Practical Guide to Starting Your Career in Management

When I left the world of education and transitioned from managing a classroom to managing a business, I didn’t have a clear path as to where this decision would take me—nor did I have anyone share with me what I am about to share with you. These three powerful decisions will help you to develop as a new manager and will strengthen you both personally and professionally. 

Get a Mentor

I cannot stress the importance of this enough.  The problem lies not in finding a mentor, but it is more of a conceptual one—you know, the negative self-talk. You say things like, “Why does someone want to spend their time helping me?”  The truth is, many successful business owners, CEOs, and managers remember the early challenges they faced and would love to spend time with you as a way of giving back or paying it forward. As long as you are serious about and dedicated to growing in your career field, and you are ready and willing to invest the time, energy and effort required, mentoring will be a worthwhile venture.  Nothing will ruin the relationship with your mentor like wasting their time with someone who isn’t fully committed.

Continue to Learn

Education does not stop when you receive your diploma.  Make a point to be an active student in the University of Life. Ben Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” I believe most of us would agree by looking at his resume that he was well equipped to make this statement.  When you invest in your personal education, you are investing in something that pays compound interest over time. Maybe you want to take a training course, enroll in a certification program, or finish a degree?  Whatever it is, don’t delay.  Start taking the next steps today.  Oftentimes, your employer will pay for your education.  Don’t be afraid to ask, but do come prepared.  Business owners and managers are concerned with achieving goals for productivity, net profit and market share.  If you can validate how furthering your education will support these goals, you have a good chance of obtaining their financial support.

After earning my Certified Manager® (CM®) certification from the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM), I transitioned into sales and business development.  I asked my vice president if he would support my request to earn a professional credential in sales.  His answer was an excited, “Yes, I will!”  I asked why he was so eager to support me and he replied, “If this certification will help you produce more and perform better, the return on investment will far exceed the cost.”  This is how business owners and managers think.  So, what are you waiting for?

Keep a Journal

Journaling is a great way to record life as it happens. Often times life comes at you so fast that you barely have time to process your day.  Before you know it, days become weeks and weeks become months.  At this pace, your ability to reflect becomes muddied and your recall cloudy.  Journaling allows you to process and reflect on the day’s successes and failures.  Some admired and respected men have kept journals, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Theodore Roosevelt, to name a few.   If these men are familiar to you, then you probably agree that what they achieved rivals that of some of the greatest men who ever lived.  So, if journaling was not beneficial, why did they keep a journal?  One and possibly the most important reason is this—you can’t trust your memory.  Many experiences in life will be forgotten, but when you record them in a journal, you can reflect on your past experiences as long as you have the journal. In addition, thinking on paper helps you to reflect on situations, which in turn, help you to develop better thinking patterns.  This can reap benefits in differentiating perception from reality. Also, in tough and challenging times, you can read about past victories to help with current challenges you are facing.

Some practical tips for journaling include:

  • Buy a journal you are comfortable using.
  • Pick a time of day to journal when you have 30 minutes of uninterrupted time.  I have found early morning or late night to be great times.
  • Be consistent.  It takes an average of 21 days to form a new habit.  Consistency builds discipline, and discipline builds momentum.  Before you know it, you will have a journal full of entries.

I can happily say that these three decisions: (1) get a mentor, (2) continue to learn, and (3) keep a journal, have had an amazing effect on my personal and professional life. It has been said, If it’s to be it’s up to me.  Make the choice to get started with one of these decisions today and begin making positive strides toward launching a management career.