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Published on September 16, 2019

Is People Management the Right Career Path for You?

Is People Management the Right Career Path for You?

Even though career paths are no longer linear, the title and position structures of many professions have not adjusted to the changing nature of work and how people are navigating their careers. In many professional jobs, it is very common to be a technical worker in your field for a number of years and then, the next natural progression would be a people management role and then a senior leadership role.

Is becoming a manager and people management actually good for you? You’re the only one that can answer this question as long as you’re prepared and know what you’ve signed up for. Do your homework. Remember there is no glory in becoming a manager. It’s actually ‘ok’ to stay in an individual contributor or technical role if that’s the work you enjoy most.

However, if you think that becoming a manager is for you, there are 3 major areas you’ll need to consider when making the shift from a technical role to people management. But first I’ll highlight common reasons why people take on promotions:

  • Satisfying the ego
  • Larger income
  • Meeting career goals
  • It’s a natural next step

Rarely do I hear the following from people when asked why they want to be a manager:

  • I want more responsibility
  • I want to deal with difficult situations
  • I want to manage performance issues
  • I want to collaborate with others to build organizational capacity
  • I want to motivate and develop others

I highly encourage you to look beyond the prestige of the job title and salary to determine if a people management role is really meant for you.

Common Challenges People Managers Face

The next step towards a leadership position may not feel natural because being a high performing technical expert requires very different skills sets than a manager.

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Shifting to a management position is one of the toughest career transitions. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Your responsibilities have increased.
  • You’ll need to manage multiple agenda and interests.
  • You’ll need to let go of former technical responsibilities and deal with conceptual ideas.
  • You need to deliver difficult messages even if you don’t agree with them.
  • You’ll need to focus on the big picture, results, and employee development.
  • You’ll need to collaborate across the company and influence without authority.
  • You’re stepping into a new social role as you are no longer a peer to former colleagues.
  • You’re expected to navigate office politics gracefully.

I’ve seen many technical staff get promoted because they’ve done a good job for a long time. However, after the promotion, many have shared their struggles and the feeling of being “out of their element.” The job was not what they expected or they weren’t ready for the transition.

Technical skills will only get you so far. Just because you’re good at your job doesn’t make you management material – yet.

Here are some questions to help you decide if a promotion to become a manager is right for you:

  • Why do you want to be a people manager?
  • What and who are doing this for?
  • What type of work is fulfilling for you? Be very specific here.
  • What are the responsibilities and expectations of the role you’re aspiring for?

And here are some challenges faced by new people managers or even experienced managers:

Understanding the Big Picture and Future Direction of the Organization

As the leader of your team, you need to ensure that you have a sound understanding of the company strategy so that the actions of your team is aligned with the direction of the company.

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Increased Organizational Visibility

With increased responsibility as a people manager, you’ll be more visible since you’ll represent your team. It’s not just about you anymore.

Identifying and Streamlining Processes

You’ll need to continuously find ways to integrate with other departments.

Thinking Outside of Your Functional Area

You’ve got to move beyond your functional area and observe the interests of other teams and the overall goals of the organization; so that you and your team can deliver results that are aligned with the company.

Collaborating Across Boundaries

To achieve company results, you need to represent your team and partner with other teams to achieve company goals.

Managing Multiple Agendas

Not only do you need to consider your own interests, but you’ll also need to be mindful of your team’s, company’s, and other stakeholders’ interests.

Influencing without Authority

Your ability to influence and persuade others is essential when navigating the company and having an impact to achieve your team’s objectives.

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Driving Accountability and Empowering Others

To achieve optimal results for the team and company, you’ll need to clearly communicate how your team will support the company strategy and motivate them to perform.

Maintain a Balance Between Driving for Results and Supporting Employee Development

In addition to all your other responsibilities, you can’t neglect the development of your employees who are doing the day-to-day work to help achieve the team’s objectives. This is where you need to have a solid handle on your own management style and understand each of your employees well. Each individual is unique and needs to be managed differently.

How to Become an Effective Manager

Key Mindset Shifts to Learn

Having highlighted the major challenges shifting from a technical role to a people manager role, there are a few mindset shifts you’ll need to make as well.[1]

1. You’re Responsible for the Successes and Failures of Your Team

With increased authority as a people manager, you also have the responsibility to use your power for good to support your team to achieve goals. This also means shouldering the failures of your team without blaming your team.

Because ultimately, you manage your team and you are part of the failures for any mismanagement of your team. Being resilient to learn more about the failures of your team can help you become a stronger manager.

2. You Represent the Team Within the Organization

When you attend meetings, build relationships and navigate the organization, remember that you represent the interests of your team.

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3. You No Longer Need to Be the Technical Expert or Need All the Details

Many managers have a challenging time letting go of the details because they were high performers in a technical role. You’ll need to trust the ability of your team to look after the daily details so that you can focus on the strategic work.

Basic Skills and Competencies of a Manager

Now that you’ve had a preview of the key responsibilities of a people manager, here are some of the skills and abilities you’ll need to develop:

  • Translate company strategy and integrate it into functional plans for your team.
  • Take different perspectives and ‘think outside the box’.
  • Manage resources, risk, and processes.
  • Identify opportunities to drive improvement and changes.
  • Build high performing teams.
  • Coach and develop employees.
  • Influence and persuade multiple stakeholders.

Advancing Your Management Skills

Here are some key areas to help improve your management skills:

Summing Up

Becoming a people manager is a challenging undertaking. You need to look inside yourself to determine if this is the right career path for you. Are you taking on increasing responsibilities that are aligned with your values and strengths? Revisit the questions at the beginning of the article to determine if this is the right move for you.

Talk to people who you believe have successfully made the transition to a management position. What were some of their challenges and how did they overcome them?

More About Management and Leadership

Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com

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Ami Au-Yeung

Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

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