"As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others."
- Bill Gates
"Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall."
- Stephen R. Covey
A lot of graduate recruitment schemes are designed to help recent graduates fast-track their way to management positions. In this situation, recruiters are looking for your leadership abilities and they want to know that you have the skills to lead and inspire others.
Have a look at this Forbes article about whether leadership skills can be taught. And if you decide that they can, or that you already have them, then the following sites will also be useful.
The nwlink.com website has a useful overview of the 'Art and Science of Leadership', including concepts of Leadership, Motivation, Leadership Styles and Communication. Mindtools.com has a good explanation of a variety of different Leadership styles.
Gaining leadership skills
Below are some examples of how you may already have gained communication skills at the University of Bradford and beyond. There may also be some useful suggestions here if you are looking to develop your skills further:
- captaining a sports team
- running for a student council position or sabbatical officer
- founding or leading a student club or society
- taking charge of a group project
- the Duke of Edinburgh award
- student Ambassadors, PALS and other ambassador schemes on campus
- volunteering and community work working with young people, e.g. NCS.
- a decision-making role in a theatre or musical group, e.g. director, costumes, staging
Any situation that involved you taking charge and making decisions for a group of people can be used to show leadership qualities.
How do you prove to a recruiter that you have these skills?
It is not good enough to simply say “I have leadership experience ”, you have to prove that you are by giving examples of when you have worked in a team and what you did to make sure the team achieved what it set out to achieve!
Think of an example of when you have worked in a team and then use the STAR technique to describe it:
||Define the Situation
||Identify the Task
||Describe your Action
||Explain the Result
This technique is useful at all stages of the selection process, especially at interview, so it is worthwhile getting to grips with it.
Here’s an example:
Define the SITUATION: (where were you? what were you doing? who were you with?)
My voluntary work for Groundwork involves working with groups of between 10 and 15 people on weekend conservation projects. On one project on the River Aire, I was the most experienced volunteer and was asked to lead the group.
Identify the TASK (what was your aim? what had to be achieved?)
Our task was to cut back the vegetation and collect the litter on a section of the river. The work was mainly unskilled but there were issues of health and safety and it was critical that a supportive atmosphere was created before the work could be started and that all the volunteers worked as a team.
Describe the ACTION you took (be clear about what you did, what part you played in the team)
I started the day with a coffee break and asked each volunteer to introduce themselves. I then gave an interactive demonstration of the day’s tasks and the required rules relating to health and safety working in and near water. As this involved my falling in the river everyone was soon laughing and joining in. After the demonstration I asked each volunteer if they wanted to pick one particular task, or have a go at everything, and I took this into account when allocating work groups.
Highlight the RESULT you achieved (what did you achieve, what did the team achieve, be clear about what was successful!)
The day was very successful with the work being completed in record time. The real success, though, was that the feedback showed that all the volunteers had felt able to contribute fully, they had all enjoyed themselves, and they all said they would volunteer again.
Write a detailed statement like this, based on your own experience. You can then use it for applications and interviews, and summarise it for use in your CV, such as:
- Led a team of 15 volunteers on conservation work on the River Aire, requiring me to train, supervise and motivate the group to achieve the task whilst making sure they enjoyed the experience.
- I do regular volunteer conservation work and am often required to lead and motivate groups of between 10 and 15 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds.
Adapting Your Examples
The example above, for instance, could easily be altered to prove team working. It is worthwhile spending time writing statements like this about all your experiences and then adapting them to match each recruiters’ specific requirements.
- Decision making
- Management of self and own performance
- Adaptable and flexible
- Interpersonal skills
We run regular workshops on employability skills, and you can book an appointment with one of our advisers to discuss how to improve your employability in relation to your career choices. Call us today on 01274 234991 or come in to Careers reception.
Here are some free questionnaires to help you find out your Leadership style:
Other relevant websites with general information on skills are:
- Prospects – features articles on skills and how to evidence them.
- TARGETjobs – has details on essential skills and competencies.
- Inside Careers - has advice on skills related to specific graduate professions.