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Is Moving to a Management Position Your Next Best Career Move?
January 2011

If you've reached the 10-year mark in your career, you may be at a crossroad as you decide the next best move to further your career. For many people, it would appear that taking a management position is the only way to reach the next level. However, the perks of being a manager don't always outweigh the drawbacks of moving into a management position - especially if you have invested time and money in developing more functional hands-on skills. Moving into management is not always the best approach to career advancement.

In Career Path Divergence, Navigating The Ten-Year Fork In The Road, Alesia Benedict offers insight into the two paths for advancing your career and explains:

"Somewhere around the ten-year mark ... professionals often face a choice between the skills-based side of their professions or taking the management track. This time of choice can be a very difficult period for professionals since the decision they make will directly impact the rest of their careers."

Here are some questions to consider when deciding if a management position is your next best career move:

  • Will you be comfortable with having less hands-on responsibility? This means stepping back and letting other people do without micro-managing or intervening in how they choose to accomplish assignments. It can be very challenging to not step in and take over, especially if it means that things may not always go as smooth as you like. Part of being a manager is learning how to coach better performance resisting the desire to just do it yourself.

  • Can you handle negative responses, enforcing disciplinary guidelines, and having difficult performance conversations? Management is not for the thin skinned, as you will be subject not just to praise for successful leadership, but criticism when things go wrong even if it us undeserved.

  • Are you willing to acquire skills that you lack in order to be a more effective manager? Good managers don't just develop over night. Many companies have special training programs for first-time managers. And finding a mentor or trusted advisor who can help with developing your leadership style and give you honest feedback is critical to long term success.

  • How confident are you in your ability to make decisions and take responsibility for the outcome? There will be times when you have to step in and make a final decision or a hard choice – your employees will be looking to you for guidance. As manager you will be responsible for both the benefits and consequences of the decisions you make, and being indecisive will more than likely ruin your credibility.

  • Can you successfully handle the change from friend to boss? This is an important question if you are being promoted to manager within your current group. New boundaries and relationships will have to be established with colleagues with which you used to be on the same level. Until you begin to connect with the other managers, it may be lonely during your transition.

Management is not for everyone. And not everyone is equipped with the talent and aptitude for being a successful manager. If you are on the fence about whether management is the right choice for you, talk with a trusted advisor. It will help to think through the benefits, sacrifices, learning curve and most of all how the new role and responsibilities match your values and priorities. While it may not appear to be step back, moving into a management role without the right willingness and ambition can be a costly misstep. Ask the hard questions, count the cost, then make your move – or not.