Is a Career in Management Right for You?
Learn what it’s like to be a manager, whether it’s a good fit for you, and if so, how to get that Manager job.
Even if you’ve never been a manager before, I’ll bet you can imagine yourself in the position. Perhaps you see yourself wielding the limitless authority to boss people around, delegating out all the work you don’t want to do, with no one arguing for fear of being fired. Or perhaps you imagine yourself collecting huge paychecks while doing little work outside of sucking up to middle-management. Or maybe you imagine yourself working unpaid overtime and weekends, cleaning up HR messes, and hearing nothing from your staff except complaints about the schedule, requests to leave early, and calling in sick. There’s a sliver of truth to all those stereotypes, and yet it’s not so simple. Like any job, there are rewards to reap and sacrifices to pay.
Management isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. You can build a rewarding career without ever managing people. Do you prefer working on your own, with little supervision or interruption? Well, software developers are one of the fastest-growing jobs in the world, with a median pay of over $100,000 in the United States. I myself would rather move into the mountains and live off the land than take on a software programming job. And that’s okay, we like what we like, and there’s no shame in pursuing a career we enjoy.
For many people, the benefits of management aren’t appealing, and the sacrifices aren’t worth paying. In this article, I’ll help clarify the pros and cons of being a manager in today’s workplace, and help you decide if a management job is right for you. If you’re still interested after that, I’ll show you how to work towards that big promotion.
What are the Pros of Being a Manager?
Managers have a great deal of responsibility and are trusted to make good decisions. For the right person, that is a big job perk.
Every manager has a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that reflect the quality of their work. KPI’s often include metrics such as sales, costs, customer satisfaction, and operations compliance. A lot of managers appreciate KPIs because they clearly demonstrate how they are performing. When a manager’s KPIs are in order, their boss will often leave them alone except to offer congratulations or new opportunities. For many managers, success with KPIs can result in awards and bonuses as well.
The greatest responsibility for a manager is to the people who work for them. Not all managers care about the product they sell or the service they deliver. However, every manager is responsible for making a positive impact on their employees. Through coaching, development, and mentorship, a manager can change a person’s career and make a positive impact in that person’s life that transcends the workplace. This responsibility is immensely rewarding for someone who enjoys helping others.
As a manager, you’ll learn a lot about your organization and your industry, and gain experience working through complex tasks. For anyone hoping to climb the corporate ladder, a role in management is a natural step.
Spending time as a manager can also make you a better employee. You’ll learn about the reporting structure, why your supervisors do what they do, how priorities are determined, and how you can exceed expectations. Further, leadership and management skills are universal — the experience you gain as a manager will help you get hired in other organizations and industries.
A lot of folks appreciate a job that’s stable and predictable. Maybe you like to know exactly what to do and how to do it, and saving excitement and adventures for the weekend. However, if you enjoy stretching the limits of your skills and experience daily, then management might be for you.
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly help. I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but if you’re motivated by money alone, a management job can help.
According to Glassdoor.com, the average base pay for a retail salesperson in the U.S. is $32,000 per year. In contrast, the average base pay for a retail sales manager is $52,000 a year. Further, managers usually get better benefits and perks, more vacation time and sometimes even bonuses.
There are plenty of exceptions, especially with highly-skilled technical jobs. However, it’s generally true that managers earn more than non-managers.
What are the Cons of Being a Manager?
Sometimes, You Have to be the Bad Guy
As the manager, you form wonderful bonds with your staff. You share jokes, personal stories, and learn about their aspirations and quirks. You may even meet their families. Sometimes, after all that, you have to fire them. That’s an example of what you can expect as a manager.
A manager’s responsibility as the steward of company assets comes first. Beyond letting people go, there are many other difficult and unpopular decisions you’ll have to make for the sake of the business. You’ll schedule Jim to work on Christmas, deny Jenny’s vacation request for her family trip, cut Gary’s hours after he had a baby, transfer Susan to a windowless cubicle away from her work-friends, announce changes to pay-structure, and demand more productivity. You’ll do everything you can to make life easy for your staff, but you’ll still end up with employees crying in your office. It weighs heavy on the heart of all managers.
I’ve met managers who struggled to make those tough decisions. They failed to fulfill their role as stewards of the company’s assets, and you can imagine what that got them. More often than not, those managers lost their jobs.
It’s reasonable to be uncomfortable making these decisions. Even the most effective and hard-nosed managers lament this part of the job, but when the time comes, they don’t hesitate.
There’s a lot of Pressure
As a manager, you’ll be responsible for regular status-reports, ever-increasing performance expectations, and whatever your boss decides to delegate to you. Meanwhile, you’ll be bombarded with constant requests from staff and customers.
It’s your team and you are accountable for every aspect of it. You’ll have 3 people call in sick on the same day, lost inventory shipments, broken equipment, network crashes, and robberies. For any problem, you’ll need to take accountability and prepare to explain how you’ll mitigate the impacts on the business going forward.
This is what managers sign-up for. If this sounds exciting to you, that’s great, we need you!
