This is a continuation of Kosmo’s Job Search Journey, but you can read it as a standalone article.
The Whole Job Search Series:
1. You’re Fired
2. Assessing the Situation
5. The Interview
8. Sink or Swim
9. Search for Stability
10. Job Search Journey: The Interview the Lasted for Seven Months
Two years ago, I was facing the impending loss of my job. I was nearly three months into my job search, and barely three months from the point where I would no longer have a job. Panic had begun to set in – I was wondering how long we might have to survive on one salary, and how I would avoid getting bored while unemployed. For that matter, what was the process for filing unemployment?
Happily, it never came to that. I ended up finding a job about six weeks before the clocked stopped. I coordinated my start date with the termination date for my old job, so that I’d qualify for my severance. After eight months as a contract employee, I transitioned to permanent employee status. My employer is one of the most prestigious companies in the area. Overall, things worked out really well.
Now, I’m looking to take the next step in my career. My boss left for another job. I applied for his job, interviewed for the position, and am awaiting the decision. My interview wasn’t perfect, but went well. I was able to make most of my key points. I think I have a decent shot at the job. If not now, I think it’s just a matter of time.
Why become a manager?
I was a regular employee at my previous job for more than twenty years. During that time, I never had an interest in becoming a manager. Why not? Mostly because I was always surrounded by very experienced teams members on autonomous teams. Honestly, as a manager, if you have a twenty year employee with a track record of success, you should have a fairly hands-off approach. Be available for guidance, make them aware of any new information (changes in policy, etc), help remove roadblocks, but don’t micro-manage. Stay out of their way and let them get work done.
At my current company, there are a lot of people who are less experienced. Many of these people are bright, but they simply don’t have the experience to have learned some life lessons. You learn a lot by making mistakes – and often times, they haven’t yet made those mistakes. They may need explanations of why things are done one way and not another. Many times, the answer is that the approved way has more safeguards and exposes the company to less risk. They may also be unsure of what their career path will be, and may need someone to show them the options, and help them take the next steps.
I’ve spent my career helping to build IT systems for people. This work is akin to picking the fruit from a tree. When you retire, your legacy disappears fairly quickly. I want to become Johnny Appleseed (Johnny Careerseed), helping employees become productive and happy (akin to planting fruit trees instead of merely picking up the fruit). The legacy of Johnny Careerseed will live on after Johnny has retired.
How to become a manager
Obviously, you can’t simply decided to become a manager and have your wish granted. You have to take some steps to prepare. Here are a few of those steps.
Be good at your current job
If you have a reputation as a poor performer in your current job, you’re not going to be seriously considered, even if the jobs are completely different. If you’re a mediocre performer at your current job, focus on improving your performance, before applying for manager positions.
The analyst I replaced wasn’t someone who showed a lot of initiative. I was able to make an immediate positive impression by jumping in and taking some initiative to move my project forward. At this point, I am the project lead, and I do many of the task which typically fall to a project manager.
You don’t need to become best friends with everyone you work with, but it’s helpful to at least have a positive or neutral working relationship with everyone. In your current role, you might be able to avoid interacting with certain co-workers. As a manager, you won’t have that ability. You’ll need to interact with all of your employees in a fair, non-partial way.
My boss also “volunteered” me to work on a committee for his boss. This ended up being a good opportunity to have face time with his boss – the guy who happens to be the hiring manager for the job I applied for.
If you become a manager, you’ll have the opportunity to hire new employees at some point. Interviews look very difference from the other side of the table. If possible, gain some experience on an interview panel. Be an active participant, but also pay attention to the other people in the interview. If you hear an insightful question
steal borrow it for future use.
In the past year, I’ve been involved in about a dozen interviews. Recently, my project manager asked if I’d be interested in being on the panel for a position she was trying to fill. It’s not even a position on my team, so it helps bolster my reputation as a team player, while also gaining me valuable experience.
One thing I always try to do is smile and nod a lot during the meeting, to help put the interviewee at ease. The goal of an interview is to determine if the applicant can do the job; often, nervousness during the interview makes it more difficult to determine how well the person can do the job.
Fun fact: the project manager was initially interested in poaching me for the position, until it became apparent that she couldn’t afford me. That made me feel better about my negotiating skills – I’m apparently doing quite compared to others in my role.
Take advantage of any training your company offers. I was able to take a course on “difficult conversations” that I found useful. Historically, I haven’t been great at confrontation, but I’ve improved pretty dramatically in recent years.
Finally, look around you and get advice from family or friends. I have several friends who are IT managers, serving in similar roles to the position I’m seeking. I’ve reached out for them for their thoughts and advice, and I’ll continue to do that in the future. Shared information makes everyone stronger.