Q: Often when you are looking to advance in your career and the next step up is a supervisory role of some sort, preferred qualifications in job descriptions often include supervisory experience, even for the lowest levels of supervisors. This seems very circular! How do you get supervisory experience if entry-level supervisor roles require or prefer supervisory experience? Many of our WOI are supervisors/managers, how did they step into that first managing role? —- Sara Page, CPA
A: (Monika Miles, CPA, President at Miles Consulting Group, Inc. in San Francisco, CA)
What companies are really looking for in hiring or promoting to a supervisory role is whether the candidate can work well with others, delegate, and work in and understand a team dynamic. Often employees learn some of these skillsets in their day to day. However, it can arguably be difficult to prove that one has these skills without the title. That’s why, in my opinion, it’s so important to find ways outside the office to learn those leadership skills – in ways that transfer to a resume. And, of course, it’s going to sound predictable coming from me, but I’m serious about it – join your local AFWA board! (Or the board of another organization you belong to). Once you’ve served as an officer or director in AFWA, you’ll learn those valuable skills about delegating tasks (particularly if you are a committee or event chairperson), time management (you’re juggling your career and AFWA duties, after all), and managing organizational priorities and member needs. These things all translate directly into the characteristics of a good supervisor in the workforce.
Trust me. It works. I joined AFWA right out of college when I was working for a national firm. And while the large firms have a definite hierarchy and set path for promotion, some people do get promoted faster than others, and some of that is due to talents learned outside the office. I became an AFWA committee member and ultimately a board member early in my career. And as I advanced in my job, I also did so within our organization. As a staff member and senior, I held board positions. As a manager in the firm, I was on the executive committee and ultimately President of my chapter. Once I owned my own firm (and was no longer beholden to someone else for a promotion), I had the opportunity to serve on AFWA’s National Board and ultimately serve the organization as National President. If you do this juggling act long enough, you find that you give and take your skills from work and board service – putting in play the valuable skills you learn in one place at the other as well.
So, volunteer for an AFWA board position. Talk about it at work with your boss. Highlight your responsibilities and accomplishments you achieve on your AFWA committees. You’ll have proof of supervisory skills in no time!
A: (Shelly Gams CLU®, ChFC®, CASL®, CFP®, a Financial Planner in Billings, MT)
I am self-employed so I have always been the supervisor. I guess I appointed myself. However, from my reading, it has become clear that one of the differences between men and women is that men will apply for a position even though they don’t have all preferred experience (see this Forbes piece on the Confidence Gap). As women we need to adopt a similar mind set when applying for positions. Even though you may not have the “supervisor” title on your resume, you likely have the experience from projects you’ve managed, training you’ve been through, or volunteer roles you took on. Include this experience when you apply for those jobs that appear to be just out of reach. So if we are applying for a position with requires experience, we need to include our experience of a “supervisor” of projects, training, etc. Even though we don’t have the title, we have the experience.
For another perspective, and further inspiration to apply for that management position, check out this piece from The American Genius.