Tips for Leveling Up: Part 1



In July 2015, we sought answers to that “what’s next” question with our Leveling Up professional development event. How does someone with a few years under their belt leverage their connections, skills and experience into their next great role?

We gathered for an evening of answers, ideas, and discussion with Jackie Hanselmann Sergi and Melanie Damm of Koya Leadership Partners, a national executive search firm dedicated to placing exceptionally talented leadership at nonprofit organizations. Jackie and Melanie gave us a better understanding of how to position ourselves for success, and the next step in the career of our dreams. Check out our Storify for a tweet-by-tweet recap.

After the event, we realized we still had so many questions! We followed up with with Melanie and Jackie who were gracious enough to answer a few lingering questions. In fact, we got such fantastic information, we’re creating a 3-part blog series out of it. Welcome to Part 1!

What are some strategies for increasing responsibility in one's current role, in order to be a stronger candidate for future positions?

This requires a bit of creative thinking, but almost all roles have areas where someone can take on greater levels of responsibility. Identify opportunities to create stretch goals for yourself or chances to take on more responsibility as a pathway to another role. Some examples of ways I’ve seen this work well: creating and leading an internal taskforce; finding ways to work with a Board of Directors or specific board members; fundraising for your organization (beyond your normal role if you’re in development); hiring and managing another employee, intern, or volunteer(s). Which brings us to…

How do you gain supervisory experience?

Sometimes supervisory experience is given to you as a part of a new role or promotion, or it can also come as your organization grows in scale. However, being given supervisory experience isn’t a given. If you find yourself wanting to gain experience as a manager but you’re lacking opportunities to manage others within your organization, then the next best way to supervise others is to manage an intern.

Talk to your own manager or leadership team about your desire to supervise others and then prepare to “pitch” to them the idea of you hiring and managing a full-time or part-time intern. Ideally bringing on an intern will increase your capacity while costing very little to your organization, so this should be an easy sell as long as you have realistic expectations of what can be accomplished and can draft a job description that outlines duties and expectations for your intern. If your organization can’t afford to pay an intern even part-time then consider a similar strategy but managing a small number of strong part-time volunteers to help you.

One quick note about gaining supervisory experience: a lot of professionals assume that managing others is the best way to gain seniority in your career. That’s not necessarily true! Managing other people is NOT EASY. I managed a team for several years earlier in my career and I was a terrible manager who struggled to effectively lead my team, so I found other roles where I could be successful without supervising others. When you manage other people you have to toe the line between hands-on vs. micromanaging, and between striking up a trusting friendship vs. leading by authority. If you’re a people-pleaser or if you have trouble giving critical feedback, then this might not be for you. There’s a lot at play, and when you’re a bad manager (and you probably will be at first!) it can be emotionally exhausting. If managing others doesn’t appeal to you then there are other ways to advance in your career, so try it out and work on it if you can, but don’t be frustrated if it’s not your thing.

We can't wait to share parts 2 and 3 with you, but we're taking a break for the holidays, so look for part 2 in early January!