How to become a leader and help others to grow as one too

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Many jobseekers, whether casual or active, are still confused about how to best obtain leadership skills.  

According to Right Management Consultants, a ManpowerGroup Company, leadership remains a key business skill that hiring managers increasingly want to see on resumes/CVs or LinkedIn profiles.

Further, once leadership skills are obtained, many professionals are unsure about how to best demonstrate these skills.  

This article will seek to discuss leadership and how it relates to the job search as well as overall career and personal development.

The Case for Leadership

Leadership does not simply mean ‘being the boss’ or a job with the word ‘manager’ in the title.  

Leadership in a business setting has evolved over time, and has come to signify taking ownership of or accountability for projects, processes, or clients.   In today’s workplace, driven by efficiency, employees often work with different coworkers on a project basis, or perhaps hold consultant status, juggling multiple clients at once. Indeed, these days, sometimes we are the boss, and sometimes we are not.  

As such, hiring managers like to interview candidates with this type of managerial experience, for it demonstrates relevance in today’s uncertain, sometimes loosely structured environment.  This itself is an important business skill.

Even if you are not seeking a job as a manager, these days, you may not have a choice:  you will manage, in one way or another.

Soft Skills

Being a leader, especially in today’s matrixed, global workplace, also means having superior ‘soft’ skills (or people skills, as they were once called).  This means a high degree of emotional control and strong communication skills – the ability to perceive others’ personalities quickly, and motivate and inspire a team of professionals from different backgrounds or work styles to get the job done.

 Leaders act with patience, integrity, and respect for all around them, and work with confidence, loyalty, and commitment.  

 If you are not working in an environment which allows you to obtain these soft skills, in addition to the harder skills of leadership, you will definitely need to find a way to obtain these skills outside of your current workplace – in addition to perhaps at some point, moving on from your workplace.  

 All in Your Spare Time

One way to obtain leadership skills, for casual jobseekers who are currently employed, is to simply ask your manager if there are any existing projects which need additional attention in the form of you supplying your labor.  Adding this additional experience to your current position on your resume/CV or LinkedIn profile will serve you well.

 The unintended consequence is that you may impress or delight your current employer even further, which may complicate matters when you decide to move on.

 For jobseekers currently out of work, asking a manager for additional projects, of course, is not possible.  Instead, a jobseeker intent on securing leadership experience via additional projects will need to consider unpaid opportunities as a way to bolster his or her skillset.  After all, there certainly is time to spare.

 Unpaid opportunities, while in a volunteer capacity, can still be positioned as a key component to one’s experience.  This unpaid project work can deliver the chance to shine – in addition to yet another way to meet new professionals (see The Value and Importance of Professional Networking, for more on the topic of networking).

 Here are a few examples:

•Join the planning committee of the local industry trade group or software user group

•Teach a business course at a local college or high school 

•Contribute to an open-source or crowdsourced project online, such as Wikipedia or Mozilla (these are great names to put on a resume/CV)

 

Here are the benefits:

•Leadership experience

•Training and education experience, if you teach

•Safe haven if you make mistakes (they can’t give you a pay cut and won’t likely fire you)

•Networking and meeting other like-minded professionals (if the organization is part of a larger national or international organization, ability to meet people from across the globe)

•Increased social interaction and improved social skills

•Ability to obtain written recommendations 

•Possibility of receiving awards or special recognition

 Of course, you needn’t consider volunteering only for a business organization; many more volunteer opportunities exist at non-profit organizations focused on healthcare, animals, the environment, social causes, and the like.  There certainly exist leadership opportunities in such organizations, and while bolstering your experience, you can have a chance to do good in the world.   A true win-win.

 One word of caution about volunteering:  do not lose sight of the fact that you are doing it primarily to obtain leadership experience (though the networking doesn’t hurt either).   Volunteering requires a significant investment of time, and several organizations are more than happy to have you work on their behalf for as many hours as possible.  At some point, you may need to determine if there is sufficient ROI to continue in a volunteer capacity.  If you are not receiving value from the volunteer commitment, resign and move on.

 The Results – and How To Use Them

You do not need to disclose on your resume/CV or LinkedIn profile that you performed your duties on a volunteer basis, unless you feel compelled to do so.  Indeed, you can cloak the very nature of the arrangement until a hiring manager asks.

 In subsequent interviews you have for (real, paying) jobs, you can certainly reference your volunteer experience.  Many interviewers continue to ask applicants, ‘Tell me about your leadership experience,’ or ‘What was the largest team you’ve managed?’   Your part-time, volunteer experience can serve as the direct source for answers to such questions.

 Leadership experience does not simply benefit your career path – it directly impacts your own personal life and the choices you make.  Knowing when and how to lead effectively is perhaps the most valuable, extensible skill you can acquire.  Even handling mistakes – which helps in determining your personal and professional strengths and weaknesses – is a skill which can only be obtained once you have been asked to make decisions and take responsibility.  Leadership is learned, crafted, and perfected over time – and you should blissfully enjoy every moment of it.

 In conclusion, it is imperative that every jobseeker attempt to obtain leadership experience.  Besides reinforcing a professional resume/CV, the benefits are innumerable, both on a personal and professional level.  Part-time, volunteer, and virtual opportunities exist to obtain leadership experience, and are worth exploring on an ongoing basis.

 (Article contributed by Jake Wengroff)

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Comment by Jane E.

Demonstrating leadership experience and skills on your resume can indeed help you get hired. If you don\\\'t have any leadership experience, it might be a good idea to join a nonprofit organization. If you are good with people, you might be given a job whre you can practice your leadership skills.

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