How to become an office manager in 8 steps (with definition)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Office managers work across all sectors and industries to help get the most from different corporate functions, such as administration, sales, finance or customer service. An office manager uses many administrative, interpersonal and management skills to ensure the office function works smoothly. Office managers often carry out a wide range of tasks which may include record-keeping, budget management, hiring and managing staff and arranging meetings. In this article, we explore more about this interesting and varied role and share how to become an office manager.

What is an office manager?

Office managers are responsible for managing any staff working within the office, which includes delegating jobs, tracking performance and undertaking any basic HR. They also carry out a range of duties such as organising meetings, handling confidential records, recruiting new staff, issuing communications, ordering office supplies and handling budgets. If you enjoy working under pressure, being responsible, helping to develop and support others and want to take an active role in smoothly managing an office, this career path could be a good fit.

Because office managers are found in businesses of all sizes and across all industries, there are also plenty of opportunities to progress. This is also a role that you can progress into via different routes. For example, you might begin as an office junior in a coordinator or assistant role. You might also start in a junior management role straight from university or take the apprenticeship role and work and study at the same time in a junior office support role.

How to become an office manager

If you want to learn how to become an office manager, there are various routes into this profession depending on your existing experience and education level. Here are some key steps when considering this career path:

1. Get the right qualifications

It's helpful to have a degree in a relevant qualification to prepare you for work as an office manager. This role can be challenging and includes various functions, such as finance, HR, customer service, people management and operational management. Many office managers have a bachelor's level degree in a relevant qualification, although some may have a higher degree, especially in bigger firms.

Examples of relevant degrees could be business studies, finance and accounting, law, organisational behaviour and management. It can also be helpful to have additional relevant certificates and qualifications in fields such as IT (particularly Microsoft Office functions), quality management processes (such as ISO), health and safety and first aid, particularly in a smaller company where the scope and dimensions of the role are likely to be broad. Sometimes these courses are available online and even for free, so you can build up your CV as you look for your route into this career.

Related: How to write an office manager cover letter (with examples)

2. Consider the apprenticeship route

If you're looking for your first job or early in your career, you might consider an apprenticeship route. With an apprenticeship, you learn on the job whilst studying for qualifications and receive an apprenticeship wage throughout. There are office manager apprenticeships available in companies across the UK. You can find these roles by carrying out a job search or by approaching local apprenticeship providers (such as through your local college network) to find out if they're offering other routes into an office manager apprenticeship. You might also consider aligned apprenticeships such as business management.

Related: What does an office coordinator do? (Including skills)

3. Gain relevant experience in a junior role

Office managers are usually hands-on people who are prepared to learn on the job and apply their skills, knowledge and energy to various tasks. The more experience you can gain in relevant and transferable fields, the better. For example, you might work in an office coordinator role to learn from an experienced office manager and gain a deep understanding of the role and its dimensions.

You might take on a project or operational coordinator role to learn first-hand how different functions in a business work together. Some office managers also progress from PA or executive support positions, with broad experience supporting directors in administrative roles. You may also have experience from a voluntary position, sports club or leisure activity that has allowed you to develop skills in budget management, organisation, communication and leadership.

Related: How to write an excellent office manager CV (with example)

4. Develop your functional skills

Office managers have a wide range of skills because the role is usually varied. It helps to take all opportunities to develop relevant and transferable skills that you can then flag up on your CV. For example, depending on the type and size of the company you're working for, your responsibilities might include:

  • maintaining office paperwork and procedures for document management, payroll, health and safety, quality management, timesheets and work schedules

  • organising office systems for record-keeping, including filing and maintaining document management systems

  • developing and managing processes for records management

  • managing office budgets and carrying out basic bookkeeping and financial reporting

  • hiring new staff, inducting and training new starters and carrying out direct supervision of more junior office staff

  • helping to plan and coordinate meetings and other business events

Related: Management skills for CV: soft and hard skills to include

5. Highlight your transferable soft skills

As an office manager, you also need a variety of soft skills. These can be highly transferable from other roles, volunteering positions and even leisure pursuits. For example, you could show that you're a natural communicator from your experience in prior customer service, retail or other front-line roles.

You could evidence your natural skills with organisation and planning through a project that you successfully delivered. Key soft skills for this role include leadership, organisation and planning, written and oral communication, time management, the ability to work with a wide range of people and excellent listening skills. It can be helpful to speak to a friend or colleague about your skills and get a different perspective on your strengths and abilities.

Related: How to manage an office effectively as a first-time manager

6. Build your network

It's helpful to build your network as you may hear about office manager opportunities through your contacts. Look for opportunities to meet other people through work, networking events, volunteering opportunities and sports and industry meet-ups. Talk about your career ambitions and explain why you're a good fit for the role.

You could also find ways to help other people at work and to show your skills and attitude. For example, in your existing role, you could volunteer for projects or additional responsibilities or go out of your way to help a colleague. This can all help to build your professional reputation.

Related: 14 of the best networking strategies and where to use them

7. Apply for office manager jobs

When you've gained enough experience, qualifications and skills, you can successfully apply for office manager roles. It can be useful to use a recruiter that specialises in business and corporate roles. Submit your CV and take any feedback on board to keep refining it. Creating a strong cover letter also helps to flag up your experience and show you're a good fit for each role that you apply to.

Tailoring each cover letter and CV for the specific role that you're applying for can help you position yourself as a prime candidate. This is because many businesses use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) as part of their recruitment processes. ATS systems automatically select CVs for HR managers to review by matching keywords and phrases from the job description itself. A recruiter can also review your CV to see if it needs any development or work to showcase your suitability for office manager jobs.

8. Keep developing as a professional

The best office manager roles tend to be hotly in demand. It's helpful to keep working on your skills, knowledge and expertise to show how you're the best candidate for the most attractive roles. Great office managers often have keen insight into the business operating context including its competitive, legal and regulatory environment. To stay abreast of what's going on and to show your insight and awareness, read about your employer's industry widely and stay up to date with internal memos and communications.

Where opportunities arise to become accredited or skilled in a new and relevant function, perhaps a computer program for example, then take them. Continue to build your network and display initiative in your role to impress people. These ongoing efforts can help you to find progression opportunities with greater ease. You may also find that people approach you with potential opportunities, as your reputation grows.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles