Q I've been in the professional work force for about five years, and I feel ready to move into management. How can I catch the eye of those who might promote me?
A: Rely on excellent performance with a willingness to promote yourself, without being cocky or arrogant.
First, the big question: Why do you want to be a manager? There are no right or wrong answers here, but you need to understand your motivators. You may have an altruistic belief in creating a good workplace for others. You may have looked at managers in your past and thought you could do better, or been inspired by great leaders. You may also be interested in the financial rewards and status that come with promotions. Be clear about the full spectrum of reasons.
Then consider your employer's point of view. What are the attributes that they look for in a manager? There are some common threads across companies, but this is also culturally specific to your organization. For example, some may promote good planners, while others promote visionaries. If you're a good fit, it'll likely be an easier process. Or you may also want to be thinking about making the move at a different firm.
Now, take a good hard look at yourself. Know your strengths and what you've done to prepare for this role. One way to think about it: Why would you want someone like yourself as your boss? Also know where you'd most need to grow and develop. And here's the hard one: Recognize that you may feel ready but not have all the skills, so be willing to accept which deficits may be deal-breakers and prepare to address them. Get feedback from others to help you have a realistic view.
The most basic step is to let your leadership know that you're interested in promotion. Many people get passed over because no one knows that they'd like to advance.
Then, get more specific, shifting from the general "move into management" goal to a specific such as "become supervisor of a service team." That will help you identify those who could mentor you in your development, or become an advocate for your advancement. Review the job descriptions for positions you're interested in so that you can target your development.
Take advantage of management training at your company. One of the ways "up-and-comers" are identified is their commitment to learning. If your company has workshops and seminars for leadership development, by all means, participate. And let people know that you're doing so.
One of the best things you can do is to show extra initiative. This may take a bit of extra time on your part, but will demonstrate your commitment to the company.
It may be hard to move up in your current company. Some are very supportive of developing leadership from within, and others have a hard time seeing people in new roles. Start sounding out other options if you think you're hitting an insurmountable dead end.
Confidence is good — and concrete actions will move you toward your goal of a management role.
Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.