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Climbing the Packaging Ladder: How to Make the Jump into Management

A successful management career in the packaging industry is not as elusive as it may seem. Granted, there's plenty of hard work involved, and you must have an aptitude for leadership, but the opportunity is there for those who want it. If you're up for the challenge, here's what you need to know.

Tell Someone You Want a Career in Packaging Management

Employees sometimes shy away from management roles because of the increased responsibility, extended hours, and possible stress involved. Granted, it’s not the right fit for everyone, but management positions can be very rewarding for those who take the plunge.

If you want to be a leader, you have to make it known.

However, it’s important to go about this the right way. It’s okay to be eager, but not overly aggressive.

Creating self-imposed deadlines or threatening to walk should things not go your way is never a good idea. Not to mention being the exact opposite of good management behavior.

A better approach is to voice your enthusiasm while simultaneously expressing your commitment to the organization. Reassure decision makers that they’ll see a return on their investment vs. having you leave for greener pastures.

Furthermore, actively expand your network and connect with the right people in your organization. Make them aware of your intentions, provide value however you can, and they’ll likely recommend you when the time comes.

Act the Part

One of the best ways to prove that you’re management material is by operating as though you already are. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Take on new challenges

Especially the notorious ones that no one else wants to touch. Ask your current supervisor(s) if there’s anything you can do to help the team. Volunteer for projects that expand your skills or benefit the company.

The bigger the challenge, the better the reward.

Make tough decisions

Managers must do what’s best for the organization. That often means making unpopular decisions that others may not like or agree with. Simply put, managers can’t be afraid of conflict.

It’s their responsibility to hold others accountable and provide constructive criticism as needed. If you can’t stomach delivering bad news, or constantly need to have other people’s approval, management might not be for you.  

Assume the role

Model the behaviors of exceptional leaders around you and incorporate them into your everyday work habits. Common examples include:

  • ‍Supporting your peers and keeping them motivated
  • ‍Becoming a source of knowledge
  • ‍Learning how to delegate (but not micromanage)
  • ‍Shouldering the blame for problems and sharing the praise for success
  • ‍Punctuality
  • ‍Going the extra mile
  • ‍Avoiding gossip or office politics
  • ‍Being a great communicator

All of which are ideal traits for prospective managers to display.

Prove Your Value for Management Success in Packaging

While acting the part is a key element to advancement, so is proving your value to the company. A great way to do this is by keeping score on the tasks you’re assigned and the results generated afterward.

Make note of any major projects you’re a part of that generate big wins (revenue, savings, productivity, or growth) for your organization.

For these are the kinds of results that managers are expected to produce. If you don’t have any victories to reference, look for opportunities to create some.

Ask about spearheading small projects or teams. Volunteer to organize company events such as annual meetings, retreats, or conferences. Not only for the leadership skills they provide but for the chance to bolster your reputation as well.

Be the first person others think of when work needs to get done.  

Lastly, figure out how to solve tough issues for other decision makers. Be creative and think of solutions instead of just calling out problems.

Focus on The Big Picture

One of the biggest differences between entry-level employees and top executives is how they arrive at their decisions. Junior talent typically has a narrow view of their workplace while senior management thinks in terms of the big picture.

For a successful career in packaging management, well-rounded business skills are essential.

If you’ve spent the majority of your career in a single discipline or department, consider making a lateral move to expand your knowledge. If you are an expert in finance, learn more about sales and marketing. Or perhaps you’re in IT but know nothing about HR or Customer Support.

Learn how other departments work and understand the role they play in the organization’s success. As you continue this process, you’ll start to see the connections and realize how strategic decisions impact multiple stakeholders.

The best managers consider the needs of the entire company (not just their own).

Find A Mentor

As with any major undertaking, it helps to learn from those who are already there. Mentors are experienced guides who can accelerate your growth and help you avoid common pitfalls.

If you want to make your transition to management easier, finding a great mentor is a must.

Besides just showing you the ropes and assisting in skill development, mentors also provide mental and emotional support. A welcome benefit for those new to these roles.

Mentors are sounding boards that allow you to explore your ideas while providing constructive feedback. You can discuss your options without them passing judgment or having to worry about looking foolish.

Thus, it’s important to find a mentor outside of your organization to experience the full benefit of the relationship.

Finally, you’ll want to take a hard look at your inner circle and associate with the type of people you want to become. If you hope to get into middle management, seek out relationships with middle managers. Looking to become an executive? Then befriend other execs.

Always keep an eye out for partnerships that may enrich your career opportunities.

Conclusion

In the packaging industry, making the jump into management isn't as difficult as it seems. A lot of the same qualities found in top employees lend themselves to outstanding managers as well. Leading by example, solving tough problems, and motivating others are perfect examples.

However, you also need to step away from the employee perspective and develop a “big picture” mindset. This requires having a breadth of knowledge in all areas of business operations, thinking strategically, and being able to make tough decisions for the greater good.

Yep, managing a packaging organization is certainly not without its challenges. But for those bold enough to step into the ring, the career satisfaction can be enormous.

Together- We Succeed!

Chase & Associates

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