How to Cultivate Management Skills Before You Are a Manager

Landing a management job without experience is unlikely. Employers want candidates with proven managerial skills supported by years of experience. But how do you get management experience if no one will hire you without it? It’s a catch-22.

Thankfully, you can cultivate management skills before becoming a manager. You just have to look for opportunities and seize them when available.

management skills

Do your job well

If you don’t do your current job well, you won’t be considered for advancement opportunities. Period. All of them require a reputation for hard work, follow through, and collaborative skills. People will be taking a chance on you, and they need to feel secure in your abilities. Doing your job well shows you’re ready for the next step.

Establish a mentorship

Mentorships have many advantages. Not only can mentors teach you managerial skills, they can offer sage advice in correcting mistakes, resolving tangled issues, and where to find helpful resources.

While many people can fill a mentor role, we recommend asking your current manager. Even if they say no, the request itself will tell her you’re looking to grow professionally.

Ask for management responsibilities

If your current manager can’t take on a mentorship, she’s likely too busy. Why not ask if she’ll let you take on some of her responsibilities?

Inquire about tasks like leading the internship program, planning a company event, or heading a meeting in your department. Each provides valuable management experience. Do well, and you may be offered further responsibilities.

Engage in self study

Read your way to success. You can fill entire bookcases with titles like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The One Minute Manager. Take classes to develop hard skills or sign up for workshops to hear keynote speakers. The ways to learn about management off the clock are vast and can accommodate most schedules.

Volunteer at a non-profit

Nonprofits have the same needs as for-profit companies. They have assets to manage, teams that need leading, and projects to be organized. Unlike for-profits, many of these organizations exist on a shoestring budget. To stay afloat, they need volunteers to donate their time.

Consider volunteering your time. You can gain hands-on experience with the tasks and skills managers need to thrive. These can be added to your resume as easily as any from your 9-to-5 job. And you’ll be improving your community and helping those in need. It’s a win-win.

Become your office’s interpersonal guru

The best managers hone their emotional intelligence into an intuitive tool. They can motivate their team, handle conflicts, and empathize with coworkers. They can also regulate their emotions, keeping bad days from turning into an office-wide problem.

Make it a goal to train at these interpersonal skills every day. Try to resolve conflicts without bringing them directly to your manager. Actively listen to your coworkers. Motivate by example. As we mentioned, there are classes and books to help you develop aptitude.

As your reputation for interpersonal excellence spreads, you’ll have more opportunities to master these skills.

Get organized

Organization is a principle management skill. Managers need to keep their projects, files, and communications neat and tidy. This limits stress on their team and promotes productivity.

You can cultivate organization simply by being cognizant of it. Create a system to keep your desk, digital space, and to-do list ordered. Study best practices. Like interpersonal skills, you want to garner a reputation for organization. That way, when projects that require organization arise, supervisors will naturally think of you.

Cultivating management skills

To be an effective manager, you’ll have to master many skills. You’ll need interpersonal skills to lead, develop partnerships, and resolve conflicts. You’ll need hard skills in budgeting, finance, organization, and your industry’s chosen technologies.

The above tips will help you cultivate these skills before you apply for a management position. That way, your resume will show you don’t just have the skills necessary to be a great manager—you’ve already put those skills to use.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market