Is Moving Into Management Right for You?

Thoughtful businesswoman looking out window reflecting trees

I regularly meet with clients contemplating a move into management because they “feel like it’s time.” Many believe that they’re somehow failing in their work if they’re not progressing according to their self-prescribed timeline. 

The passing of time is the wrong way to think about whether a move into management is right. Instead, ask yourself the following:

1. What is motivating this change?

Consider why you want to be in management. Are you seeking more complicated or a different type of work? Do you have a genuine interest in being part of something bigger? Are you looking for advancement or a larger salary?

2. What will I be gaining and losing?

Look past the money for a minute and think about the tasks, responsibilities and freedoms you will gain — and lose — as a manger. Most managers spend a great deal of time on logistics, organization and people. Are you interested in this kind of work? Think about how increased responsibility will affect your professional and personal life, and determine if the cost is worth it.

3. What does my organization look like?

Ask yourself if your motivation for change (see question 1 above) will be served by a move into management. Will you actually effect change or will you just be the person who has to fix problems?

4. What can other managers tell me?

Talk to managers at your organization about their work to determine if it would be a good fit. If you want to move up but don’t think you want to do it where you are, find out what making a change to management at another organization might look like. 

Elizabeth Schrimpf, career counselor
Elizabeth Schrimpf: Start by examining your motivation for a move into management.

If you decide against management, look back at your motivation for change. Not everyone grows in their work the same way. I often use the metaphor of “trees, strawberries and tulips” when I talk with my clients about job growth. 

“Trees” grow upward. In the work world, trees are the individuals who are motivated by hierarchical growth. “Strawberries,” by contrast, grow outward, covering more territory and becoming more influential without really moving up. These individuals might find professional fulfillment by volunteering or serving on the board of a nonprofit or community organization. “Tulips” grow regeneratively, doing more or less the same thing in the same place over time, digging in deeply and becoming critical to the space they occupy. When it comes to work, tulips might be motivated to take a continuing education course to deepen their knowledge of a particular field or skill.

Go back to your motivation for change. Are you a tree looking to move into management? Or are you a strawberry or tulip who would be fulfilled by joining a committee, taking a class or volunteering in your community? Most people will do all of these things at various points in their careers. The trick is to ensure you’re doing the right one for you at the right time.

Career Corner is a monthly feature written by UW–Madison’s Continuing Studies staff. Elizabeth Schrimpf, a career counselor, can be reached at elizabeth.schrimpf@wisc.edu.