“How can they expect me to have supervisor experience before I’m hired to be a manager?” My young friend was ambitious to get a promotion to manager, and frustrated that he couldn’t get the opportunity. “It’s unfair,” he said.
I responded with some empathy, and then a challenge. “Reframe the problem into two parts. What skills can you learn and demonstrate before you get a manager assignment, and what skills can you only practice after you become a supervisor?”
There are four roles of being a manager which you cannot practice without being in the role:
- Formal evaluations according to your organization’s protocols
Even with these four, you can read the excellent advice that’s been recorded over the generations, and you can observe how these are done in your organization.
Every other important aspect of being a manager can be practiced and demonstrated before you have a supervisory role:
- Project management
- Influencing others who don’t report to you
- Communicating clearly to different audiences with different viewpoints
- Managing funds
- Facilitating teamwork
- Your strength areas (technical, business, artistic, etc)
- Listening to the question behind the question
- Managing time and effort
- Mastering new skills over time
- Continuous learning about your industry or field
- Building a network of contacts and associates
- Developing your personal brand
Your current role is the best means of learning how to perform the next stretch role. Consciously using opportunities within your existing sphere of influence is your ticket to building credibility for future assignments, including the jump to supervising people. Look for ways to develop these skills. Push yourself out of your comfort zone where necessary. Get the feedback you need to make improvements.
I also gave this advice to my ambitious friend: “Use your resume and cover letter to describe the results you’ve achieved and the way you achieved them as ‘Here is why I will be a successful supervisor.’ In the interview process, you can also explain how you would handle those four unique-to-manager responsibilities, based on what you’ve read and observed. Doing both will set you apart from many people who actually have supervised others but are less smart about how they present their skills.”
Squeeze every opportunity for its full value!