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Job Search Strategies to Move From Individual Contributor to People Manager

Ready to move from do-er to people leader? Our team of career experts put together the following list of tips that are working for our clients right now.

Making the leap from individual contributor to people manager is a different kind of search that requires strategy. Regardless of whether you are ready to make the move now or want to do it in the future, you need to build the plan to make it happen. Here are the top tips from our career experts and the recruiting team that have worked for people in 2022.

Define What You Want

The first step in any job search is defining what you want. This step is especially important when trying to move into a management role because there are many different types of management jobs out there. Do some research and figure out what kind of manager you want to be and the type of leadership culture you want to work in.

To define your goals, make sure to think about the following:

  • Whether you want to lead people only or if you want to also continue to have individual targets/goals

  • Size of the team you want to manage

  • Job titles that are of interest to you

  • The industry you want to be in

  • Salary

Assess Your Skills and Experience

Now that you know your priorities, you need to take an honest assessment of your skills and experiences to determine the gaps. This will help you understand what type of management job you are realistically qualified for and where you might need to do some skill-building.

Some key skills and experiences that managers need include:

  • The ability to lead and inspire others

  • Strategic thinking and decision-making

  • Excellent communication (written and verbal)

  • Delegation

  • Conflict resolution

  • People development

  • Project management

  • Budgeting and financial planning

  • Presentation skills

  • Leadership in a matrix organization

Create a Job Search Plan

Now that you know what you want and have assessed your skills, it’s time to start putting together your job search plan. This should be a detailed document that includes your goals, the types of jobs you are looking for, your target companies, a timeline, and your strategies for finding and applying to jobs.

For most people that are looking to move up, the best job search plans are flexible. You will need to take a wide view of the types of roles out there and be ready to shift as your search progresses. This can mean a keyword-driven strategy that helps you to identify all of the opportunities out there.

However, as you build your job search plan, make sure that you have set forth SMART goals to ensure that you can know exactly what you need to do to proceed. Be ambitious in setting those SMART targets, but don't make it impossible to hit these goals in your search as they will only serve to overwhelm you. Want help building a job search plan that works? The Contingent Plan team of career coaches would love to help. Claim your free consultation here to find out if we can help.

Update Your Resume

Once you've taken stock of your skills and experience, it's time to update your resume so you can start to apply for jobs. This resume needs to focus on you as a leader and not merely report all of the things you have done as an individual contributor.

To build a strong leadership message on your resume, make sure to:

  • Quantify your accomplishments as much as possible with numbers and data

  • Use action verbs to describe your responsibilities and impact

  • Highlight any leadership experiences you have, even if they are outside of work

  • Communicate your leadership style while providing talking points as examples to illustrate this information on your resume

  • Include keywords that match the types of management jobs you are targeting

  • Focus on results rather than duties/responsibilities

If you don't have any direct management experience, you can still focus on your transferable skills such as leading projects, mentoring others, or taking on extra responsibilities at work. Want help updating your resume? Professional resume writers like those at The Contingent Plan would love to help.

Start Networking

If you want to make the jump from individual contributor to people manager, one of the best things you can do is start networking with individuals who are already in management roles. Attend industry events, connect with people on LinkedIn, and reach out to individuals you admire and respect.

Building relationships with people that have the jobs you want will help you to move up and to be successful as a leader. These people can provide valuable advice, help with your job search, and be a sounding board as you look to take on new challenges.

Networking is also a two-way street. As you develop relationships with others in management, be sure that you are also providing value. Offer your help and expertise to individuals when they need it and always aim to build a strong, positive relationship.

Take Leadership Classes or Get A Certification

Many people obtain additional education or certifications to demonstrate they are ready to move into management. These programs are not all equal, so make sure that you select the training or certification that is right for your career. Ultimately, you want to make sure that the additional credentials will advance your bigger goal of moving into management.

The programs that are specific to a field or industry have the biggest ROI because it will be clear that they are needed or expected to advance. However, there are many excellent general management programs out there that can help to give you the skills and knowledge you will need as a manager.

Some of the most popular management certifications or programs include:

  • The Six Sigma Green Belt Certification

  • Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification

  • Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP)

  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM)

  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)

  • Master's Degree in Business Administration (MBA)

When selecting a management program, it is important to consider the time and cost commitment as well as whether the program will be beneficial for your career.

Look for Opportunities to Step Up

In many cases, the best way to become a manager is to take on more responsibility within your current role. If you want to be a manager, look for opportunities to lead projects or people, even if it is outside of your normal job responsibilities.

One way to do this is to volunteer for assignments that will stretch you and allow you to develop new skills. Another way is to take on additional responsibilities at work, such as leading a team or mentoring a colleague. By proactively seeking out opportunities to step up, you will be better positioned to move into management when the time is right. Or, at least have additional, relevant experience to add to your resume to move on to the right leadership role.

Customize Your Applications

When applying for management positions, it's important that you stand out from the rest of the applicants. One way to do this is by customizing your resume and cover letter for each position you apply for. In fact, customizing your resume and cover letter is expected at the leadership level because it shows your ability to talk to different audiences.

As noted above, make sure that your messaging and leadership brand is consistent with your goals and the cultures of the organizations you are pursuing. This will improve the success of your efforts to move into a leadership role and you will ultimately be more satisfied in the position once you start.

Find a Mentor or Coach

One of the best ways to prepare for a move into management is by seeking out mentorship opportunities. There are many programs and organizations that offer mentorship opportunities for aspiring managers. These programs pair experienced managers with individuals who are looking to develop their management skills. Or, you could serve as a mentor to people new to your current field.

Serving as a mentor or mentee provides you with the support you need to succeed in your search and the accountability of others to make sure that you stay on track. And, as with anything, you will get out of the mentorship or leadership coaching program what you put into it. So, make sure that you stay focused on your goals throughout the program.

Be Patient

Moving into a management role can take time. Be patient in your search to ensure that you make the right move into a people leadership role. Don't get discouraged if you don't land a management position right away; keep networking, building relationships, and honing your skillset until the perfect opportunity comes along. With these strategies in mind, you're sure to land your first management position before 2023!Making the move from individual contributor to people manager is possible. Define what you want and need for the next step in your career. Then, make sure to update your message, network, and stay focused on your goals to position yourself for the right leadership role.

When the time is right, don't hesitate to reach out for help from our team of experts who can guide you through every step of the job search process. Ready to get started now? Claim your free resume analysis or consultation by submitting your information below.