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Management | The Careers Service Management – Oxford University Careers Service
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About this role

Management roles exist in all sectors – so, when considering a career path in management, it is worth asking yourself: ‘what do I want from a management career?’ Is the main focus to be on managing people or is it essentially project management?

If your preference is for people management then you could be running an organisation, a team of employees or a part of the business. Your work will range from recruitment, logistics, finances, planning and scheduling, policy or any combination of these.

Project management involves planning projects from beginning to end. Your role will be to plan and organise resources, set deadlines and plan finances to keep the project within budget.

There will be overlap between the two aspects of management but with people management it is likely you will be managing people who may be working on different projects, whilst project management will see you overseeing the work of your team members on a specific project. A career in management is exciting because you are the owner of a section of the business and ultimately may even own the business: setting direction but also making sure it delivers in an increasingly global marketplace. It requires leadership, being decisive and taking action. Roles are fast-paced, but also stimulating and rewarding.

Management activities

Management activities typically include:

  • Defining objectives, allocating resources, hitting targets and taking responsibility for the outcome
  • Project work
  • Recruiting, supervising, motivating and developing staff, to ensure effective team working
  • Effective communication
  • Controlling finances and managing budgets
  • Problem-solving, resolving complaints, and managing change

A number of organisations seek managers who have experience and understanding of most of the elements that make up an organisation and then organise training programmes that allow entrants to rotate around departments before specialising in one particular function. Such ‘general management’ training has appeal to many, but if your preference is for a specific management function, such as finance, you will tend to find more opportunities advertised.

Types of job

Most organisations offer management positions which tend to specialise in defined management areas, such as Purchasing, Production, Marketing, Sales, Finance, Human Resources, Manufacturing and Logistics/Distribution, all of which have an element of general management work within them.

There are opportunities to join a scheme with the chance to experience a range of management streams before deciding to specialise. These ‘stream’ opportunities typically fall into ‘commercial’ and ‘technical’ options with a variety of programme titles such as ‘Change Delivery Programme‘ at Sky, for example, or ‘Generalist Fast Stream‘ working across Central Departments of the Civil Service.

Many other schemes offer a  specialist entry point, but can also offer the opportunity to try out one or two other areas via secondments in the first few years. The important thing is that you decide how sure you are about a particular management area. If you are unsure, apply to schemes where you can gain experience in more than one area. If you know where you preference lies, then specialise now with the knowledge that you can often negotiate a change in management area early on into your training. Interestingly, to reach the Managing Director role in an organisation, most large companies will look for someone with experience in more than one management area and increasingly in more than one organisation.

Starting salaries vary considerably, depending on whether it is a public or private sector organisation. Discussions with some of our graduate recruiters here at Oxford suggest a range of starting salaries between approximately £24,000 and £40,000, but remember that this depends often on location, business size and sector. There are an increasing number of ‘general management-type’ graduate programmes on offer in sectors including retail, technology, transport, and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG).

Managers responsible for running large, corporate, commercial organisations can expect salaries that run into six figures. Often in this sector there are other significant areas of compensation to be taken into account when considering an overall salary package, e.g. cars/car allowance, pension arrangements, share option schemes, study leave allowances, season ticket loans and so on.

Entry points

Most people enter general management roles directly from an undergraduate degree. There are a number of postgraduate courses that may be of interest, particularly in general business, but these are not essential for entry. It is equally unlikely to create any significant advantage for you. Developing good business knowledge can help to demonstrate your commitment to the work and interest in business issues. There are a number of organisations offering general management schemes. Entry on to these schemes is typically very competitive. Retail management offers further opportunities similar to general management, allowing people to move through store management into more strategic positions.

MBAs are ideal for those who have significant managerial experience behind them and who are in a position to apply their learning in a more senior strategic and managerial situation. So, for UK-based recruitment, it is often more advantageous to delay MBA plans until after some significant work experience.

Skills & experience

Skills needed

Employers are looking for a broad range of skills. You will need to demonstrate skills or, if not, potential in the following areas:

  • Commercial awareness, combined with an ability to think strategically and to plan ahead
  • Awareness of globalisation and cross-cultural issues
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Flexibility to adjust to changing circumstances whilst still meeting targets or deadlines
  • Good oral (including presentation and public speaking) and written communication
  • Numeracy and IT skills
  • Potential to supervise staff, including listening skills, influencing, team-working and good interpersonal skills
  • Resilience and an ability to handle criticism
  • Decision-making and problem-solving
  • Empathy and diplomacy

Getting experience

Getting some form of management work experience is valuable. The extra insight, the sense of confidence you will feel in your career choice, and the evidence of commitment and ability which it will provide when it comes to interview, is useful.

