6 Ways to get people management experience

People management experience is a valuable skill that can propel your career forward in many ways. If you are looking to move into a management role or move forward in your career, but feel that you lack the experience to do so, ManpowerGroup South Africa’s managing director, Lyndy van den Barselaar, explains that there are ways you can take the initiative and seek the experience you require.

Here are six ways to gain people management experience—both within your company and elsewhere:

Manage a ProjectAsk your manager or leader if there is a project within your department you can manage. This will showcase your leadership skills and showcase your willingness to learn and develop, while allowing you an opportunity to learn and gain new skills.

Volunteer for Community Service – Community service projects allow you to develop your leadership and management skills by putting you in charge of a specific mission that also contains benefits for others. “This is a good way to gain project and people management experience, without the pressure of having to do this under your boss or manager. Seek guidance from the more senior people on the project or within the organisation for which you are volunteering, and learn as much as you can. Often, these lessons can be translated and carried across to your career,” says van den Barselaar.

Lead a Company Initiative – If you are struggling to find opportunities to gain people management experience in your particular role or department, try other avenues within your company - such as your human resources department, your mentor, or another department head. “Gaining experience for your own career development will most often also benefit the organisation,” notes van den Barselaar.

Get Involved With Your Alumni Association – Contact the head of your university alumni association and ask for any ways you can help organise and manage a project—membership drives, class reunions, and fundraising activities are always in need of assistance.

Serve on a Professional Association Board – Join an association for your profession and look for opportunities to serve on committees. Such organisations are usually short on volunteers, especially for leadership roles. “Not only will this allow you to gain experience, but will more than likely present the opportunity for networking with potential business contacts and mentors – another important aspect to career development,” says van den Barselaar.

Read – Make a habit of reading biographies of famous business leaders, white papers for your profession, and books on people management. While this isn't direct experience that could lead to employment prospects, it will inform your thinking on management principles and give you points of discussion for when you want to have that conversation with your leaders and other influencers.

“Keep in mind that gaining people management experience of any kind could lead to other opportunities in terms of career growth. Be willing to learn, don’t fear failure, and remember that learning and growing is a life long process that should be prioritised in the modern business environment,” concludes van den Barselaar.