When someone on your team asks for help, are you always the first to respond? Do you stay late at work helping others troubleshoot? Do people come to you for advice? If so, you may be considering a move into management. After all, being helpful, kind, and respected are all signs of a great manager.

Unfortunately, too many young professionals rush towards a promotion, only to realize that being a manager is a lot more work than they'd bargained for, or is nothing like they imagined it would be. That’s why your answer to these next three questions are pivotal in deciding whether or not you’re ready to take that next step up the career ladder into a management position.  

1. Are you excited for your success to depend on the success of others?

As an individual contributor, your performance is based on your own work and your own results. As a manager, your performance is based on the work and results of others.

Imagine if your performance at the end of the year would be 50% based on your own work, and 50% on the work of your weakest teammate. How does that make you feel? How would you help him or her improve?

Now imagine that it’s the entire team’s performance determining whether or not you get a raise. Does that feel like an exciting, rewarding challenge you're ready to take on? If yes, you're already starting to think like a manager, and that's great! If you're still trying to work a lot on your own successes and establishing yourself in your career as an individual contributor (which we all need to do!), then management may not be the right choice quite yet.


2. Are you prepared to work with anyone?

Managers are responsible for any person assigned to their team. When hiring, there could be a candidate who is right for the job, but they could just rub you the wrong way. But as a manager, you might still be obligated to hire them, train them, and help them succeed just like any other employee, without showing bias.

If you’re promoted at your current company, that could also mean working with people who may not be your favorite to work with. You’ll need to keep things professional and wipe away any previous judgments or concerns in order to do your job effectively. Think of it as a clean slate in finding new solutions to work with those who may have different work styles than you do.

Do you have very close friends on the team? You’ll need to be prepared to provide constructive criticism to those friends. You’ll have to keep information from them,  and even deliver the news if they didn’t get a raise or a promotion. It’s been done before, and if you’re ready, you’ll find a way! But consider these things now so you’ll be prepared to handle them later.

3. Are you ready to think big picture, and move away from your current role?

In most departments, managing involves a heavy schedule of internal meetings, where you’ll discuss the big picture and make sure that numbers are on track. Between time spent with direct reports, sessions with other teams about how you’re working together, and hours crunching the data to figure out how to make quarterly goals, your day-to-day will be very different than what it is as an individual contributor.

If you’re a software engineer, you probably won’t be coding anymore. If you work with customers, you probably won’t be on calls anymore. If you’re in the field, you may be desk-bound most of the time. If those things are what you love most about your job, think twice before leaving them behind just yet.


Managing vs. Leading

How’d you do? Congrats if you decided that management is the right choice for you, and you're ready to take that next step in your career. If you had hesitations about any of the questions, there are plenty of other ways you can hone your leadership skills in your current role!

  • New Hire Mentoring: Companies of all sizes (including HubSpot) have mentor programs where new hires are paired with more tenured team members. If this doesn’t exist yet at your company, even better -- you can pave the way for others.
  • Long-term Mentoring: If your company is larger, there may be opportunities to mentor someone doing a similar job at a more junior level. You can also look outside your company to your network and offer mentorship to someone younger or less experienced.
  • Training: Be a part of new hire training for your team or company, and use your skills to help groups of people learn new things. If new hire training is already taken care of by another department, or if your company is too small to formalize training, consider learning a job-related skill and sharing it with your team in a one-time presentation.
  •  Start a Group: Start an interest group or event as an outlet for your advice-loving self. A few ideas: A career development book club. A study-buddy event where people list what they can teach, or what they want to learn, and match up in pairs or small groups. Events for just about any group of people: women, engineers, parents, recent grads… Show a short film, share a recent finding, or invite a panel to speak, then be the moderator for the discussion.
  • Mini-Managing: To dip your toe in the pool of management, look for opportunities to manage a short-term employee, like an intern or seasonal contractor. This is a great way to start thinking about your own leadership style and how you’d lead a team of 2-10 people at a given time.

People often assume that becoming a manager is the only step up on the career ladder, but there are so many opportunities to become a leader at your company. You also may be ready to make that jump into a management role, and that’s amazing! Just never forget that there’s always more to learn, and that people will look up to you as mentor to learn from. So, take advantage of the knowledge from tenured managers or leaders who you look up to, and always try to be the best boss you possibly can be for your team.


Originally published May 7, 2018 10:00:00 AM, updated January 19 2023