Transitioning from an individual contributor role to a managerial one can feel like a big leap. You’re moving from working on specialized projects that rely on your expertise to guiding processes forward and leading teams. As a result, the transition is often a difficult one to make. How do you learn to be an excellent manager? Do you have the necessary soft skills? How do you propose the move to your manager?
A member of our Everwise community posed these questions to our mentors, who shared their advice on smoothly moving from independent contributor to management:
Think about what makes you tick
As you think about your next career move, David Vedder recommends you take a step back from focusing too much on an immediate plan. Instead, think about what makes you tick and follow your passions.
“Consider evaluating yourself, your personality, and your style to determine what really makes you happy and provides your personal drive,” Vedder says. “This will determine what kind of career adjustments are most appropriate.”
Jorio Mesquita agrees. An added bonus: Going through a “visualization exercise,” he says, will also help you identify what you want from your career in the long-term. “Ask yourself where you see yourself in five and ten years,” Mesquita says. “What would give you the most satisfaction and pleasure? Then, chase your dreams.”
Define expectations for the move
Once you’ve taken that step back, figure out what’s required to make the jump. Because the jump from independent contributor to manager is a substantial one, Jennifer Weldy says, you’ll need to clearly understand the expectations: “Think about what skills you need to gain by moving into a managerial, process-oriented role.”
How, exactly, can you acquire those managerial skills? Daniela Chiricioaia proposes looking to existing processes first: “There are a lot of companies where employees have a very clear career path, with KPIs to achieve. This document is reviewed and updated annually based on performance evaluation. In such companies, the employee knows his/her strengths and weaknesses. The employee also knows how to reach the criterias for a new role.”
Chiricioaia suggests identifying the soft skills involved in leading a team: “You’ll need some soft skills that all leaders utilize: communicating, negotiating, influencing, etc.”
Or, as Weldy recommends, just start the conversation openly and honestly with your manager. “Have a conversation with your current manager about your career goals and come with ideas about how you’re going to achieve them.”
Invest time in learning skills for your next role
After understanding what’s required to move to a managerial role, invest time in learning the necessary skills.
Yess Padilla shares how she did so: “I explored the fields in which I’d like to learn more, like management, sales, operations, and entrepreneurship. After figuring that out, I started to look for master degree opportunities that could help me move in that direction.”
While you don’t necessarily need a degree, Padilla’s suggestion rings true. Think outside the box when learning new skills — online courses, conferences, networking events, and mentorship programs are all likely options to pursue.
Consider all your options
Lastly, think through all your options when making the move to a managerial role. As Pietro Sbisa suggests, yourself: “Is there any chance of a position change within the same company? Understand if there’s room for you in the current organization.”
The answer might lie elsewhere. And that’s ok, Alan Gehami says: “Certainly continue to search for an internal path, but also start interviewing with external companies. This will hopefully give you a broader perspective on what you’re trying to achieve, with some additional options.”
Just make sure to leave without burning a bridge, Kent Gladstone advises. “The fastest way to go up is moving to another company. But leave on good terms, including giving the two weeks notice.”
In summary, when looking to move from independent contributor to manager:
- Think about what makes you tick
- Understand the requirements for the move
- Learn the necessary skills for the target role
- Consider all your options