Shortly after graduation, an opportunity came up for me to take on a management role. I was drowning in work and it was for an intern at the time, but I suddenly realized I didn't know much about managing.
I remember asking an old professor of mine if he could recommend any good books about management. He promptly said no. As with doing most things for the first time, I sensed it was best to just dive in.
Today, I've grown to have a team of my own and wanted to share the following if you are staring down your first management role to give you some guidance:
1. Manage Up (& down, eventually)
Managing up—or managing your boss—is another extremely important skill. Once you’ve decided you like this person enough during your interview to actually work with them every day, it’s actually your job to manage them.
This simply means prioritizing what to bring to their attention (hint: it’s not everything, and less is always more when it comes to details with executives) and how you communicate with them and manage their expectations. Schedule regular 1x1 time with them (weekly, if you can) and run through outstanding items that need their attention, and give a brief run down on what you are working on. This is more digestible than a series of emails over time on different topics.
Nailing this will ensure a successful working relationship, but you have to understand first how they operate.
2. Model the Leadership You Want to See
While managing up and seeing how your boss approaches leadership, you’ll learn throughout your career which kind of boss you want to be one day. How do they motivate you? What do you respect about them? What do you wish they did differently, and how can you try something else?
Your first boss is actually your first lesson in leadership. They model a leadership style that works for them, and it's up to you to decide what you want to replicate and disregard.
3. Make the Case: Ask for an Intern
If you have been working for a bit, feel a heavy workload some days and are feeling "stuck," I recommend looking into hiring an intern. If you've already asked for more help and have been told there's no budget to hire in your department, an intern would make a perfect fit. You'll gain management experience, help with your own work, as well as get the opportunity to coach and mentor someone else on their career path.
And who knows? At the end of their semester, you both may have done such incredible work that the company frees up budget to hire them on full time. This has happened to me and was how I got my first job, and I was able to hire one of my interns full time at Affectiva.
The Bottom Line
We've all seen the required # of years "management experience" on our ideal job descriptions, but it can be challenging negotiating this experience if you are coming from entry level, or even a startup with not a lot of extra budget. But by taking notes from your supervisor, managing THEM, and requesting an intern to take on and grow, you are showing the kind of initiative that's incredibly valuable in executive leadership.
For more tips, checkout this LinkedIn article I wrote a while back on how to be a rockstar at work based on a lecture I gave at Tufts University.
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