What Employers Want: Leadership Skills

Today’s post continues my discussion of some of the more common skill sets that employers may list when advertising job openings by addressing what is meant by “leadership skills” (which is sometimes referred to as “management skills”). Entry-level positions often require that you demonstrate leadership or management skills, even though it’s unlikely that you’ll be asked to “lead” or “manage” other people in the organization early in your career. However, employers want to know that you have that capacity so you’ll be ready for more responsibility when the time comes.

One of the best ways for recent college graduates to demonstrate leadership skills is through their efforts in extracurricular activities. Last September I wrote a series of posts about how to succeed in college, several of which covered the different types of extracurricular activities that you might choose from and how they could benefit your job search. Holding an office or chairing a committee (or being captain of an athletic team) provides you with anecdotes that can support your leadership abilities: You can talk about how you managed duties and people, presented the organization to other groups, raised funds, added new members, led the team to victories, or other accomplishments that were a direct result of your leadership.

Another option is to talk about the work you’ve done on classroom team projects. Most students are going to be involved in course assignments that involve group or team work at some point, and even though that group/team may not have had formal leadership roles, you can describe your participation, especially if you were instrumental in assigning tasks, monitoring progress, motivating your teammates, or coordinating the group’s efforts.

Many of you may have had experiences in your home community that can also be recounted when describing your leadership abilities. Participation in scouting, religious-based groups, nonprofit or political organizations, or other volunteer activities may provide you with anecdotes that show your ability to take charge of specific situations and manage the efforts of a group. If you’ve applied for a job that specifically requires leadership or management skills, be sure that your resume clearly lists some activities that demonstrate your abilities and be prepared to talk about them in more detail during an interview.