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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

5 Essential Lessons for First-Time Managers

Last April, I applied for an entry-level sales position at my current company. It wasn’t my dream job by any means, but at the time, I had just graduated from college and was employed at an advertising agency I was desperate to get out of.

After my interview, to my surprise, I was informed they thought I was too qualified for the job, but they thought I was a perfect fit for a new position that they were creating: Social Media Manager, for the newly established social media department. Was I up for the job?

You bet! First off, I’ll admit I’m pretty enthusiastic when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. And enthusiasm aside, I was also more than ready to take on the responsibility that came with the position.

But being a first-time manager can also be scary. It means that you’ll be calling the shots and trusting your own judgment in the decisions that you make. Not every decision made will pan out the way you want, and you’re going to have to learn to accept mistakes and move on to new initiatives. Looking back on what I’ve learned, here’s what I’ve found to be the keys to nailing that first management gig.


1. Ask Questions

Every company runs a little differently, and what you did at a previous business may not be able to translate as well into the new one. Ask questions if you aren’t fully familiar with a company policy, and talk to the people in and out of your department. Those who’ve been there longer than you have will have insights to share, and most people will be more than happy to help the new person (you) get up to speed. Plus, they’ll be curious to meet you and see what you’re all about!


2. Take Initiative

As a manager, it’s no longer just your job to do what your boss tells you—you’re now the one responsible for figuring out how you and your staff can accomplish your broader team goals. As social media manager, for example, you have to be the one to define the right social media initiatives, Twitter campaigns, and Facebook strategy, and then direct your team to execute them.

And if there’s something you think the company is lacking—say, you're not on Pinterest and you see a great opportunity there—make it happen! It’s your job to find those sorts of gaps and fix them, not wait for your boss to tell you to do so. The worst that can happen when taking up a new initiative is that it may not pan out in the long run—and that’s okay. Not trying at all is usually far worse than trying, failing, and learning from it.


3. Stay Hungry

Scrawl these words of wisdom from the late Steve Jobs somewhere close by your workspace. The honeymoon period with your job will most likely wear off after a couple of months or years—that’s just the way things go. And when it does, you’re still going to have to muster up the daily motivation to show up at work and thrive, day in and day out.

To stay engaged and excited, keep up your appetite for learning. Read everything you can get your hands on that pertains to what you do, and take in as much as possible. Work will be a whole lot more interesting when you’re constantly bringing in new ideas, testing them out, and using them to push yourself and your team forward.


4. Realize You Might Not Get Everything Done in One Day

It’s okay if you have more ideas than you and your team can execute today—or this week, or this month. That’s a good thing! Being a manager means that you should have a vision for where your team is going, but it doesn’t mean that you have to bust your chops day in and day out to the point where you’re stressed out all the time. Don’t do that to yourself, or your team.

Learn instead how to manage your time each day. Give yourself enough space to be able to take on a last minute meeting, sudden assignment, or lunch get-together that goes on longer than expected. The higher up you move, the more frequently you’re going to find you just don’t always get complete control of your schedule.


5. Keep a Sense of Humor Handy

Be a boss that laughs. Trust me on this one—when you laugh, it’ll put everyone at ease all around you. Know that you can joke around at times, and still be taken seriously when you get down to work. After all, life’s too short to spend each and every day in the workplace all work and absolutely no play.

Read more from The Daily Muse’s Career Advancement Month.


Photo of woman working courtesy of Shutterstock.