There’s a lot More Work
Manager’s rarely call in sick (generally speaking), and it’s not because they don’t get sick. In my experience, this is for two main reasons:
- First, as the person accountable for everything, it’s hard to stay away. Even when I completely trust my staff to do their jobs well, I still feel compelled to be there to support them.
- Second, the work of a manager doesn’t go away, it waits for them. If I miss an 8-hour shift, that means I’ll have 8 hours of extra work to catch up on. One missed shift turns into late evenings and missed lunch breaks for a week.
Further, you need to be there at all the most critical times. Consider Black Friday for example. Many stores stretch their sales to last a full week (or longer). As a result, you’ll find a lot of tired and grumpy store managers working every day that week. Adding to that, a lot of managers buy coffee and donuts for the team with their own money. None of this is considered ‘going above-and-beyond’, it’s the new norm. I did it, and so did most of my manager counterparts.
So while it’s true that most managers get paid more than their staff, it’s not uncommon for them to make less per hour.
Would You Enjoy Being a Manager?
Managers are servants to their team and the corporate mission. That doesn’t mean you coddle your staff, it means you empower and push your staff to succeed in their jobs. This work requires a certain temperament, along with specific skills, interests, and values.
In a nutshell, whether you should be a manager or not depends on whether you want to manage people or not. If you enjoy listening, supporting, motivating and coaching, then management might be for you! If you’re interested in management for the title, pay-raise, and authority, you’ll hate your job and the results will show it.
If you’re still interested in management after that disclaimer, then great! Here are a few things to consider before taking the next step:
Do You Manage Conflict Well?
Managing conflict is a big part of the job. You’ll likely deal with conflict several times a day. As a manager, you’ll debate in meetings, de-escalate angry customers, discipline employees, push your agenda across departments and more.
Any sort of change brings conflict, and today’s workplaces change quickly and often. Change-related conflict can include resistance to change from staff, pushback clients and disagreement on how to implement the changes. Managers must handle these situations with skill and confidence.
Do You Enjoy Meetings?
As a manager, you’ll attend regular meetings with your team, colleagues, superiors, working groups and more. You might have several meetings per week, some scheduled far in advance, and some with little to no notice at all. Managers need to be enthusiastic and prepared for each of them.
I love a well-facilitated meeting. I enjoy connecting with colleagues, collaborating to solve problems and learning what others are working on. You may not love meetings, but as a manager, you need to at least pretend that you do. As the leader, your energy and body-language influences the tone of the entire meeting.
Since you’ll often create the agendas, it will be up to you to make the meetings purposeful, interesting and fun.
Do You Love to Support Others?
I’ve met a lot of great employees who considered leadership to be the next logical step in their careers. However, this is not necessarily true.
If your favourite part of your job is an uninterrupted quiet time, then you might do better as a professional in your field rather than a manager of others. However, if you prefer helping others succeed while driving a team towards a goal, then you might love management!
Are You Willing to be Unpopular?
Managers are responsible for holding people accountable and rolling out new corporate policies. You’ll implement ever-increasing productivity expectations and ever-decreasing employee-engagement budgets. You can imagine how this might make you unpopular from time to time.
As the manager, you’ll implement processes that support the big picture, and sometimes these processes won’t seem fair to your staff.
I cannot count the times that I’ve had to disappoint staff members. I’ve had to cancel staff events, reassign staff away from their friends and the work they enjoy, cancel professional development opportunities and much more.
If you’re a good manager, you’ll create more opportunities to deliver good news than bad. Regardless, you’ll have to get comfortable making unpopular decisions and delivering bad news.
How to Become a Manager?
If you’ve gotten this far and you still thank management sounds great, that’s wonderful. The modern workforce is short on managers with great soft and technical skills. If you want to manage people for the right reasons, and you fit the description, then we need you!
This section will offer you some helpful advice on how to get that management job:
Perform Well in Your Current Role
First, you need to at least meet expectations in your current role. You don’t have to be the top performer at every aspect of your job, but you need to at least show a commitment to excellence. Be sure to exceed expectations in any areas related to attitude and teamwork.
If you’re at risk of falling behind, address it proactively. Don’t wait to have your shortcomings pointed out by your supervisor. Make a plan to get back on track, share it with your boss, and implement any feedback they give you. Self-evaluate and adjust often. Proactively identifying, analyzing and solving problems is a critical responsibility for a manager. Take any opportunity to show you can do it in your current role.
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Set and Achieve Goals
A part of being a manager is always finding ways to achieve more with less. Managers set goals, develop strategic plans and execute them. You can practice this in your current role. For example, when you set your work goals, make them S.M.A.R.T., and link them to the objectives of the organization. Be bold, ambitious and confident. Challenge yourself to lead the team in sales or complete a complex project that helps the whole team. Tell your boss why you chose this goal and how you are going to do it, then get it done. This will help you practice an important management function.
When you interview for a manager job, you’ll have the perfect answer when they ask about a time you achieved a goal!
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Take on Increasingly Challenging Opportunities
Seek out opportunities to take on projects or roles that will help you show that you can be a manager.
Don’t get discouraged if your boss doesn’t give you much early on. When managers delegate responsibility to you, it’s a show of trust. If they don’t yet know what you can do, they might hesitate to delegate something big to you.
