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