Do you anticipate production slowdown in your department? Can you identify a bottleneck? Do you have several good ideas how to solve it? How is your relationship with your peers, bosses and subordinates? Are you on good terms with point persons from other departments? If you have answered “yes” to these questions and confirmed that your social influence network is strong, this may be a good opportunity to fast-track to becoming a department or project manager?
Why become a manager? First, you’ll control a greater measure of your job security. Second, if the company goes belly up you’ll have managerial experience to sell to the next employer. Third, you’ll reduce your frustration at work with problems that you witness as recurring.
Cultivate both style and substance and you’ll be a manager material in 5 months.
What are 5 political things you must do to prepare for this promotion?
1. Listen to overheard conversations in your department, among the upper management and other departments (i.e. IT, accounting and sales). Is there an opportunity to solve an integrated problem? In other words, is there something you can untangle to make everyone’sjob easier and add revenue to the company? Hear challenges. Compare problem overlaps between departments. Draft solutions that you can spearhead and are under your authority in your current department.
2. Be subtle. However, mix it up who you each lunch with. Why? You are not being manipulative. You are being politically astute. Think Game of Thrones without the dirty dealings, of course. Let decision makers and major players feel heard by you. Even if you don’t say a word and nod for 15 minutes while he or she talks about how this past weekend was a nightmare because he or she had to bring home work to meet a deadline, this is beneficial. Two benefits? First he/she will feel heard and understood, regardless of whether or not you agree. Second you will be perceived as neutral and maybe even a potential ally at the workplace. This does not mean to abandon your authentic friendships at work. If you trust, that your career ambition won’t stir jealousy, cue your friends in that you are doing some reconaissance to see if there is potential for growth for you at this office.
3. When you joke or make someone else’s day more bearable, drop a casual remark about business news that affects their project. Make certain that this does not come off as being a know-at-all. Mention it as: “No kidding? I just read something about that. Did you know X is doing Y as a possible solution to Z? What do you think of that”
4. Create an air of mystery. Dress up twice week as if you are going to an important dinner or interview after work or during lunch? Why? Because competition for your skill set creates a welcome jealousy in upper management. If someone else wants you, then you must be worth even more than they thought. Consider one or two genuine interviews during your lunch break by Skype or phone. You can set up informational interviews, even, via Linkedin contacts.
5. Appear as an untroubled equal to current middle management. In other words, do not freeze like a deer in headlights when an upper manager walks over to your department. Shape his or her pereption of you as a go-getter, a leader, an equal. Be relaxed. Do not brown nose. Seem unconcerned about job security because you’ve got other irons in the fire. For instance, mention relevant recreation or associations that you take part in off-hours. Be seen as a up-and-comer, a player. Do not thank upper management profusely for everyday things. This will appear as if you are undeserving. Learn to accept compliments about your work.
None of these 5 actions will get you far if you don’t have the chops to do anything of real value to affect the company’s bottom line. Do the following analysis.
1. How does the company get its money? How are deadlines prioritized to make the most money in the shortest amount of time? What part does your department play in this?
2. What systems can you automate to be more efficient as a group leader in your department? Would others be on board? Do you know how to draw others into a discussion about problem solving without seeming like an oppressive leader-type? Can you inspire peers to act rather than direct like a teacher?
3. After you’ve identified three problems that your boss would care about, prioritize them according to risk and reward. For instance, which solution has the lowest risk but greatest return on investment? Collaborate with willing individuals in your department to pick their brains. Do not create more work for others. Lighten the load. Be organized and only email those who want to volunteer time and information. Give credit where credit is due when your boss gives you 5 minutes of his or her time to pitch added value changes to operations.
Use these tips in a way that is natural to you, find a way to integrate this slowly over 5 months and you’ll be ready to discuss career advancement before the half year mark. Don’t get an inflated ego though. Be aware that your peers are gunning for management too. If the company does not respond, remember that you are sharper now about the industry and more desirable to competiting companies because of your past 5 months. You can send out feelers for rival companies in the same industry who may want to offer you a sweeter job offer.