Experience Matters

This is not an article about the quality of your academic qualifications, important as they are. This is about preparing for your future in management.

Funding for developing nonprofit management capacity is woefully short. For some reason funders just assume the sector develops effective managerment through osmosis. There is a real possibility you will be injected into your first management role with little experience and and even less professional development.

The risk here is that for the first time manager they lack the skills to be able to work through all the issues they will be faced with. This leads to a stressful and often traumatic experience. Many fall by the wayside.

It doesn’t need to be this way, however you will need to take responsibility for your own pre-management professional development. There are many things you can do to help prepare yourself for your first management role.

First and foremost, develop some mentoring relationships. Preferably with people already in management roles, people that have been through all the situations you will experience. Go to these people before you enter your management role. Discuss with them your aspirations and ask for their help, guidance and advice. Your mentors will no doubt have lots of ideas based upon their own experiences that you will find helpful as well as inspiring. More importantly your mentoringrelationships will be in place when you enter management. You will have got over any fear of asking for help and you won’t have to waste time building relationships with your mentors.

Secondly, look for opportunities to become involved in a leadership group. It might be at work, for a short term project, or assisting another manager, or it might be within your sports club or church. Any experience is good experience.

Thirdly, hone your powers of observation. Watch and observe how other managers behave and the impact they have. Maintain a journal. Write down what you see, what you hear, how others react. Learning to use your eyes and ears now will benefit you when you become a manger as these are the most important tools in your future management tool kit.

Last but not least start your learning journey. There is no shortage of easily accessible, often free management information. Talk to your CEO and your manager, and your human resource manager, set out your aspirations and indicate you interest in be part of any leadership opportunities. Look for possible professional development programs.

Many people fall into management by accident and my experience is that this is not the best way to go about it. The burn rate is very high. The experience can be very stressful and uncomfortable. It doesn’t need to be that way if you plan your pathway and take responsibility for your own professional development.

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