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How to Advance from Entry Level to Middle Management

Thinking about advancing into middle management? The good news is that there’s an abundance of opportunities available in the packaging industry. Yet, securing one of these coveted roles does require planning and effort on the part of the candidate. Learn how to prove you have what it takes to land the big promotion.  

Let Management Know You Want to Advance

Many assume that with hard work and loyalty promotions come automatically, but that’s simply not true. In many cases, the best people for the job are completely overlooked because of how they’ve positioned themselves or their reputation within the organization.

No matter how qualified you are, management won’t know you want to advance unless you tell them.

If you do get passed over for promotion, don’t be bitter and resentful. Instead, ask why and learn what you can do to avoid the same issue in the future. Better yet, try the following and get ahead of the curve:

  • Schedule a private meeting with management - and explain that you’re happy with your current role but want to take on more responsibility. Share your goals with them and ask what you can do to move forward. Asking doesn’t guarantee anything will happen, but it’s an important first step in the process.
  • Collect feedback regularly - so that you can course correct as you go. Don’t wait until review time to learn where you stand. Be prepared to accept candid criticism at any     time (knowing that ultimately, it’s for your own good).
  • Implement the advice you receive - most senior managers are happy to assist if they know you’re serious and the right candidate for promotion. Ask them what they did to get where they are at and determine how you can emulate their success. But act on what you learn to avoid burning bridges and losing support in the future.

Packaging executives seeking promotion advocate for themselves.  

Start by tracking performance in all aspects of your career. Like keeping a log of your annual accomplishments and noting how they benefited your organization. Listing the results you’ve achieved on assigned projects or personal initiatives. And collecting testimonials from others that highlight your skills and abilities.

Don’t just tell management you want to do more - show them you already have.

Act the Part Before You Earn the Title

Let’s face it - laying low and flying under the radar never got anyone promoted. Just the opposite. If you want to enhance your packaging career you must differentiate yourself from the crowd. Executives advancing into middle management are singled out for their actions - not because there’s an opening and the role has to be filled.

If you’re waiting to be asked, a job promotion is not likely in your future.

The best way to stand out is to constantly add value to the organization. And it doesn’t take a grandiose idea to make your mark (although they certainly don’t hurt). Even small gestures and actions can create a major impact. For instance:

  • Provide additional ideas and input - don’t be the person who sits silently in the back of the room in every meeting. Speak up and share your thoughts and opinions. They won’t all be winners, but you’ll at least keep yourself top-of-mind with the decision makers.  
  • Mentor a junior employee, intern, or new hire - without being asked to do so. This shows that you’re a team player and you care about the success of others as much as your own.
  • Volunteer for extra assignments or committees - to refine your skills and demonstrate you have what it takes to lead a team. These forums also provide excellent networking opportunities to grow your ties and reputation within the company.

Besides thinking about additional ways to add value, observe what other successful leaders in the organization are doing. Evaluate their actions against your own to understand your strengths and identify where there’s room for improvement.

Make it a point to be seen as a leader.

Be the type of person others come to for answers and help in resolving difficult issues. A trusted resource. A problem solver. In other words, a skilled packaging executive worthy of promotion.

Polish Your Skills for Management Opportunities

When climbing the corporate ladder, you have to take charge and not settle. Smart packaging professionals understand that career management is ultimately their own responsibility.

They plan and act accordingly to ensure they’re ready when their time comes. They also seek out opportunities to challenge themselves and build their skills. For example:

  • Taking classes or attending conferences -that may benefit or improve the organization. If you see a gap in workplace training or processes take it upon yourself to find a solution. And don’t hoard your newfound knowledge - share it with others so that everyone can benefit.
  • Donating time outside of the workplace - by serving with a nonprofit or charity. Coaching youth sports teams is a good example. Building your leadership qualities in these organizations serves you on the job as well.
  • Providing useful feedback to others - whether it be as a sounding board for ideas or a confidant for personal concerns. Anytime you can lighten the burden of others don’t hesitate to act.

Keep in mind that small acts are still part of developing leadership capital.

These types of experiences assist in cultivating communication skills, encouraging others, and leading an organization. All of which are incredibly valuable in modern packaging organizations.

And don’t forget about reading good management books and learning how to improve your expertise. Because as your pay and responsibility increases, so will the challenges that go along with them.

Job Promotions Start with Great Mentoring

We’ve all heard that the fastest way to the top is with the help of others. And there’s no better example of this principle than in the workplace. Partnering with a mentor is a proven method to accelerate career growth and increase job performance.

Many people assume acting like you already know everything after a promotion is the way to go. But that’s not the case. You don’t need to have all the answers right away. More importantly, you don’t have to figure them out on your own.  

Finding a mentor to confide in and receive honest feedback from is priceless.

After all, they’ve walked the path you’re on. They can provide insight into what actions to take and which pitfalls to avoid. These collaborations may also generate leverage in terms of expanding your network and potential resources.

Although your first thought may be to find a workplace mentor, it’s not your only option. Great mentors based outside of your organization are beneficial as well. They can provide alternative perspectives that your internal counterparts may not be able to see.

Having no stake in the outcome also fosters more honest and open discussions.  


The jump from individual contributor to middle management in packaging can be a big one. However, growing your skills along the way keeps you ready for the challenges you will encounter.

Letting others know about your intentions is the first step. Along with taking advantage of leadership opportunities as they arise and seeking advice from those who’ve gone before you.

When you focus on serving others and providing value people notice.

And if the process stalls, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere. Experienced packaging recruiters can help you identify opportunities that match your goals and experiences. They can also recommend companies whose cultures fit with your personal values and expectations.

All of which create the ideal environment to cultivate your management potential.

What other advice do you have for advancing into middle management?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Chase & Associates

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