How can I build up my managerial skills?

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Elizabeth from Texas Southern University asked:

I am a freshman, and I need to get a part time job  while in school where I can build up my managerial skills. What should I do?

Hi Elizabeth –

I actually see two questions here:

  1. How do a find a part-time job while I am in school? and
  2. How can I build up my managerial skills.

To the first question:

How do I find a part-time job while I am in school?

The first two places I would go are your college career services office and your student financial aid office.

Your career services office will be able to advise you where to find jobs and internships through which you can gain experience, explore your career options, put some money in your pocket and maybe even develop your managerial skills.  They may not have all the final answers, but your career advisers should be able to tell you where to find the answers you seek.

Your student financial aid office will be able to tell you if you qualify for work-study employment and how to access work-study job opportunities on and near your campus.  Most colleges hire a lot of their own students on financial aid through work-study programs.  I did when I was running career services at the UT College of Communication.  Work-study student employment is typically coordinated through the financial aid office, so they should be able to answers most of your questions.

But don’t stop there!  If there is a specific department on campus that interests you, go to it.  Ask if they have any openings for work-student students.  Ask if they have other needs for part-time employees.  When you take the initiative, you often find opportunities you otherwise would not have discovered.  The best opportunities are often found through personal outreach and networking, so go beyond just looking in the online  jobs databases.

Now, to your main question:

How can I build up my managerial skills?

This one is a bit more challenging to answer.  It has a What comes first: The chicken or the egg? aspect to it.  How do you effectively manage if you don’t first know how to be managed? Following is my take.

The best way to start developing your managerial skills is by being a good employee.  Learn first how to be managed and you will learn how to manage.  You will have a lot of bosses during your career.  Some will be really good; some will be really bad; and others will fall between those two extremes.  My advice is this:

Observe the management styles of your bosses.  What do you admire?  What do you dislike?  What do you find motivating?  What do you find disheartening?   Take what you observe and try to incorporate the stuff you admire and find motivating into your own management style, and consciously seek to avoid doing the things that you yourself dislike and find disheartening.

Good management is not about bending people to do things the way you want them done, regardless of what they might think.  Good management is about getting your team to buy in to what you want them to do; getting them to want to do the work.  It’s about motivation, coaching, mentoring and leading. It’s not about fear, intimidation or force.  That’s my opinion, anyway (and I am sure you will find some who disagree with me!)

Being a good manager is not easy, mind you.  It is a lot easier to manage in a “my way or the highway” manner, particularly in the face of conflict.  It might be easier, but in the long run, it will come back to bite you.

I have heard the question asked of managers – Would you rather be feared or loved by your team? – and I think that question is flawed.  I would suggest you consider the following question – Would you rather be feared or respected by your team?  Personally, I would rather be respected, but it’s a lot harder to earn someone’s respect than it is to instill fear.

To build up your management skills, I recommend you do the following:

Be a good employee

Do your job. Do it well.  Ask for more responsibility as you go and deliver on what you promise.  Do this and greater levels of trust and reliability will come to you.

Seek out leadership roles on your campus

Whether it’s taking the lead on a group project in a class, becoming a committee chair or officer in a student organization, or leading a service initiative, seek out opportunities to lead your peers.  Do so with humility and a desire to learn.

Ask for work

No one is going to knock on your door asking you to take a job.  You need to take the initiative and ask.  Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the proactive job seeker get the job.

Demonstrate integrity, reliability and maturity

You can do this in all aspects of your life.  In completing your homework. In showing up on time. In delivering on your promises.  Develop a reputation for dependability and people will depend upon you.  Exhibit professionalism, integrity and confidence, and people will have confidence in you.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately it’s not that easy. You have to practice being a good manager.  You must accept that you will make mistakes along the way.  When you make mistakes, you have to own them (not blame them on someone else), address them, and then move on.  THAT is being a good manager.

Okay – I’ve gone on long enough.

Hope this helps,

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