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Asked by T on May 25, 2016

What are ways college students can get leadership/management experience so they could have the opportunity to be put in leadership positions straight out of college?

Answered by Mike, Hiring Expert at Avery Dennison Corporation, on May 27, 2016

Hi there!

Great question - I'm glad you asked now!  So many people get a degree and expect to be placed in leadership positions without any prior experience.  I'm glad that you're taking the right approach and asking how to do it before you graduate.  

There are several ways to start getting leadership experience - here's a few to start with:

- Campus organizations - Consider joining an organization on campus that aligns with your interests (either socially or professionally).  For example, American Institute of Chemical Engineers or the Student Marketing Association.  And, once you join, think about running for an officer position.  Especially being a peer-determined role, that goes a long with employers.  

-  Volunteering - I believe a lot of companies put a lot of emphasis on leadership experience through volunteering efforts.  For example, if  you could pull a ground of your peers together and regularly go work at a soup kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, or other philanthropic effort, that would be representative of strong leadership experience.  

- Camp counselors - For anyone that's done it, camp counselors require a lot of leadership to be successful.  Often times, camp counselors have to deal with any number of issues that require problem solving and other individuals' buy-in to work.  I know we once hired one candidate over another based on the value we saw in their experience spending two summers as a camp counselor.  

- General work experience - For me, I know that I gained a lot of my experience not through anything school or volunteer-related, but through my part-time jobs while I was in high school and college.  I worked at a golf course doing maintenance for many years.  When I left to go to school, I found another golf course and was able to leverage my past experience.  Eventually, after a lot of work and dedication, I was promoted to an assistant, where I often had to lead small teams to accomplish specific projects.  I learned a lot from this role, especially around leading by example, being humble, knowing when to ask for help - all traits of leadership.  I'm not saying that you have to go out and start applying for maintenance jobs at golf courses, but consider how your part-time job in food service, retail, or any where else could really help with that leadership exposure.

I hope this helps - best of luck in your search! 

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Answered by Amanda, Hiring Expert at Daikin Applied, on June 1, 2016

Hello,
Great question.  To gain leadership experice before graduating college look at a few different ways:
1. Student Organizations - Consider joinging a campus grounp and taking on leadership roles.  
2. Volunteerism - Find opporunities where you can lead people in a different organiztions.  Take the lead by organizing and leading a group or program.
3. Within current work - Look at opportunites where you can take the lead.  Show you want to do more and take the lead without being asked.  Typically this will lead to more leadership experience within a company.
Remember, in a tight job market, you may not get an immediate management role.  Show any new employer you have the will and drive to take on more challenges.  Lead through example, show a new employer you have the skills to do more.
Best wishes!


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Answered by Ashley, Hiring Expert at Textron Inc., on June 3, 2016

Great question!
There are a number of different ways to gain leadership/management experience while still in college that will help you stand out to recruiters as you apply for the positions that interest you.
Building off of Avery Dennison’s response, here are some additional ways to gain experience:

Group Projects – If your college classes have any type of group work, take on a leadership role. This type of experience will help you gain knowledge of how to lead groups/teams, learn how to work with different types of work and learning styles and handling adversity if a conflict arises. Leading group projects throughout college will help you develop management and leadership skills, while also allowing you to determine the areas you need improvement on.

Internships/Co-ops/Work Experience – Having internships and/or work experience is a great way to develop leadership and management skills. You may be thinking that you can’t get a lead position in an internship. However, that is not the case. Great leaders do not need a title to manage or be a leader. Focus on leading by example, if a fellow intern or peer is struggling on a task; offer your help and guidance if you know how to do the task at hand. These types of experience are great talking points during interviews and can help you describe your leadership’s skills and further potential.

Many college students have a goal of getting a leadership role straight out of college. There is nothing wrong with that. However, many companies have Leadership Development Programs that focus on developing high potential employees. These types of programs are developed for people that have leadership potential and will be given valuable training needed to become a successful leader.

One last thought, a leader in our company was asked what the key to gaining a leadership role was. The response was simple. Lead. In whatever you are currently doing, lead. Leaders aren't hired because others believe they might have the right stuff. They are hired because people know they have the right stuff. Don't be discouraged if your first role out of school isn't a manager level role. So, I want to encourage you that if you are lucky enough to be hired into a company you are excited about, even in an entry level role, lead in whatever you do and the opportunities will present themselves in time. There is a lot to be said about people who work their way up through an organization. That's a great way to build credibility as a leader. Until then, lead those around you to accomplish great things.

Good luck and I wish you the best!

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Answered by Ashley, Hiring Expert at The Hershey Company, on June 2, 2016

Great Question! I think its good you are thinking ahead and know exactly what you are looking for. There are different ways to get leadership experience through school. One being a leader for an organization on campus. There are also a lot of great companies that offer management trainee programs. Also, take in mind most people who graduate don’t end up in a leadership/management role straight out of college depending on field. If you are interested in a type of field or specific company you may need to work your way up. It is not a bad thing to learn the company from the ground up! Best of Luck!

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Answered by Traci, Hiring Expert at Accenture, on June 6, 2016

It’s always a great idea to be looking to add leadership experience to your resume while still in college. Many employers will look for this kind of experience in their candidates, not because they are looking to put the candidate directly into a leadership position, but because many of the experiences you’ll have in these types of positions will set you up for success in a number of different ways. In general, and I would like to stress that it is impossible to cover every industry and every position when I say this, do not expect to be put into a leadership position straight out of college. For that matter, pay close attention to the job post when it describes desired leadership experience, and it’s never a bad idea to have a conversation with the hiring manager about it as well. While the skills you will have gained in college will certainly help, on-the-job training and leadership experience is quite different and usually comes with time. To answer your question though, leadership experience can come in the form of a part-time job in which you hold such a position, can come from a leadership role you may hold in an on-campus or school sponsored club or group, and can even be a leadership role you may hold on a sports team.

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