Thursday, January 06, 2005

Advice: Moving from Engineering to Management

From The Director's mail bag:
I'm looking for a job again. I'm really trying to get away from technical stuff and into management, but all my real professional qualifications are for engineering type things. Got any pointers?

This is a tough one. Traditional employers are hesitant to put anyone in a management position who doesn't already have management experience. It's the Catch 22 of employment: you can't get a management position without experience, and you can't get management experience if you don't get the position (actually this is true of just about any position).

For this reason, I think your chances of walking in and getting a managerial position from a random organization is, unfortunately, very small. So my advice is as follows:
1. Move your Goal Out - Accept a job in an engineering position that fits with your resume, but make it clear during the interview and, more critically, once you are in your new role, that your long-term plans are to move into management. Unfortunately, this will probably add three or more years to your career goal of management, but many hiring managers look for engineers they can hire now for an immediate project, but that they can groom for management positions later. The bottom line is that without experience, it is easier to move into a management position in an organization you are already in than to get one coming off the street.

2. Leverage a Contact - One way to get a managerial position without experience is to leverage a contact who knows of your abilities. Friends, former co-workers, fellow students, or even family members know of your ability to manage even if you don't have it on your resume. There may be a chance someone you know is a higher level manager in an organization and can put in a good word in for you.

3. Start Your Own Business - The obvious solution since you don't have to worry about things like hiring managers and resumes. If not on your own, then maybe with a group of like-minded people. In my experience, however, this does not guarantee a "management" role since when there are only six people in a company, no one really "manages" the others.

Any other advice from others out there?

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