Many of the large global recruiters offer internships in general/commercial management roles: e.g. Rolls-Royce plc, Sky and Centrica. For all these types of vacancies, search CareerConnect.

If you are unable to get into management roles, then think laterally. Getting experience in any role that will improve your communication skills, team-working and organisational skills will be invaluable. Increase your skillset and knowledge by taking part in ‘Insight into Business’ and The Student Consultancy programme organised by the Careers Service. Combine this with discussions with alumni, look out for management courses or employer visits, and you will improve your chances significantly. Employers are increasingly converting people from their internship schemes onto permanent graduate opportunities, so do consider planning ahead.

There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer as well as on the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship, visit the Government’s webpages on the National Minimum Wage.

Getting a job

The main sectors that offer general management roles are:

Public Sector

There are increasing opportunities for graduates who want to work in the public sector, the NHS, Civil Service, local government and the armed forces. The NHS Management scheme aims to prepare graduates to work as a health service manager in finance, health informatics, HR or general management. The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) and the Civil Service Fast Stream are intended for graduates who want to work in UK national and local government.

Graduates interested in the military can apply to join the Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force at officer level – the management role within military.

Retail banking and insurance

Retail banking (also known as high street banking) is a good choice for those with managerial plans who would thrive in a fast-paced financial environment. Graduates can be employed as trainee branch or relationship managers. Large retail banks, building societies and supermarkets offering financial services often run graduate branch management schemes. They typically last around two years and many go on to become area managers.

The insurance sector is known for providing Generalist Graduate Programmes, where typically you will be experiencing three or four rotations in different departments (e.g. risk management, underwriting and brokerage), gaining a broad understanding of the sector over a two year period. At the end of the programme, you will then be able to specialise.

Retail and FMCG sector

Going into this sector does not mean you will be shelf-stacking. Rather, you would be helping to manage budgets, overseeing pricing and stock control and leading a team.  Typically, graduates start out as trainee store or departmental managers and many leading retailers, such as the John Lewis Partnership, Tesco and Aldi, run management training schemes.

Logistics and Operations

This function and sector is experiencing increasing growth. As a graduate you will be involved in managing a multi-disciplinary team that will range from IT and stock control to transport. Most opportunities are through a general management trainee scheme and then onto a management role in your preferred area (examples of these specialised areas may be in transport, warehouse, distribution, etc.).

Hospitality and Leisure

The hospitality and leisure industry is all about the consumer, so if you want a customer facing management role that requires the ability to think quickly and decisively, then this sector may be for you. Many large hotel groups run General Graduate Trainee Schemes- the Clifton Hotel Group is an example of these.

Where to find vacancies

Careers fairs are a major source of vacancies for those looking at general management. A key fair to attend is the Oxford Careers Fair in October each year, where you will be able to see a diverse range of recruiters and thus be able to compare and contrast opportunities and work ethos. Large international companies offering high-quality training schemes will generally have a high profile during Michaelmas Term, with opportunities mostly filled before Easter. Some have deadlines as early as November.

The primary sources of job vacancies are CareerConnect, Prospects Today, The Graduate, the Guardian and the Telegraph.

Equality & positive action

A number of major graduate recruiters have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting graduates from diverse backgrounds. To find out the policies and attitudes of employers that you are interested in, explore their equality and diversity policies and see if they  are recognised for their policy and practice by such indicators as Disability Confident Employer , ‘Mindful Employer’ or as a ‘Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’.

The UK law protects you from discrimination due to your age, gender, race, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act and to find out where and how you are protected, as well as what you need to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

Our resources


The following books are available to read in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • Successful Project Management, Martin Manser
  • Quick Look at Management, Mike Dale

Take-away material

Collect the following material from our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • Prospects Directory
  • Times Top 100
  • The Guardian UK 300
  • Target Jobs: Get Directory

Podcasts of Past Events

Running the Show! From TEDx to London Music Scene

The challenges, learning and opportunities that come from Running the Show.

  • 0:00 – Introduction
  • 5:00 – TEDx Oxford: Student led international event: Indyana Schneider
  • 24:30 – Oxford Entrepreneurs: Engaging with commercial partners and event management: Chris Williams
  • 47:00 – The Columbo Group: Marketing on the London club scene: Jason Ellar
  • 1:14:00 – Q & A (ends 1:38:44)

This information was last updated on 23 November 2017.
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