general and even abstract terms. Your goal here is to cover the basics and generic requirements that a hiring manager would look for. But that in and of itself and as important as it is, can only position you in the middle of the pack of applicants for the jobs that you seek to land.
• What can you offer that would set you apart too? I strongly recommend reviewing my series: Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search isn’t Working, and even if your current search methods do basically work for you (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 56 and following, and particularly its four installments on resume writing – Parts 5-9, and postings 60-63 on that directory page.) You want to develop a set of performance and achievement bullet points that focus on what you have accomplished and on the value that you have created for your employers from doing that. And you want to clearly and realistically quantify the value you have developed in that wherever possible. Look for accomplishments that you can summarize in bullet point form that highlight your management and leadership potential. You do not need to spell out all of the details there; your goal in fact is simply to provide enough information so that a manager or other job-hire gatekeeper who reads your resume, will want to ask you questions about this. Your goal is to start a conversation, and one in which you can share information about your strong points while asking about their needs and priorities.
• Picking your references is important here too, and talking with them about your career plans can be even more important. That way when a hiring manager calls them, they will know not to just talk about what you have done, but also about what you can do and with a conscious and precise awareness of what you seek to develop out of this new job. (See my four part series: Jumpstart Your Networking at the top of my Social Networking and Business directory for best practices approaches for that.)
• And when you do meet with the hiring manager, do so as a candidate who has really done their homework about that business and its competition, and its markets and its industry. Speak their language – their professional lingo, and demonstrate through your enthusiasm that you really want that job, but that more than that you really want to work at that company and you know what that entails.
• As an important cautionary note here, be humble and listen – do not try to come across as a know-it-all, or as someone only looking for a short-term stepping stone position, and even if you are primarily looking for that. Never, ever come across as if you were looking to take your prospective manager’s job. Come across as a team player who would be easy to work with. But still, come across as a candidate with real future potential too, and not simply as someone looking to crawl into the cubbyhole dead-end of an open position’s current job description. There is a delicate balancing act in this, so find opportunities for practice interviews. And I add that it is important to ask people with experience who you trust to read your resumes and cover letters too, so you can get feedback from people approaching those documents with fresh eyes.

And that carries this narrative up through the initial hiring process where you have sought out the right types of position, not just to get hired but to get hired into settings where advancement up a table of organization can be possible. I am going to continue this discussion from there with the negotiations process that you collaboratively enter into in landing this job, and I will discuss positioning yourself for possible advancement into management from day one from there. And once again, this means finding that balance where you demonstrate that you can and will get your work done, stretch goals and all, and still come across as someone easy and enjoyable to work with. There, and to repeat what should already be clear here, that means not coming across as a possible threat to other people’s career paths and goals who simply seeks to personally push ahead on their own agenda.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development. And more specifically, I write this series installment and will offer the next installment to it, so as to complement what I have been writing more generically about career planning and development and both in this series and in my series: Career Changes, Career Transitions (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-305.) And of course, see: From Peer to Supervisor at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development, postings 105 and following.

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