Author: Daniel B. Kline | July 27, 2018
Pay the cost
Unless you start your own company it's generally not easy to become the boss. In many cases, lots of people want to be in charge and the competition for open management roles is intense.
There is no one path to take to the executive suite. Instead, becoming the boss often takes a combination of steps, and sometimes you'll never know which move it was that sealed the deal (or when something you didn't do kept you out of the position you hoped for).
Do the hard jobs
Sometimes unpleasant tasks come up at work. They may involve things that are not normally part of the job or ones that require working less-than-ideal hours. Never shirk doing your part of the work. Take on whatever task is needed and do so without complaint.
Learn new skills
Sometimes your actual job prepares you for moving into management. In many cases it doesn't, and you should work on learning new skills. That could mean everything from taking a class in management to learning a language or studying code.
Look at the skills bosses and managers possess in your field that you don't have. Make a checklist and start adding any that you can through education, self study, being mentored, or any other means necessary.
Find a mentor
A mentor can be an informal or formal arrangement with someone more experienced in your field. Sometimes, your actual boss will be willing to meet with you in order to guide you to gaining the skills to get where you want to go.
In other cases, a mentor may be someone at another company or even someone who has retired. Basically, you're looking for wisdom -- your Yoda who can share his or her own experience with you.
You probably won't get promoted to being in charge as fast as you hope. Have some understanding of how long it generally takes in your industry to become a manager or boss, but realize that timetables can vary a lot.
Don't be the person who quickly shows frustration. Instead, work toward the opportunity you want so you're ready when it comes open.
If you have hopes of someday joining management, talk with your boss and human resources about it. Don't talk about it everyday. Just make sure that around twice a year you check in and see if you are doing the right things.
You should also share your leadership goals with any friends or associates you have in the industry. You never know when someone might mention your name for an opening or ask you to apply for a job.
Work hard at your current job
Sometimes when people decide to pursue a path to management they forget to focus on their current position. Stand out by not just being good at your current job but also by continuing to work hard at it.
Be a good co-worker
If you act like a leader people will eventually see you as one. That does not mean pretending like you are in charge and expecting others to treat you as such. Instead, dive into the tough tasks and be gracious when it comes to helping others and sharing credit.
You may get passed over for a job you think you deserve. In private, take a moment or even a few and scream about it. Rave to your significant other or a close friend.
At work, take things professionally. It's fine to ask the boss or human resources what you can do to be more prepared next time, but you have to do so graciously. Put on a brave public face and be genuinely happy for the person who got the job over you.
Build your network
Sometimes it really is who you know. Be involved in your industry and meet as many people as possible. Work hard to become a well-known figure with friends across the industry. Look for speaking engagements or volunteer opportunities that put you out there.
And, once you make a connection, keep it warm. Check in every few months and engage your colleagues and contacts on the appropriate social media platforms.
Be willing to move
While it's admirable to work your way up at one company, sometimes that's just not going to happen. If your path is blocked and no openings appear likely, you should consider changing companies or even be willing to move to a new area.
Maybe there are more openings for
the job you hope to have in another state. Be receptive to doing whatever it takes to get where you want to go.
Gain lateral skills
Some managers supervise a group of people who all do the same thing. If that's not the case for the type of boss you hope to be, then it's important to gain, if not skills, at least understanding of the other positions supervised by the manager you aspire towards.
Ask to be trained or volunteer to learn so you can help out during busy times. Sometimes it's enough just to be curious in order for other people to be willing to take the time to show you what they do.
Arrive early, leave late
Don't sit at your desk just to be be seen. In general, however, make it a practice to be among the first to arrive and the last to leave. Fill your time at work with useful tasks. Ask for more work or help co-workers when they get stuck.
You don't need to take this to extremes. Getting in at 6 a.m. when most people come in at 9 is silly, but arriving at 8:30 a.m. and sometimes having coffee brewed for everyone makes you stand out.
Dress the part
The old adage about dressing for the job you want, not the one you have, is generally true. But in some cases that's just not possible. A truck driver who someday wants to be a dispatcher probably has to continuing wearing a uniform while driving a truck.
In professions where you have sartorial choices, however, it's not a bad idea to dress a bit above your current station. If your co-workers wear gym shirts and T-shirts you might class it up a bit with dress shorts and a polo. Be reasonable, but do keep in mind that looking the part can help you get the job.
Don't be afraid
Sometimes there's a leadership void at a company. Maybe a position opens up and it takes a while for it to be filled. Offer to do what you can to bridge the gap. Sometimes it's possible to just step in and be the leader the company needs. That may not necessarily land you the job, but it should elevate your standing when it comes time for the next opening.
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