How to Become a Manager
Understanding the numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.
Many professionals across the workforce and in every industry aspire to one day become managers. In many workplaces, once you have attained a certain level of experience, you'll be eligible to pursue a promotion to a management role.
But although experience is certainly a big part of becoming a manager, there are many skills and competencies that the best managers cultivate deliberately. They may do this through independent study, working with a mentor or pursuing further education.
Let’s explore what really makes a good manager and how you can get on the road to becoming one.
What is a Manager?
If you've never worked as a manager, you may not realize how multifaceted management really is.
"In a nutshell, a manager plans, organizes, coordinates and controls resources to achieve organizational goals," said Bryor Mosley, MEd, a career advisor at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
While their day-to-day varies, Mosley said a manager's responsibilities often include:
- Communicating with stakeholders
- Delegating tasks
- Making strategic decisions
- Managing budgets
- Resolving conflicts
Managers can also supervise employees, often overseeing the productivity and interpersonal relationships of a working group.
Richard Grant, also an SNHU career advisor, said some managers might have no direct reports but instead be responsible for managing projects or processes. Managers typically also have budget responsibilities and need to focus on achieving the organization’s goals in the most efficient and cost-effective way.
What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Manager?
So, you’ve decided you want to pursue a role as a manager. What next?
While the exact qualifications may vary depending on the field, industry and position you are pursuing, three common ingredients are needed to position yourself for a management role.
They are relevant education, experience and skills, according to Mosley.
1. Consider Education
“Through education, managers can build knowledge that will help in the decision-making process. Managers can learn the theoretical framework that will then get applied on the job,” Grant said. “The trick is being able to apply what you’ve learned in a course to an actual situation, which isn’t as neat and clean as it might be described in a textbook.”
Earning a master's degree can make you a more competitive candidate. Master of Business Administration (MBA) and master's in management programs, for instance, can help you hone skills relevant to a management role and show employers that you have the advanced tools you need to succeed in business.
"Pursuing an MBA degree can provide valuable knowledge, practical skills and networking opportunities, which can enhance a manager's ability to make strategic decisions, communicate effectively, and build a successful and long-lasting career," Mosley said.
Obtaining certifications can also open you up to managerial opportunities, according to Mosley, and you can often find certifications specific to your field.
2. Develop Skills
Whether you're leading people, processes or projects as a manager, you'll need to possess the qualities of a good leader.
While some of these qualities are technical skills and industry knowledge you'll learn about in the classroom and through experience, many are soft skills. Three important soft skills you'll want to showcase to become a manager, according to Mosley, include:
"They should be able to manage time effectively, prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities to others," Mosley said. "Other essential qualities include adaptability, strategic thinking, emotional intelligence and the ability to motivate and inspire others."
In addition to these skills, you'll want to concern yourself with relationship-building and employee development, according to Mosley. "(You) should also listen to feedback, be open to new ideas and strive for continuous improvement," he said.
3. Gain Experiences
Mosley suggests seeking management opportunities in your current role. Whether you're volunteering to lead a project or mentoring junior team members and interns, building management experiences can help you develop the skills employers expect of managers and serve as an example of your abilities when it comes time to interview for a management position.
Showing initiative and being a self-starter will also help differentiate you among your peers as someone with the potential to become a manager.
You can also take advantage of any opportunities to learn about another side of the organization. For example, if you work in the accounting department but you get the chance to sit in on some sales calls, that's a great chance to gain insight into another layer of the company.
Managers need to be literate in the operations of the whole organization, so any chance you get to work with another department is a chance to expand your knowledge and deepen your overall competency.
“It’s important to know the company, the industry and the jobs that your employees are doing, and the employees with close contact with your area. You need to know the customers and the competitors, too,” Grant said.
By understanding how your organization operates and the space it fills in the market, you can achieve a holistic perspective that informs your strategy and decision-making as a manager.
Examples of Management Qualifications
The qualifications you need to become a manager depend largely on your chosen field and industry. Here's a look at how education, experiences and skills differ between two different types of management positions.
Human Resources (HR) Managers
- Education: A bachelor's degree is often required, although some employers require a master's degree in HR or business; obtaining HR certifications can also make you competitive
- Experience: Several years of work relating to organizing, directing and leading people
- Skills: Communication, decision-making, interpersonal leadership, organizational
Information Technology (IT) Managers
The typical qualifications for IT managers, according to BLS, include:
- Education: A bachelor's degree, often in a technology program, although many IT managers also have a graduate degree, such as an MBA
- Experience: Several years of work within a related IT job and field
- Skills: Analytical, business, communication, decision-making, leadership, organizational
Mosley's three management ingredients — education, experience and skills — can be applied to both HR and IT management roles. While overlap in management qualifications exists, it's important to review job descriptions to see what's required in the positions that interest you.
How to Be a Good Manager
The nature of management calls on managers to be both strategic business thinkers and excellent communicators and relationship-builders. The qualities of a good manager vary depending on the industry and role, but Mosley said adaptability is key in management.
Work does not always go as planned. Priorities change, as do goals, ideas and approaches. Outside forces, such as world events, cause organizations to shift gears.
"Managers must be able to adapt to different situations and prioritize tasks based on business needs," Mosley said.
Grant also emphasized the importance of soft skills like communication and critical thinking.
“A good manager can synthesize information from numerous different sources — connect the dots, so to speak — and make decisions,” he said.
Of course, business decisions sometimes have to be made before there is time to gather every bit of information on an issue. Accordingly, learning to be decisive is an important quality for managers.
“A good manager can make decisions without all the necessary information. This takes confidence," Grant said.
Once you become a manager, know there will likely be an adjustment period as you get a feel for your new role and all it entails. "New managers may face adversities such as resistance from team members, an overwhelming workload and unclear expectations," Mosley said.
But with an open mind, you can work through each.
"Managers can overcome these adversities by seeking mentorship, building relationships with team members, prioritizing tasks, setting clear goals and communicating effectively," Mosley said. "Managers should also be willing to learn, accept feedback and seek training opportunities to develop their own skills and confidence as a manager."
Discover more about SNHU’s MBA program: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you’ll learn and how to request information about the program.
Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 ’22G is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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