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8 Things I Wish I’d Known In My First Management Job

8 Things I Wish I’d Known In My First Management Job

Having started out my career as a building site engineer, then a software programmer, all I really wanted was to become a manager. Managers have status. Managers get big pay packages with company cars. I took some time off, and enrolled onto an MBA. The MBA was intellectually stimulating and full of fascinating case studies about how supreme managers had steered their organisations to fabulous success. So I applied for, and got my first management job working for a large pharmaceutical company.

It was not a complete success.

Here are some of things I wish I’d known before starting that first management job.

1. Theory isn’t the same as practice

My MBA taught me a cartload of theoretical techniques for managing people, most of which turned out to be a load of rubbish when I tried to implement them! It’s one of the reasons that people with MBA’s have a bad reputation in some quarters. I think my team were really confused by all the theory I tried out on them. One or two ideas worked well, and I still use them today.

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I learned to be a bit more skeptical and a bit more selective about which theories I should use, and I learned to discuss my ideas with someone else in the team before trying them out.

2. Don’t pretend to know more than you actually do

If you do this, the team will smell a rat very quickly. They will also lose any respect for what you DO know because they can never be confident that you actually know anything really. While you your bosses clearly think highly of your potential as a manager, it is unlikely that they will expect you to know everything immediately. Even if you suddenly realize several weeks into the job that you don’t understand something, don’t soldier on if help is available. Don’t feel bad about asking questions, especially at the beginning. Nothing will sound too silly, and the relief of knowing the correct answer will be enormous.

It’s a funny thing, but I learned that your team will respect you more for being human and asking for their help, than they will for lying to them about what you don’t know.

3. Delegate but don’t abdicate

Another mistake I made, was to try to do everything myself. I was used to being the expert, and found it hard to take a step back. I forgot that I was now the manager and my role was to guide the members of my team into learning how to do things themselves. I soon found myself working nights and weekends, because I didn’t empower my team and delegate work to them. But when I tried to give them chunks of work, I couldn’t understand why it didn’t get done.

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I learned that delegating will give your life back, but only if you train, inform and support your team members – not just dump tasks on them. Think ‘trust but verify’.

4. Focus on the outcomes, not on the process

One reason I didn’t delegate well is that I expected everyone to do thing the way I would do them. Well they didn’t. Sometimes they did it differently, sometimes they did it better and sometimes worse. I learned to focus on the outcomes and just give support to anyone who is clearly struggling. Otherwise, leave them alone. I always hated being micro managed and, guess what, so does everyone else.

5. Think like a facilitator

Although I had an excellent team, who were well trained and experienced, I didn’t take the time to get to know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. I forgot that my job was to facilitate them to deliver the goods according to their abilities. In these modern times, teams are increasingly made up of well-trained and experienced individuals.  As a new manager, your role is to facilitate overall goal achievement, not to tell the team how they should do every task.

6. The buck stops on your desk

When I was an expert, I always knew that my boss was there to catch any problems in the rest of team. I somehow forgot that as a manager, I now had responsibility for the whole team. If they didn’t get it right, it wasn’t just their responsibility, it was now mine too.

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As a manager this means that you have to be aware of the problems, and make sure someone takes responsibility for resolving it. Ensure they have the necessary resources to resolve the problem, trust them but don’t forget to follow up. A good way to do this is to walk around your workplace and ask open questions of your team.

7. Say No sometimes

On the other hand, don’t feel you have to bend over backwards in solving everyone’s problems for them. If you do, you will soon have a desk full of ‘sick monkeys’ – problems your team has delegated to you! If you are conscientious, this will probably be difficult.

But I found that a team will learn better if they at least try and identify some possible solutions to the problem first.

8. Share your plan

I like planning. You decide on a goal and then determine a series of steps necessary to get there. My boss usually gave me my goal, but if not, I would ask him for one. If you’re familiar with project management, you’ll know that the best plans have milestones. Milestones are markers and measures of progress on your plan e.g. all outstanding customers queries now answered within 2 days, 2 new customers on board this month, team training plans agreed etc.

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I actually did all this. But I forgot that my team needed to contribute to the plan and understand what their role is delivering the plan was.

I like that think I eventually got better at managing people. At least other people tell me I did! But coming from an intensely technical role, where I was the expert, it was a complete culture change to having to manage other people. By sharing the mistakes I made in my first management job, I hope to spare you the pain of making the same mistakes.

Featured photo credit: business men/Markus Spiske via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

Physical Signs

Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

Mental Signs

One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

  • The tension in your neck
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • High anxiety
  • Depression

If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

Desire for an Increase of Salary

The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

Overnight Decision

Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

Rejected for a Promotion

I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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Bored at Work

Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

  • How long have you worked in your career?
  • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
  • Do you receive recognition?
  • Can you consider working in a new department?

If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

  • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
  • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
  • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

How to Make a Career Change Successfully

The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

1. Write a Career Plan

A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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You can learn how to set your career plan here.

2. Weigh Your Options

If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

  • Economic factors
  • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
  • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
  • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
  • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

    A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

    4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

    A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

    • What is required to be successful in the role?
    • What certification or educational development is needed?
    • What are the challenges of the role?
    • Is there potential for career advancement?

    A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

    Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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    5. Research Salary

    Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

    It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

    6. Be Realistic

    If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

    For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

    Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

    7. Volunteer First

    A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

    Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

    Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

    8. Prepare Your Career Tools

    I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

    • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
    • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
    • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
    • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

    Bottom Line

    It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

    Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

    More About Career Change

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
    [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
    [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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