How To Land Your Dream Job As City Manager

For many people, the idea of being a city manager is appealing. You’ll get to manage a large number of employees and play a key role in developing the future of your community. 

But the job isn’t just about making decisions it’s also about building consensus with other leaders and getting buy-in from the public. So how do you land this dream job? We’ve identified 15 steps that will help get you there:

Be A Leader, Not A Manager

In order to be a good city manager, you must be a leader. You can’t manage people – you can only lead them. This is because your role as city manager requires you to inspire others and set an example for them to follow.

You may have heard the term “management” before but were never quite sure what it meant or how it differed from leadership. Well, let me tell you that the difference between management and leadership is subtle but significant: 

While management focuses on efficiency, leadership focuses on effectiveness; while management aims at stability through control, leadership aims at growth through trust; 

While management relies on knowledge alone (or at least primarily so), leadership relies not just on knowledge but also upon values such as cooperation and teamwork.;

In short: leaders are coaches who help others reach their full potential through encouragement rather than criticism; they have high expectations for performance from themselves as well as those around them; they’re accountable for results; 

They provide support by listening attentively without judging people negatively when things go wrong (no one’s perfect). 

In contrast to managers who merely oversee operations within an organization without providing direct input towards improving outcomes or increasing productivity levels among subordinates.,

Get Experience Running A Department

If you have been in the workforce for long enough, you’ve probably already learned a lot of the above skills. You may be an expert at managing budgets, people, and projects. You might even be able to manage change or expectations (though that’s where many people fall short).

But what about your boss? How well do you know your boss’ business needs? How often are you meeting with her one-on-one to get her input on projects? Does she know how to work with you when things go wrong without blaming anyone? 

If not, there’s still time! Once you land your dream job as city manager and it will happen soon the best way to make sure everything goes smoothly is by learning how these essential skills before they’re needed so they don’t come as a surprise. 

Even if it means taking some extra classes or shadowing someone who has already mastered them all (like me), knowing how every role within city government works together will help ensure success from day one.”

Prove Your Knowledge Of Budgeting

In addition to the skills listed above, you will also need to be able to explain in detail how you would go about budgeting for your city. 

This means knowing a lot of facts and figures. You can learn these by reading articles or taking a class on it, but the most important thing is that you spend some time practicing your budgeting skills so that they become second nature.

This is especially true when it comes down to figuring out how much money each department will receive and how much money is available for long-term projects or capital improvements. 

City Manager jobs require applicants to know exactly how much cash flow is available at any given point during their tenure as well as how every single dollar gets spent within each department under their supervision

Learn Economic Development Strategies

As a city manager, you’ll oversee economic development strategies for your city. This means that you’re responsible for bringing business into the city. You may be able to attract new businesses by offering them tax incentives (or by lowering the taxes overall). 

Or, perhaps you can make your community more attractive by attracting tourists and making sure there are plenty of amenities nearby.

Whatever tactic you choose, it’s important that your strategy is long-term in nature: economic development isn’t something that happens overnight, but rather something that takes time to see results from. 

So while short-term investments might not work out as expected, try not to get discouraged! When done properly and with patience, economic development efforts can pay off big time down the road!

Demonstrate An Understanding Of How Local Government Works

This is a crucial step. You need to be fully aware of what you’re getting into before taking on this role.

Learn the ins and outs of local government: You’ll want to know what makes city government-run, how it works, and how that differs from other types of administration (such as county or state). 

This includes understanding the laws and regulations that govern your area, as well as its budget and finances. It’s also important for you to know about its staff who does what in which departments? 

And finally, you need to understand its community and what are their needs. What do they value? What makes them tick?

Learn What Skills And Characteristics You’ll Need To Be Successful In The Role

Ability to manage people: In your role as city manager, you’ll need to work with a wide range of people from various departments. You’ll need to be able to manage these relationships smoothly and effectively.

Ability to manage a budget: A key part of the job is understanding how much money there is in the city’s coffers, as well as how much money is expected over time. This requires excellent organizational skills and an ability to make difficult decisions when necessary.

Ability to manage a large organization: The larger your municipality or other entity (or its employees).

The more difficult it will be for you as city manager to make sure everything runs smoothly without making mistakes along the way and this is just one reason why many cities hire an experienced professional like yourself!

Earn A Master’s Degree

The most obvious way to get ahead in your career as city manager is by earning a master’s degree. 

By having an advanced degree, you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from other candidates and demonstrate that you’re committed to lifelong learning. Moreover, the education can help round out your skillset and give you more opportunities for advancement.

For example, some employers require that their city managers have at least a master’s degree in public administration or business administration with concentrations in public policy or urban planning. 

In addition to these requirements, many cities will offer competitive salary packages to those with advanced degrees from prestigious universities like Harvard University or Northwestern University.

