There are nearly 2.3 million general and operations managers employed in the United States. These jobs are found in every industry, but many business managers work in service-related industries.
Virtually every business in the United States has some form of managerial position. Obviously, the larger the company is, the more managerial positions it is likely to have. Another factor is the geographical territory covered by the business. It is safe to say that companies doing business in larger geographical territories are likely to have more managerial positions than those with smaller territories.
Generally you will need a college degree for this career, although many retail stores, grocery stores, and restaurants hire promising applicants who have only a high school diploma. Job seekers usually apply directly to the manager of such places. Your college career services office is often the best place to start looking for these positions. A number of listings can also be found in newspaper or online help wanted ads and through employment agency Web sites.
Many organizations have management trainee programs that college graduates can enter. Such programs are advertised at college career fairs or through college job placement services. However, management-trainee positions in business and government are often filled by employees who are already working for the organization and who demonstrate management potential. Research the industry that interests you to find some of the best places to break in.
Most business management and top executive positions are filled by experienced lower level managers and executives who display valuable managerial traits, such as leadership, self-confidence, creativity, motivation, decisiveness, and flexibility. In small firms advancement to a higher management position may come slowly, while promotions may occur more quickly in larger firms.
Participating in different kinds of educational programs available for managers may accelerate advancement. These are often paid for by the organization. Company training programs broaden knowledge of company policy and operations. Training programs sponsored by industry and trade associations and continuing education courses in colleges and universities can familiarize managers with the latest developments in management techniques. In recent years large numbers of middle managers were laid off as companies streamlined operations. Competition for jobs is keen, and business managers committed to improving their knowledge of the field and of related disciplines—especially computer information systems—will have the best opportunities for advancement.
Business managers may advance to executive or administrative vice president. Vice presidents may advance to peak corporate positions—president or chief executive officer. Presidents and chief executive officers, upon retirement, may become members of the board of directors of one or more firms. Sometimes business managers establish their own firms.
Tips for Entry
Analyze yourself, or ask others who know you well to analyze you, to determine whether you are thought to have characteristics of a good manager—for example, supporting others with praise rather than criticism, leading by example rather than preaching, or not being afraid of admitting mistakes.
Observe those in a position of authority in your everyday life—parents, teachers, police officers, and others. Notice characteristics in these people that you think make them good managers.
Develop the habits of a good manager by, for example, setting goals for yourself just as you would for an employee who reports to you.
In communicating with fellow students or coworkers, practice keeping an open mind and a positive attitude in order to foster better understanding.