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Moving into a leadership role as an individual contributor

Q: I want to move into a management position. I have four years of experience at my current company. All of the supervisory job postings say “management/leadership experience required.” My question to you is — how am I supposed to move up the ladder if this experience is required? I am in an individual contributor role.

A: Your situation is not uncommon. How does an individual contributor move into a management role? It’s not impossible. You probably have management and/or leadership experience in your background already. Perhaps not in a corporate title though.

I consulted Evren Gunduz, Ed.M., CEO/Founder of Enjoy Life Leadership Academy. Gunduz’s firm provide leadership training to thousands of young adults across the US and internationally as well. Gunduz offers this advice: “Apply for the position and frame yourself as a leader. There is a paradigm shift occurring in how we define ‘leadership,’ from commanding and directing in front of a group to how well a person collaborates within a group. Those that can push themselves and empower others to be better versions of themselves at work and in life are leaders. Leadership is less about title or position and more about doing and action. We all have management experience, it just may not be in the traditional sense of having a titled position within a company or organization. Were you ever in a band, student group, or committee? Did you ever participate in a group running race or other athletic team activity? Even though you don’t have a management title in your current job, did you ever participate on a collaborative work team? If your answer is yes to any of these or other group experiences not mentioned, then you have management and leadership experience. Draw from these experiences and frame your application in a way that highlights how you lead and manage in these environments. Get creative and show that that the skills utilized in leading and collaborating within all the groups and teams you are a part of are transferable to a management position, because they are! In all instances, whether you are collaborating with a marathon relay team or a group of employees in an office, you are simply managing people and the skills it takes to lead and manage people are ubiquitous. And, more often than not, our leadership skills are better honed in our informal groups outside of our jobs versus our structured groups at work.”

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Finally, explain that you are motivated to move into this role because of your leadership experience and your experience within the company. Your institutional knowledge is valuable to your employer too.

by Pattie Hunt Sinacole

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