Operations managers: what do you actually do? How can I be you?
July 17, 2015 7:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm an Operations Manager and I'm looking for a new job. When I look at job ads for Operations Managers, what they want varies widely. What do you or your Operations Manager do? And what can I do to broaden my appeal?

I'm currently in a tiny niche. I was the second hire after the GM so they called me Operations Manager because I just did everything the GM doesn't do.

People management is my strong suit. Officially, I have 20 direct reports but the reality is I also look after people who do not currently have supervisors, so it's more like 50-100 at any time. I'm great at keeping in touch, making sure people have what they need, and putting out fires, both in and outside of the organisation. I love looking after people and have created a very loyal and motivated group. I also do all the fun stuff; annual picnic, birthdays, recognition/rewards etc. Managing people takes up about 50% of my time.

A lot of the rest of my time is spent designing procedures and writing policies because we're quite new but growing very fast (2 to 2000 people in 5 years). I've been around since the beginning so it's always been me who decides how we do things. I make sure everyone knows what to do, how and where to find information, and I create the information. This covers stuff like compliance, recruitment, induction & training, and staff development.

I create most of our communications materials (newsletter to members, web content, information for staff/gov/public) and also do the actual uploading of web content. I do a similar thing for internal communications, it goes up in an online thing that's a lot like an e-learning platform. I designed the user interface. Ditto for our database. I do all the social media. I know how to do computer stuff from doing it. I don't know all the words for what I do but I can make and maintain a website (with help), we run our mailing list from the website and also use the stats.

An important part of my job is representing the organisation on a consultative committee to a government department. I meet them each quarter and we write policy together. I'm also usually the one who goes out and speaks to groups, about once a month.

I don't do much number crunching. I make sure my people stay within their budgets (which my boss has always set). I look at KPIs with my team and spit out lots of reports about how we're growing.

A lot of job ads are looking for specific industry experience but I don't have any industry experience, in any industry, to speak of. My organisation is the first of its kind in this country, and maybe worldwide because it addresses something very specific to my state. The only way I could do another job in my "industry" is to replicate this in another state. It will happen but not for a long time, legislation needs to change first. My previous job was running my own business for nearly 10 years*. I was hiring out consultants so it's not really any kind of industry. Before that was odd jobs while I was studying and traveling (waitressing, admin, customer service, writing junk mail).

I have a BA and am doing my masters in something I love but is highly unlikely to get me a job (think lofty humanities). I have no formal qualifications for business or management.

So my questions:

1. Tell me what you do as an Operations Manager or what your OM does. What are the transferable skills I should work on or emphasise?

2. Should I get some formal qualification, if so, what?
I had a quick google and Lean Six Sigma certification can be as cheap as $80! If I did something like this, would an employer care who I got my certificate from?

I want to leave this job for Reasons, but I love having responsibility and autonomy, I love managing a team and I think another Operations Manager role is what will give me those things. If you think i should be searching another job title, suggestions very welcome.

*In case anyone suggest going back to this, I shut shop in the end because I was SO lonely working at home by myself. Tried hotdesking/small business hubs etc, still lonely. I love people. I want to work with them every day and build relationships and teams.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of job ads are looking for specific industry experience but I don't have any industry experience, in any industry, to speak of.

I would ignore this and apply anyway if you otherwise meet the requirements. You sound like you've had to do a lot of adapting and thinking on your feet, so you can address this in the cover letter/interview. Most skills in management are transferable. I think the main exception would be if you were applying to a niche industry that's very heavily regulated.
posted by desjardins at 7:32 AM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

The way you're describing your job reads more to me like an Administration Manager (or Director of Administration, etc.) than Operations. I work for a wholesale beverage distributor and our Operations Manager does stuff like manage the warehouse, trucking, facilities management (roofing, paving, painting, leases) - that sort of thing. I would imagine the job description is going to be very industry-specific.
posted by something something at 7:37 AM on July 17, 2015

"Operations Manager" is one of those titles that means very different things at even very similar companies.

Everything from an office manager to a plant/warehouse manager to a COO. Hell, MY title has operations manager in it! And I don't do anything anywhere near what you want to do.

I think you have to go down the road of what something something is talking about. Figure out the parts of the job you really like and want to continue and then figure out THAT job title.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:44 AM on July 17, 2015

I'm an Operations Manager.

This is a job title that is as wide as the Atlantic. It depends a lot on the industry you're in and size of your organization. I oversee fulfillment, customer service, QC and order processing. There are overlapping teams in each area that report to me and I report to the COO.

If it's finance, R&D, marketing or sales it has nothing to do with me.

This has not been the case everywhere I've worked. I've held the same job title and had my duties as narrow as just customer service and fulfillment and seen job openings as wide as "everything but sales".

I create most of our communications materials (newsletter to members, web content, information for staff/gov/public) and also do the actual uploading of web content.

This is not something any ops manager I know would be doing. This is marketing, HR, development work.

I have no formal qualifications for business or management.

Most of us don't. My education isn't even on my resume anymore. It's not an executive job, most companies are looking for skill sets and experience not an MBA. There are many unemployed newly minted MBAs.

Regarding Lean or Green or Six Sigma. Getting an $80 cert MIGHT help you get a job, but not knowing how or having a track record of actually implementing a Lean program or getting your team to conduct Six Sigma projects... is setting yourself up for failure.

The concrete skills:
Managing and training staff (up to management level). Performance review, goals, expectations, promotions, terminations etc etc. Executing organizational goals, you may not be the party setting the "big goal" but you need to know how to break the "big goal" down into achievable chunks and make tactical decisions about how you and your staff will accomplish that within a budget.
posted by French Fry at 7:55 AM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

You sound more like a Chief Of Staff to me.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:12 AM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you sound like your long suit is HR with a side-dressing of marketing. Unless you've left a lot out, I'd say you could probably describe yourself as having been an HR manager - you'd just need to explain that they titled you differently.

I wouldn't pursue the certs you mentioned, unless they are needed for some industry-specific thing.

I am an operations manager (to complicate matters further, a contractor/consultant filling that role in a company), and I feel like a lot of times it's only definable as "everything that the people who do the central mission of the company don't" --- accounting, HR, IT, legal, finance, sales, marketing, and things to do with the physical operation, like calling in a plumber when the plumbing goes out...

my own background is I have a marketing degree (beginning to wish it was in accounting), and learned how to do my job by owning and working in small/medium businesses where I always wound up being the guy who had to specialize in doing everything.

There is a misconception that businesses are consistent and identical in the way they assign tasks and titles. That's the exception rather than the rule, and even larger companies tend to mix it up a bit, unless there's some professional organization or traditional/fraternal sort of reason to standardize on titles.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:51 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

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