Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Managing’

Or: How to get management experience without being a manager

DucksThis is sort of not strictly possible; you can’t get experience of what it’s like to formally manage other people without formally managing other people. You don’t know what it’s like to have the job title ‘manager’ until you, er, have the job title ‘manager’.

But if you take a different view of what ‘managing’ actually means, it’s likely you’re already doing it in your daily life without even thinking about it.

A quick peek at Merriam-Webster Online tells us that the first definition of ‘to manage’ is ‘to handle or direct with a degree of skill’. Well, who hasn’t done that at some point? Certainly if you’re in a job you’ll be doing that every day. Have you heard of the phrase ‘managing upwards’? It means to ‘manage your manager’, i.e. guide them in the direction you’d like them to go in and help them do their job in such a way that you both gain from the relationship. Managing is basically learning how to deal with people and, once you’ve figured that out, it’s easy to see how you can look to other areas of your life to hone those skills without even setting foot in a workplace.

The example I’m going to give you is from my own life. In my spare time I belong to an amateur dramatics group. In addition to people who act we also have a group of individuals who run the place, taking charge of different departments such as technical, publicity and catering (to name but a few). In my time I’ve taken on roles in a wide range of backstage or admin areas, and – despite it all being voluntary – have gained significant experience of managing a service and directing teams of volunteers.

(It’s true that volunteers are a different kettle of fish to paid employees, and I’m not even going to get into the whole debate about library volunteers, but for the purpose of this blog post I think the basic lessons are the same.)

In catering, for instance, I’ve had to persuade people to do shifts on interval coffee, manage the rotas so that everyone gets to work at times that suit them, and fill in the gaps in service one way or another (and yes, sometimes this has meant doing it myself). I’ve managed a budget, ensured we maintained appropriate stock levels (ordering and liaising with suppliers as necessary) and kept basic accounts. One year we even hosted a conference for other Little Theatres in the region, which was a huge challenge: in addition to the usual jobs I also had to ensure a) that we had adequate equipment for the extra bodies we were catering for, and b) that people providing food were reimbursed for their costs. All of this was done on top of a regular working day and for sheer enjoyment (although admittedly it didn’t always feel like it at the time…).

In publicity I had an even bigger budget to manage, not to mention the expectations of everyone in the entire society. (Anyone out there working in marketing? Find you’re always the ones blamed for lack of business, regardless of circumstances? Everyone else always knows how to do it better than you? Yep, been there.) In our society this was tied up to a large extent with other roles such as internal communications, membership and box office, meaning that the pool of people with whom I had to liaise to ensure everything ran smoothly increased massively. My ability to manage multiple projects was tested to the utmost – liaising with the press, writing marketing copy, organising promotional events, maintaining the display boards, persuading people to come and stuff envelopes – and for me the biggest learning experience was that I found it far easier to manage ‘things’ rather than ‘people’ 😀

However, ‘manage’ I did, and in jobs where I’ve held formal management responsibilities I have been helped in no small amount by the experience I’ve gained from my extra-curricular activities. In fact, in the workplace it’s often easier, as at least you have an element of accountability and lines of reporting to establish boundaries. In a voluntary group it’s very much a case of ‘well, we’re all doing this out of the goodness of our hearts’, which can make it very difficult to hold anyone to what you think they should be doing (especially if they disagree).

So those of you who are wondering how to get out of this Catch-22 situation and gain experience of a job you haven’t done yet – look to your hobbies. If you don’t have one, find one that will enable you to build up your skills in such a way as to give you the experience you need. I appreciate that not everyone will want to join a group in their spare time simply for the purpose of increasing their employability (fitting in a hobby can be difficult even if you are doing it purely for love). However, if lack of experience is the one stumbling block that you’re trying to overcome, then maybe this could be a route forward.

And, who knows, you might even have fun in the process…

Advertisements

Read Full Post »