Many graduates go on to be managers, making the most of all the business, administrative and organisational skills they consolidated and built upon during their degree. However, no matter how well you did on your degree course whether it was at the Bacherlor's degree, Masters degree or even MBA level - none fully equip you for a management career. The practical reality of management can often be very different from the theory. Even if you have plenty of previous work experience, your first job at management level will have elements to it that are like nothing else you’ve experienced before. Here are some tips for settling into your first management role and setting yourself up for a long and successful career.
Control your nerves
You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t at least a little nervous going into your first management post. In fact, a little nervousness can provide us with an adrenalin boost that gives us that extra bit of zest you need to be a manager. However, don’t let your nerves run rampant. Contain them by reminding yourself of why you got this job in the first place--your natural strengths, acquired skills, work and life experiences and force of personality.
Look after your health
The excitement and pressure of any new job, especially one with a lot of responsibility, can get to us and lead us to neglect our health. Yet you need to be at your best in both mind and body to perform at your best. So look after yourself. Get eight hours sleep a night, drink eight glasses of water a day, find a form of exercise you’re happy to do regularly and eat a balanced diet.
Be open with your friends and family
The stress and demands of a relatively high-powered job can adversely affect a busy or complicated home life and vice versa. Before you even start your new job, frankly discuss with friends and family your hopes and fears regarding the role and explain to them how they can support you both practically and emotionally.
Research, research, research
The more you know about the organisation you’ll be working for and the team you’ll be managing, the better. Research the company by looking out for media coverage of it, working your way through its website’s site map and checking its LinkedIn profile. Many company profiles on LinkedIn include lists of employees and their individual profiles, so you can even find out about each individual member of your team while you’re there.
Start building a relationship with your team
Once you’ve researched your team and the job has started, it’s time to start building relationships with each of the team members. On your first day at work, call an informal team meeting to introduce yourself. Arrange one-to-one meetings with each team member spread across your first week or so. If you’re comfortable with doing so, operate an open door policy or at least let your team know they can schedule a one-to-one chat with you at any time by popping over an email. In any event, make regular check-in sessions with each individual a habit, as this is the key to good performance management and employee engagement.
Be a good listener
Being in a position of authority isn’t just about giving orders—although, as we’ll see below, delegation is very important. Being a good manager is also about listening. Give your team the freedom and space to express themselves and then listen to what they’re telling you, be it about their aspirations, concerns or ideas. By listening and responding appropriately to what they say, you’ll gain their trust and respect and the team and organisation will benefit as a whole from you taking good suggestions on board and helping employees achieve their aims.
Learn to delegate
As this is your first position of any formal authority, you’re probably not used to delegating in a structured and systematic way. However, as a manager is not meant to do all the work by themselves, you can only succeed in a management position if you share the workload amongst your team. Even if you’ve done all your own work in previous jobs, you now need to learn to delegate. Start by getting to know each team member well, so that you know what tasks they’re both good at and enjoy doing.
Ask for help
Related to the art of delegation, is the art of admitting when you need help. Just because you’re a manager now doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to show any signs of vulnerability or a willingness to learn. Your subordinates and superiors alike understand that you’re new to this and that you won’t know how to deal with everything. So if you have a question or don’t know how to handle a situation, ask your boss or a trusted team member for input and advice.
Lead by example
‘Role modelling’ is increasingly becoming an important component of the modern workplace. More and more organisations are realising that if they want to instil certain values into their workforce, the leaders and managers need to themselves demonstrate those values in the way they work. Think about what values you’d like to see your team adopt and then strive to consistently apply those values to your own behaviour and work style.