citing unofficial management experience

A reader writes:

I have been working for a big multinational company over the past 4 years. One of my colleagues was recently promoted to the position of department manager. She is very smart and competent, but she is only 30 yrs old and doesn’t have experience in managing people, decision making, etc.

I am 11 years older than her and even though I have never worked as a manager either, I have more maturity than her. She often comes to me asking for advice, suggestions and ideas about things and I am happy to help her. We have a healthy and transparent relationship and I have no problems with that. I don’t mind she got that position as she has been working for the company for longer than me and therefore she was naturally the one to replace the former manager.

I am currently looking for another job in both inside and outside of the company due to some personal reasons. My ideal job would be as a team leader, supervisor or even a manager, but during job interviews I have been told that even though I have the experience required for the position I can’t be hired as I don’t have leadership experience.

The question is, how can I explain on my resume and on job interviews that I have been helping my manager in running the department but I can’t prove this aspect of my role since this is “unofficial”?

Well, I’m not sure that you can. Although your manager asks your advice and bounces things off you, that doesn’t really translate to helping to run the department. After all, many good managers will ask their staff for advice and ideas; I’d actually argue that it might speak to her maturity rather than a lack thereof.

Which leads me to: There are some good 30-year-old managers out there. Now, it’s entirely possible that this particular manager is immature and hindered by inexperience, and that she genuinely is looking to you to help her shoulder the burden, so I readily admit that I may be reading this incorrectly, but the way you explained it here came across to me as a chip on the shoulder about working for a younger manager.

Even if I’m misinterpreting, be aware that it may come across that way to future employers unless you pick your words very carefully. Otherwise, if the position you’re interviewing for needs to work with 30somethings in positions of authority (which it very well might), you might torpedo your chances.

(Wow, I’m all about the tough love these days. I’m going to scare people off soon.)

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. Brian*

    As someone who is also looking to move into a “leadership” position, I can feel the reader’s pain. It is really hard to demonstrate leadership when you aren’t in a leadership position. All you can do is be prepared for the “what leadership experience do you have?” with how you have taken on leadership roles within your team and on any projects you are working on.

    Show initiative (not the same as leadership, but related) in finding new ways to do things. Get others on your team involved in solving problems. Ask project managers to let you direct portions of the project. Ask to lead a small project. Ask your supervisor for leadership roles.

    When you do any of the above, write it down and review the list before you go into the interview. Good Luck!

  2. The Engineer*

    You appear to have a good relationship with your boss and she likewise respects your opinion. How about asking her to delegate a management responsibility to you so you can build some “official” experience. A good supervisor should be training subordinates to replace them (if not directly at least similarly).

  3. Joan Woodbrey*

    To quote John Maxwell:Most people who want to get ahead do it backwards. They think, ‘I’ll get a bigger job, then I’ll learn how to be a leader.’ But showing leadership skills is how you get the bigger job in the first place. Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a process.

    I don’t think that age, so much as mind set has to do with ones ability to lead. As soon as you change that mind set, which is in your control, you will get to the place you want to be.

    Also, to Ask A Manager, I think your advice is getting a little fiesty!…and I like it!

  4. HR Wench*

    If you seriously think she got the job because of tenure and she’s immature because she is 11 years younger than you AND asks you questions then you have way more problems than you realize.

    You sound jealous, bitter, do not seem to understand that tenure is worthless to companies that know what they are doing when they hire/promote managers and I’d bet a doughnut that it shines through in your interviews.

    I could be totally wrong. Maybe she snaps her gum, twirls her hair and says “ohmygod what do I DO?” to you every time someone calls in sick. But somehow I doubt it.

  5. Noob*

    Ummmmm… hr wench, I usually love reading all your comments, and agree that the original submitter didn’t exactly seem thrilled with the situation, but he or she wasn’t the one sounding bitter – were you have a rough day Wednesday?

    Also agreed on the “tenure is worthless to companies that know what they are doing” point, but that assumes this company knows what they’re doing, which may not necessarily be a valid statement…

  6. HR Wench*

    Aw, Noob. Neutrality bores me sometimes. I’ve been through enough counseling sessions with employees that sound like the original poster to know what lurks beneath. My point: You want a management position? GO GET ONE. Can’t get one? Figure it out, yo.

    PS As a 30 year old former HR manager I have had to coach employees and managers as old as 63 on appropriate workplace behavior. Age ain’t nothing but a number.

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