By the sixth year in middle management, most employers have already decided whether a middle manager has senior-level potential or has become a "career" middle manager, according to a new survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC).
This relatively brief period of time suggests that middle managers must make a strong impact within their companies as quickly as possible if they wish to rise to senior leadership. The ORC survey also determined that "career" middle managers are seen as critical to the success of the company.
On average, a middle manager remains in the same position for 6.3 years before being promoted to senior management. However, if these employees do not make the jump to senior management within that same time period, most surveyed companies said they would be considered "career" middle managers.

Opportunities for Advancement

The survey also found that after six years in middle management, the opportunities for advancement to the senior level are greatly reduced. Therefore, middle managers who aspire to senior positions must carefully evaluate their career choices at this time, including the possibility of moving on to a new company, to determine how to best meet their goals.
Middle managers who aspire to become a part of senior management should be aware of how much time they have to reach that goal, the ORC survey says. Given this shorter time period, it is critical that these middle managers speed their career progress by investigating the available opportunities at their company and positioning themselves as potential senior managers more aggressively.
Survey respondents also noted that when filling senior-level positions in their companies, the majority would prefer to promote from within: Only 23 percent of respondents said they consider a candidate from outside the company to be more attractive than one from within.
A Company's "Bench Strength"
Since most senior managers are promoted from the middle-management level, it is important that companies focus on improving their "bench strength" of middle-management employees. Hiring managers must make smarter and more strategic decisions when recruiting middle managers, since these individuals represent the company's future senior leaders.
The survey also revealed that hiring managers are more tolerant of frequent job changes at the junior level than at the middle or senior level. As an employee moves on in his or her career, frequent job changes become less tolerated; therefore middle and senior managers must be more careful in making their career choices.
On average, respondents in the ORC survey expect a junior candidate to remain with the same company for 3.2 years. For middle-management candidates, that figure rises to 4.1 years, while senior candidates should remain at their current position for 5.2 years.


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