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On the Job: Don't be Dilbert fodder — learn to manage
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Managers often are portrayed as incompetent nincompoops or royal jerks who should be locked in their cars and never allowed to interact with human beings again.

But that's not the whole story, and most workers know it.

They see their managers deal with the stress of their own bosses, motivating workers who don't care about their jobs and putting up with angry customers who call their mothers unflattering names.

Yeah, who wouldn't want that job?

Apparently, a lot of people. A recent OfficeTeam survey finds that 76 percent of workers say they are not interested in their manager's job.

But hold on. Being a manager can be rewarding and could be key to your garnering a better salary and more opportunities. And maybe, just maybe, you like the idea of leading people and helping them achieve their goals.

As the economy begins to improve, chances for promotions into the managerial ranks are expected to increase. So how do you best position yourself to move into leadership?

First, if your company has a leadership program, let the right people know you're interested. Talk to human resources people and your own boss to start the application process and see what steps you need to take to be considered.

But even if your company doesn't have a formal training program, that doesn't mean you should just rely on the powers that be to recognize your potential managerial greatness. You'll need to work to position yourself to be thought of as a potential boss, says Daryl Pigat, branch manager for Robert Half International.

"What I always tell people is to do the job before you have the title," Pigat says.

That means you show leadership abilities such as good communication skills, an ability to stay focused on getting things done and a desire to help others to succeed, he says.

"You want to let it be known that you're ambitious, but don't be cocky," Pigat says.

He also suggests it's a good idea to find a more senior manager to serve as a mentor or to lead a project at work.

One of the biggest mistakes of workers considering a management job: "They often think it's easier than it is," Pigat says.

Another big error: Assuming that just because you have top-notch skills in a certain area that you'll be a good manager. Having the latest technical skills won't be enough when you have colleagues fighting like children or the company tells you to lay off underperformers, he says.

"People often forget that managers have managers," he says. "But you've always got to be a steady ship even if you're getting it from above and below."

If you would like to develop skills that position you for management and ensure you won't become fodder for Dilbert cartoons, then try these exercises:

Hone communication skills • Consider Toastmaster's International or some public-speaking classes to help you project your message in a confident way.

You need to learn to learn skills such as persuasive speaking techniques and how to give talks confidently in front of groups of people.

Join associations • Rubbing elbows with other managers at industry conferences or communicating with them via Twitter or LinkedIn are good ways to cast yourself in a more managerial light.

It's also a chance to develop a relationship with more seasoned professionals.

Anita Bruzzese can be reached c/o Gannett ContentOne, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, Va. 22107.

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