Volunteer to take on small projects that help the team. There are probably a few projects that never found their way to the top of your manager’s priority list.
Don’t turn up your nose if it’s something uninteresting. The good stuff comes after you consistently show that you can get things done. In the meantime, you’ll get to make some mistakes while the stakes are low.
Get the job done quickly and do it well. This will show your boss that you can contribute beyond your regular job, and they’ll likely offer you more tasks. With each task you complete, you gain skills, build trust and show your worth to the organization. Before you know it, you’ll be leading important projects and participating in strategic discussions.
But remember, while you are taking on these extra projects, you cannot let your regular job slip! Your regular job is the real work you are being paid to do, and you have to continue meeting your expectations. If you struggle with this, then take it as a sign that you aren’t quite ready to take the next step. Going for a promotion is something you do when you are ready. If you’re indeed ready, then you should be able to meet expectations while also taking on the extra work.
Focus on Team Wins
You need to show that you’re a great team player, even though your performance is measured based on your individual output. As a front-line staff member, it’s enough to meet your own expectations; as a manager, you need to inspire others to excel as well. You need to show you can do that.
Think of the captain of a sports team. A captain is responsible for their own performance, but they also encourage their teammates, hold them accountable, and make sure everyone sticks to the game plan. A great team captain can make the difference between winning or losing. Be the captain of your branch.
Every branch of an organization fills a part of the organization’s strategy. That means that, as the manager of a branch, you’ll be responsible for a piece of the organization’s broader strategy. This is bigger than you, and you have to think bigger than your own position. You need to consider how the decisions you make affect the bigger picture and the people around you.
As a staff member, you can demonstrate your team-work in a lot of ways. Start with the words you say and the actions you take. Be a source of positivity, energy, trust and encouragement for your colleagues. When your manager and coworkers look at the schedule and see that you’re on, they should expect a great day.
Take Personal Accountability
While your manager will help you excel in your current role, no one will hold your hand through to promotion. Some organizations have training courses and developmental opportunities, and some don’t. Either way, whether you get a promotion is 100% up to you. You need to start by taking a proactive attitude about your development.
A lot of people want a promotion, but claim to be held back because they can’t get the experience in their current role. This is true for almost everyone, you can’t let this hold you back. Join a volunteer organization in a leadership role, start a club or take free courses online. There are so many opportunities to develop your leadership skills, but you have to think outside the confines of your job. Complaints about a lack of opportunities show a lack of personal accountability. This a death-knell for anyone with aspirations of leadership.
You also need to be flexible. For instance, if you are committed and ready to be a manager, you need to be open to changing your employer. Speak with almost any executive and you’ll find that they’ve changed employers many times throughout their career in search of greater experience and opportunity.
What to do After You Get a Manager Job
Once you get a manager job, you are in for a very exciting challenge! There are a few things that I’ve found will help you excel in your role:
There’s a lot to learn, and the job keeps changing as industries and people change. For that reason, you can never master being a manager. However, you can do well by continuously studying and learning. Be a student of leadership, your industry, and always challenge your own beliefs.
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As a new manager, you’ll likely have a grasp on the job and you’ve got some leadership skills. However, you’ve got counterparts who’ve they’ve gone through all the things you are about to go through. You’ll save yourself time and avoidable mistakes if you can be humble and respectful towards these people. Always listen attentively and ask a lot of questions, even if you already know whatever it is they are telling you.
Build and Manage Relationships
Look for friends and allies everywhere. Build friendly and cooperative relationships with your counterparts and support staff. You want everyone to have a positive impression of you. You don’t need to be personal friends with everyone, but you do need to be friendly, approachable, reliable, positive and professional. Your job will be much easier if you do this. People will think of you when they have interesting opportunities, or when they’re deciding who to help first. Don’t burn any bridges, don’t neglect support staff, and certainly don’t gossip or become a part of a clique.
Managing is hard work, and being an effective manager requires constant self-motivation, self- reflection and drive. You’ll be the bearer of bad news, you’ll have difficult conversations, you’ll make tough decisions, and you’ll be the butt of jokes from time to time. All the while, you’ll juggle conflicting deadlines, work unpaid overtime, and probably get little to no face-time with your own boss.
With this article, I tried to be as realistic as possible with you, not with the intent to discourage you but to help make sure the right people choose the right job for them. Management isn’t for everyone, and you don’t need to be a manager to build a highly successful and rewarding career.
However, if you read this article and felt not dismay, but excitement at the thought of an exciting, dynamic, challenging, interactive and rewarding profession, then I’ve achieved my goal — because great managers are those who want to manage, no matter what.
My name is Chris, and my mission is to elevate standards and skills across the Management profession. I want managers to be better, and I’m taking personal responsibility to help them get better.
I train coaches and managers to build winning cultures through trust, pride, ownership and empowerment. I’m especially interested in harnessing and developing the power of the front-line and entry-level staff.
I enjoy science fiction, 80’s hair-metal, and spending time with my partner and two orange cats.
I’d love to connect with you! Find me on Twitter and say “hi”!.