Breaking into Science Management – From the Lab to the Office
Is a science management role right for you?
It may involve a pay increase, you may have an elevated job title but is it really what you want? It is easy to confuse motives for promotion and roles science management can be very different from a lab role. If you feel downtrodden and that your views and findings are ignored perhaps you are just working for the wrong company or in the wrong team.
Getting a management role doesn’t necessarily mean being taken more seriously! If you enjoy research, or testing or any hands-on environment, think about ways of that working for you rather than moving to, what will inevitably be, a more administrative and people-based role.
Do you have the skills and the attitude?
Management is all about overview. Depending on the level of seniority you need to have a clear idea of the team, the department, the company and the industry. Your focus is on company objectives rather than the details of the research and you must be able to communicate that.
If you are a details-orientated person you need to consider how you will cope in a new role where the bigger picture is key. You need to have good working relationships with current colleagues and know that you are able to work as a team successfully. You need to want to work with others and pull together to get things done.
Although this may sound obvious, unfortunately, lots of people want to get into management for the wrong reasons, for example, avoiding teamwork, a company car or to ensure they get their own way!
Demonstrating science management experience
If ‘manager’ has never been part of your job title you may feel you don’t have experience but most of us have taken on roles or tasks that are part of the management remit. Answer these questions;
- Have you led a team on a project?
- Have you presented findings to a board?
- Have you taken on administrative or legal duties in the lab?
- Have you worked on an annual report or drawn up statistics for presentation?
- Have you organised a social for your workmates?
- Have you liaised with different departments to gather information or complete a project?
- Have you worked on timetabling or work schedules?
- Have you been on the interviewing panel for new staff?
- Have trained new staff or run induction sessions?
All of these tasks are experience for science management roles and I’m sure you can think of many other examples.
Getting a science management role
Once you’ve decided that science management is the right direction you need to start planning your future. Be confident about your skills and don’t assume that clients are looking for an MBA and a long list of management positions. If they do want that then the job is not right for you.
Lot’s of science companies NEED management with hands-on experience. They need someone with experience with the possibilities and limitations of a research environment. They need someone that has the bigger picture overview combined with an attention to detail regarding health and safety, legislation and process.
If you think you can do the job go for it but remember to frame yourself as great science management potential by focusing on team achievements, your people skills and achieving company (rather than individual) objectives.
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