Career Report
February, 2011 — Issue 132


Moving to a Management Position

In a business organization, a move to management might be called a promotion, but it’s really like changing careers. In a Q&A feature article carried by The New York Times, careers columnist Eileen Zimmerman offered the following insight and perspective on the topic.

Q. You’re very good at your job and although you didn’t ask for it, you’ve been promoted into a management position for the first time. How different will it be from your current job?


“It’s a field unto itself,” said Billie G. Blair, an organizational psychologist and CEO of Change Strategists, a management consultancy in Los Angeles. “You will be doing things well outside the duties of your old job, and you have to learn management’s literature, language and techniques.”

Being a manager requires a transformation of your professional identity,” added Linda A. Hill, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of “Becoming A Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership.”

“People often think that being a manager is about money, power and perks,” Hill told the newspaper, but it’s more about interdependence. “Your success is dependent on others, both those you manage as well as your bosses and your peers,” she said. “You are an instrument to get things done by working with and through others, rather than being the one doing the work.”

Q. Although you want to do the best you can, you don’t feel well prepared. What can you do to succeed as a manager?

Ask a manger you respect to help guide you, said Rich Wellins, a senior vice president at DDI, Development Dimensions International, a talent management consultancy in Pittsburgh. And build a network of others who are relatively new to management.

“Connect with those [in management] who are still in the early stages of their career, like you, and meet with them regularly. Ask what they found most challenging in the first year,” he added. “Find out what they did to prepare themselves to successfully transition and what three pieces of advice they would give to help with yours.” The first six months are crucial for a new manager, so meet with your boss and create a development plan that includes any training you need and a six-month action plan.

Q. Are certain types of people cut out for management?

Some people are natural leaders – good at listening to others and helping them do their best. “These are people who have a strong motivation to lead, to influence, to get things done for others,” Wellins said. “Many management skills can be learned, but the disposition and motivation to lead – you either have it or you don’t.”

Q. What if you’ve always wanted to be in management, but once you get there realize you hate it. How do you save face and get back to what you were happier doing before?

Don’t be hasty – it will take six months to a year to really know how you feel. At that point, do an assessment so that you can articulate why you may no longer want the job.

“Tease out what specifically you dislike,” said Dawn Chandler, an assistant professor of management at the Orfalea College of Business at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Osispo. “If it’s people, then you’re not cut out for management. But if it’s a problem your group is facing that is likely to pass, or an aspect of the job, like budgeting, it could be you need a job redesign, not another job.” If, after this assessment, you still want to leave your management role, have an honest discussion with your boss.

Q. Will you derail your career if you leave a managerial position? Or is it better for an unhappy manager to move into a non-managerial position, despite any negative career impact?

In the past, said Hill, it would have almost certainly derailed your career, but now it depends far more on the company’s culture. “Talent is not as portable as we used to believe,” she told the newspaper. “And if you don’t like your job you are less likely to be good at it, and will more than likely end up hurting your career because of poor performance.”

Good results can be achieved by stepping back and setting new goals instead, said Janet Flewelling, director of human resources operations at Administaff in Houston. “If no lateral position is available, taking a step down may be your only option, and it isn’t likely to hurt you in the long term,” she explained. “Ultimately, your decision has to be about job and personal satisfaction,” she added, rather than the title, salary or corner office.

News from BLK

Lou Klass comes to our firm in the role of of Talent Acquisition Specialist. His background includes Full Cycle Recruiting in the Executive Search Industry specializing in Sales/Marketing/IT Services. His experience in the private sector includes Management of Contract Employees, Temps, and Roll-Outs of many IT products and services. To read more about Lou visit his bio on our Staff page.

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