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Robert Vega, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900


What is management?

Management is about leadership—motivating people to meet the organization’s goals. There are management positions to be found in every sector. The majority of managers’ time is spent overseeing people, as opposed to people who specialize in more technical or other non-managerial positions. Students in management programs (like in the business school at UT) study a lot of psychology (especially industrial/organizational psychology), behavioral finance, and interpersonal communication.

If those topics interest you or if you have enjoyed getting people organized and motivated, perhaps while serving on committees or while participating in other groups, management might be a good career path.

What are the pros and cons of getting into management?

When considering the pros and cons of management as opposed to being in a non-managerial position within the same organization, you should reflect on the type of work you take pleasure in and the level of responsibility you’re comfortable assuming.
As compare to a non-managerial position, someone in a managerial position has potential to
•    effect greater change within the organization,
•    can mentor promising employees,
•    is privy to restricted information, and
•    can experience the rewards of leading a team and meeting goals.

The downsides of management are the potential for personality conflicts and resentment, added pressure from superiors, feeling squeezed from above and below, and the necessity of distancing one’s self from former colleagues.

How do I get into management?

In making the transition to nonacademic management jobs, you might be hired for your leadership potential and introduced to the workings of the company in order to learn its structure and manage a department. Or you might be hired to perform a non-managerial job, such as research, administration, or communication, but then the leadership skills you’ve shown might earn you a promotion into management.[1]

Academic Skills Beneficial to Managers

According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a historian who left academia for an editorial position at the Encyclopedia Britannica, there are many skills honed in grad school that can make a person successful in management:
•    You can write. Most people can't.
•    You can rhetorically analyze a situation and write to a particular audience
•    You can lecture and give presentations
•    You can digest large amounts of information
•    You can manage long-term projects
•    You can be ethnographically sensitive to business types and other diverse populations [2]

In an article he wrote for The Atlantic, Matthew Stewart, who has a PhD in philosophy, goes as far as to say that liberal arts graduates are better suited for management than MBA types. His main justification for this claim is that the texts we study are superior. “In books, poems, plays, music, works of art, and plain old graffiti, [human beings] have explored what it means to struggle against adversity, to apply their extraordinary faculty of reason to the world, and to confront the naked truth about what motivates their fellow human animals. These works are every bit as relevant to the dilemmas faced by managers in their quest to make the world a more productive place as any of the management literature.”[3] The purpose of his acerbic article is to convince academic philosophers that they are just as capable of succeeding in management as someone with a degree in business. You’ll find the same argument in the books listed below.

Project Management

In addition to managing people, project manager is a common position. You already know how to manage a project if you have completed a thesis or dissertation. Most people have never seen a multi-year project to completion, so in addition to all the knowledge you gained in these projects, you showed that you can
•    meet deadlines,
•    keep information organized,
•    navigate bureaucracy, and
•    persevere through difficult parts of the work.

Typically, project management is not an entry-level position, but you can work your way up to it after starting as a project coordinator or analyst of some kind. (You need to know the organization before you can manage their projects.)

Action Steps

  • Read the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, and BusinessWeek (available in the LACS library or the Periodicals Reading Room in PCL)
  • Get experience writing materials for non-academic audiences
  • Learn PowerPoint, KeyNote, Prezi, or other types of presentation software
  • Think back to leadership roles you’ve had inside or outside of academia and write about them in a way that would make sense to a nonacademic, particularly if your group met any goals or produced tangible results
  • Bookmark the McCombs school calendar of events to keep up with upcoming lectures and webinars on management
  • Browse the McCombs alumni career resources
  • Join the UT Non-Academic Alumni Network on LinkedIn to contact current management professionals
  • Visit the LACS library in FAC 18 to read more

Print and Web Resources

Clemens, John K., and Douglas F. Mayer. The Classic Touch: Lessons in Leadership from Homer to Hemingway. Revised. Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books, 1999. Print.
-    Draws parallels between situations and themes from classic texts to the modern day art of management. You can get a good sense of the kinds of quandaries managers and other corporate employees face while building on your existing knowledge of Plato, Sophocles, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Hemingway, and others (yes, all dead white guys). For example, King Lear’s problems in handing off his kingdom can serve as an example of how not to choose and groom the successor to a CEO.  Odysseus’s bouts with the lotus-eaters and Cyclops can remind business executives about the consequences of not staying focused on their goals. This could be a good book to read when you’re thinking about how to translate your knowledge of classics and literature into relevant qualifications for management jobs.

Forbes, Steve, and John Prevas. Power Ambition Glory: The Stunning Parallels Between Great Leaders of the Ancient World and Today...and the Lessons You Can Learn. New York, NY: Crown Business, 2010. Print.
-    The premise of this book is that looking to the past educates leaders for the present and prepares them for the future, a premise shared by many liberal arts disciplines. Lessons about motivation, inspiration, problem solving, maintaining perspective, and psychology can be learned from ancient civilizations. Cyrus the Great, Xenophon, Alexander the Great, Hannibal of Carthage, and the Caesars serve as examples of successful and failed leadership. Each chapter relates the historical achievements of the ancient leaders and compares them with similar examples from modern-day corporate managers. Similarly to The Classic Touch, this book could help students of history talk about their expertise in a way that impresses potential employers.

Jellison, Jerald M. Life After Grad School: Getting From A to B. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 2010. Print.

Weissenberger, Beth. “How to Win at Office Politics.” BusinessWeek. 23 Feb. 2010. Web. 19 June 2012.
Stewart, Matthew. “The Management Myth.” The Atlantic. June 2006. Web. 9 Apr. 2012.
Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. “Journeyman: Getting Into and Out of Academe (1997).” Relevant History. 1 Mar. 2004.
Krauss, Amanda. “FYI Everyone, Teachers Are Already Administrators.” Worst Professor Ever. 8 Sept. 2010.


1. Jerald M. Jellison, Life After Grad School: Getting From A to B (Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 2010), 9.

2. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, “Journeyman: Getting Into and Out of Academe (1997),” Relevant History, March 1, 2004.

3. Matthew Stewart, “The Management Myth,” The Atlantic, June 2006.

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