Getting into management without prior management experience

Limestone College Business

One of the common questions from students earning a Bachelors in Business Administration Management is, “how can I get a job in management if I don’t have the experience?”

It’s a Catch-22: To manage, you need more than a management degree; You need management experience. And you can’t get the experience without getting a job in management. So, where does one begin and how do you get on the managerial path?

Here are three options to consider:

Management Trainee Programs

Today, there are many companies that offer management trainee programs. Such programs train recent graduates to assume management positions across various levels of the company. The programs typically rotate graduates across different departments while providing valuable hands-on training. In doing so, the trainee can grasp the complexities involved with individual business units and the company at large.

For employers, such programs allow an effective way to prepare the next generation of managers and ensure that they possess unique skills specific to the company’s needs. And for recent grads, these programs offer a fast-track route toward a position in management. In addition, some programs allow graduates to choose the department in which they would like to work once their training is complete.

Evolving Industries

It turns out that not all companies who are hiring for management positions are necessarily looking for candidates with management experience. This occurrence is more common in industries experiencing a constant state of flux, demanding a need for open-minded thinkers rather than those who may be pre-conditioned to work and think in a certain way.

Ron Ashkenas, a contributor for Forbes, writes in his article, “Manager Needed: No Experience Preferred,” about a time he met with a CEO of a large health systems company, who actually preferred to hire managers who did not have managerial experience. The CEO’s logic was that the healthcare industry needed change and re-examination of all aspects of how the business is run. To that end, people who have traditional management experience might fail to challenge the status quo. So, instead of evaluating candidates based on managerial experience, this CEO was looking for personal characteristics like passion, openness to learning, the ability to think outside of the box and so on.

 First Time for Everything

For those who may not be interested in managerial jobs that come with the above-mentioned options, there is also a traditional route of simply working your way up the chain. Sure, managerial experience is important; however, many managers were promoted into their first managerial role. To advance into a management position, Victor Lipman, Forbes contributor and author of “The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World,” suggests these five tips in his recent Forbes article:

  • Ensure your boss is aware of your managerial aspirations
  • Become closely connected with your HR department
  • Find a mentor, someone you can learn from
  • Volunteer for assignments beyond your job responsibilities
  • Take a management course (Limestone business students already have this one covered!)
  • If all else fails, look for an opportunity at a different company

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