How to become a strategy manager (a step-by-step guide)
Business leaders are responsible for planning short-term and long-term actions to help them reach their objectives or achieve their goals. Strategy managers help business leaders coordinate their plans and objectives so they make logical decisions. It's important to know what you require to become a strategy manager to determine whether it's a suitable career for you. In this article, we discuss what a strategy manager is, what they do and how to become a strategy manager.
What is a strategy manager?
Before we look at how to become a strategy manager, it's useful to know what a strategy manager is. A strategy manager is a corporate professional who oversees the formation of short-, mid- and long-term business plans. They work alongside management teams and corporate executives throughout decision-making processes and consult different departments where necessary. This ensures they implement operational strategies that bring together all business pieces and teams, such as finance, human resources, marketing and partnerships. Where business elements are discordant or don't align, strategy managers curate a plan that rectifies this problem.
In simple terms, strategy managers are the key risk leaders and planners within a business. Strategic planning supports business growth and development. The business world is ever-expanding, so it's important for strategy managers to stay aware of these advancements to account for them in their strategies. For example, some businesses now work with cross-sector collaborations, multinational supply chains and siloed business units. A strategy manager knows how these business units work and how to improve them or draw them into business plans.
What does a strategy manager do?
The primary role of a strategy manager is to evaluate a business' strategy and identify strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement. The scope of a strategy manager's responsibilities varies according to what company they work for and their experience level. Some key duties include:
monitoring and reporting on project development
assessing market trends and competitors
collaborating with the senior executive leadership to set the business' agenda
implementing strategies that raise customer value and curb expenditure
identifying gaps in the business and suggesting improvements
developing the businesses' key performance indicators
evaluating potential threats and implementing plans to minimise them
leading several corporate departments to meet specific challenges
identifying threats and new opportunities
listening to proposed recommendations and implementing them
overseeing the market status and determining how to dominate the market
developing a culture of ethical behaviour in the workplace
coaching departmental leaders to help them meet their goals
setting goals based on their assessments
hiring and training new employees
converting strategic priorities into quantitative and actionable plans
writing risk reports for senior management
using analytics to benchmark initial results and compare them to future successes
designing and implementing competitive products to attract more clients
conducting research and analyses into stakeholders and current business operations
How to become a strategy manager
To become a strategy manager, you require certain experience and education qualifications. Follow our step-by-step guide on how to become a strategy manager:
1. Earn a bachelor's degree
First, complete an undergraduate degree in strategic management or another relevant subject. Some relevant courses include:
Choosing one of these courses allows you to develop your knowledge regarding key strategic management concepts and apply them in coursework or other assessments. For example, you may learn the fundamentals of risk management, organisational behaviour analysis or financial decision-making. Admissions requirements for these degree courses vary from university to university. A C or above (equivalent to four or above) in English and maths at GCSE level and complete A-levels in relevant subjects are required. These might include business studies, economics and accounting.
2. Gain experience
Consider gaining initial work experience after completing your undergraduate degree. This allows you to put your theoretical knowledge into practice and determine whether a career in strategic management is for you before continuing your education. You can gain experience in any sector of business, including management consulting, business administration and strategic planning. In these roles, you're likely to present analysis reports on current business strategies and suggest improvements.
You can also enhance your proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Experience in these areas boosts your CV and gives you a competitive edge when applying for strategic management jobs in the future. Whilst gaining experience, be sure to foster professional relationships with your employer and colleagues. These connections could prove useful down the line. It's also important that you identify any areas within strategic management you enjoy so you can hone your job search.
3. Earn an MBA
There is no set requirement for a master's degree to become a strategy manager, but having one can further your career prospects. Pursue a master's in business administration (MBA) to build on your business management skills. The course often focuses on teaching you fundamentals in economics and how to assess the long-term consequences of strategy implementations. Completing your MBA means you're qualified to work for large organisations beyond your initial experience.
Related: What is brand strategy? (Including brand strategy examples)
4. Develop your skills
Many aspiring strategy managers develop their skills through education and experience. It's important to stay aware of what skills are important so you can target them in your CV or cover letter when applying for strategy manager jobs. Some essential strategy manager skills include:
Analytical skills: Strategy managers convert data and quantitative information into actionable strategies. To create successful strategies, they also perform various analyses, such as market analysis, competitor analysis and performance analysis.
Leadership skills: As a strategy manager, it's your job to motivate and inspire teams to maximise production. You are also responsible for challenging them, so they continue to grow with the business.
Project management skills: Strategy managers oversee projects from the initial planning stages to their eventual outcomes. Project management skills allow them to coordinate all tasks, including forecasting risks, monitoring projects and communicating development to senior management – in an efficient manner.
Problem-solving skills: These skills allow strategy managers to make rational decisions under pressure. All decisions a strategy manager makes have a direct impact on business growth and success, so it's important that they're always accurate in their decision-making.
Related: Branding strategy vs. marketing strategy: key differences
5. Achieve certification
Gaining certification isn't a prerequisite to becoming a strategy manager, but it helps you stand out amongst other candidates when applying for jobs. Chartered Management Institute (CMI) offers the strategic management and leadership certification course. This certification aligns with the Standard for the Senior Leader's Master's Degree and CMI Professional Standards. To gain certification, you complete 140 hours of study – in which you'll learn fundamentals in strategic risk management, entrepreneurial practice and strategic approaches to diversity, equality and inclusion. Becoming a member of the CMI community also gives you access to industry resources and learning material.
6. Update your CV
Make sure your CV includes your education, work experience, certifications and skills. Present information clearly and concisely. Use bullet points where possible and break your CV into sections. Hiring managers usually look for measurable evidence of your capabilities, so be sure to include quantitative points where you can. For example, you may share that you managed to increase a company's profits by a given amount or that you helped boost the number of loyal customers by a certain percentage.
6. Gain professional work experience
You require a minimum of three to five years of experience in strategic management to qualify as a strategy manager. Look for professional work experience beyond entry-level positions by seeking out roles in large organisations. These businesses usually require you to manage large teams and communicate with C-level executives. If you identified a niche in your earlier experience that you enjoy, be sure to factor that into the jobs you apply for.
In a professional role, you'll have more responsibility when it comes to making decisions and driving results. Some companies allow you to learn on the job, whilst others may require you to have more of an onboarding role – mentoring new employees and teaching senior departments on how to enforce strategic plans.
7. Pursue professional certification
Pursuing professional certification as a strategy manager is good for your career development. It ensures you're aware of new business concepts and allows you to continuously broaden your skill set. With professional certification, you can become an expert in the field and take on more challenging roles. It shows employers you're well-versed in established industry methodologies and best practices.
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