Some city managers may also choose to pursue another type of graduate program such as an MBA (Master of Business Administration) or JD (Juris Doctor). 

These programs vary widely depending on the institution offering them but generally take two years after earning a bachelor’s degree instead of four years like Ph.D. programs do.”

Sharpen Your Communication Skills

Communication skills are important for any job, but they’re especially essential for city managers. Communication is much more than just talking; it’s listening, writing and reading, understanding body language and tone. 

In other words: how well you listen to your constituents and how you convey that information to them through writing will affect their perception of your ability as a leader.

Most people have some idea of what communication skills are and how important they are in every aspect of life.

But when asked to define what they mean by “communication skills” or explain why they should be important in the workplace, employees often struggle to answer “it’s important because…well…I guess?”

Communication (or rather the lack thereof) has been blamed for many lost jobs throughout history. Poor communication can cause problems ranging from minor misunderstandings between coworkers all the way up through international conflicts involving multiple countries!

Work On Your Soft Skills

Soft skills are important for every job. They can be learned, but they often come from experience and practice. These skills include communication, teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution and decision-making among others.

If you’re interested in becoming a city manager one day, now is the time to focus on these soft skills. Ask yourself: “What do I need to improve on that will help me land my dream position?” Then take steps toward learning those things as soon as possible!

Learn To Set Priorities And Make Tough Choices

There’s no denying that being a city manager requires a lot of big decisions, some of which have very real consequences for the people you serve. As such, it’s important to learn to make good decisions and that starts with knowing how to prioritize. 

In order for your city government to function at its best, it needs all the help it can get when making decisions about what projects or policies are most important.

It is crucial that any decision-maker in this role learns how to prioritize effectively from the beginning of their career as a city manager. 

There are many skills involved in being an effective decision maker: knowing how much information is enough and what kind of information will be most useful; understanding how people will react; 

Knowing how long things take; understanding context and implication; understanding where your resources are going and why; learning how long different processes take (and when they don’t need any more time).

Be Willing To Make Changes When Necessary

To be successful in this job, you’ll need to be willing to make changes when necessary. Change is inevitable and will happen regardless of your preference. 

You’ll see this everywhere: whether it’s a new mayor or council member who’s elected, staff retirements and replacements, budget cuts, or even just a change in technology (such as when cellphones replaced landlines). 

If you can’t adapt to these changes quickly enough and effectively enough so that they don’t hinder your ability to get things done, then there’s no way that you’ll ever become an effective city manager.

Be Able To Plan For The Long Term, But Think Short Term As Well

Long term planning helps to ensure that your city’s growth is sustainable and that you can provide services to its citizens for years to come. It’s important to consider how much money you’ll need in order to continue providing basic utilities such as water, electricity and sewerage. 

You should also make sure that the long-term plans of your city balance with the needs of its residents.

In contrast, short term planning deals with day-to-day issues such as crime rates or road repairs. 

Short-term planning requires more flexibility because these issues change so quickly; in contrast, long-term planning will require more persistence because it takes time for these problems to be fixed

Engage With The Community And Build Public Support For Your Ideas And Plans

It’s important to create a profile online so you can use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to get the word out about your ideas. You can also use public forums (like Reddit) as well as community events like town hall meetings or festivals.

You can conduct surveys through email or by handing out paper surveys at events in order to get feedback from residents of your city on what they would like to see implemented there.

Build Consensus Around Your Vision For The City’s Future Even If It Means Making Some Compromises Along The Way

Even though consensus building is a skill you can learn and develop, it’s helpful to know how to make the most of your existing skills. 

To do this, look at the big picture of what needs to happen next. In this case, that means thinking about how you can use your existing abilities to gain a broader understanding of what others need from their city manager and then meeting those needs.

This might mean giving up some power or control over day-to-day operations so that you can empower leaders in other departments and build consensus around your vision for the city’s future. 

It may also mean delegating tasks while still keeping track of the big picture and making sure everyone else knows what they’re supposed to be doing as well.

The Job Is Not Easy, But There Are Many Paths To Get You There

As a city manager, you are the leader of an organization in charge of making sure your community runs smoothly and effectively. 

While it’s important to be able to manage people and projects, it’s also vital that you understand how local government works and what skills and characteristics are needed for success in this role.

This is where experience comes into play: if you’ve already been running a department or working at another level of government, then great! 

You’ll already have some valuable knowledge about budgets, economic development strategies, and how things work behind the scenes and those skills will make landing your dream job much easier. 

But if not (or even if so), don’t worry; there are still many paths available for gaining experience that could help put you on track toward becoming an excellent city manager someday.


That’s it! Now you have all the tools you need to land your dream job as city manager. This is a challenging role, but if you are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to learn more about the position, you can make it happen.