Becoming an operations manager
Step 1: Starting up
There are essentially two common paths to secure a job as an operations manager:
The first path involves joining the operations department at the entry-level. Depending upon your academic qualifications, you should be able to join as a junior-level executive or worker in the operations department. Although these roles might be entry-level, that does not necessarily mean that they would be low-paying. Compensation would depend on the complexity of the role. For example, even an engineer joining an aerospace company in the operations department right out of college would be considered an entry-level employee but would surely be well paid.
The second path is to move laterally from some other department. Not all departments will offer the same opportunities for lateral movements. It would depend upon the specifics of the role and how much of your experience matches the requirement of that role. For example, if you have experience in HR you might be able to move to HR operations. Similarly, if you have accounting experience you might be able to move into operations roles which require cost accounting, inventory management, etc.
Getting a lot of good experience on worthwhile projects and enhancing your domain knowledge would be the focus irrespective of which path is chosen.
Step 2: Adding value to your CV
To increase your chances of securing that coveted position in the operations department, you would have to distinguish yourself from other candidates. If it’s a leadership role that you’re after, executive courses or an MBA might be worth considering. Similarly, if your role requires focusing exclusively on operational efficiencies then a Six Sigma certification might be more beneficial. These academic qualifications are discussed in more detail in another article linked below on qualifications.
Step 3: Getting specific
As you gain more and more experience while progressing through your career, it might make sense to start focusing on a niche. The reason for this is that as a specialist you would generally be more in demand and be able to secure jobs with better pay packages. For example, if you focus exclusively on gaining experience in the automotive sector, that would make you a more obvious choice for any automobile company looking to hire an operations manager.
Step 4: Choosing the end goal
The end goal of a carrier in operations might be the COO (Chief Operating Officer) position or even the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) position. However, there are dozens of other senior-level positions that one could aim for depending on where your interests lie. For example, one could choose to become an independent operations consultant or join a private equity team as a turnaround specialist focusing on operational matters, etc.
The possibilities are endless but if you decide your destination early on in your career, it will keep you motivated and allow you to get there faster.
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