Lead So You Can Succeed

When surveying the employers who look to hire students on our campus, we found that they were looking for students with strong leadership experience. As a college student, you may have heard people suggest that you get involved in extracurricular activities by joining a student or community organization.  While that is great advice, it is exponentially more beneficial for you to eventually take on a leadership role in those organizations.

Getting Experience

Leadership is defined as motivating others to achieve a common goal — utilizing creativity, flexibility, confidence, energy, and superior organization and communication skills. This definition points out many of the traits that employers seek when hiring, as evidenced by a recent national survey (NACE Job Outlook 2010).  Many of the desired traits in new hires (communication skills, teamwork skills, and flexibility) are also the same skills that you will likely gain by becoming an engaged leader on campus or in your community.

You may have been involved with some teams or groups in high school and so you have already begun developing leadership skills and traits.  However, you will need to continue to be involved in leadership activities throughout college to hone those skills as an adult.  It is not as important what leadership role you take (treasurer, co-captain, student government senator), but rather how much time and energy you invest in improving an organization.

As a leader in a student organization, you will be performing many of the same duties that you will likely need in your future jobs. Here are a few examples:

  • Organize meetings and other events
  • Communicate with members and designate responsibilities
  • Problem-solve and mediate if there are conflicts in the group
  • Manage the budget
  • Promote your organization and its goals
  • Come up with creative ideas for your group activities
  • Maintain your members’ motivation and enthusiasm
  • Report to an advisor and administrators

Marketing Your Leadership Skills

Once you have polished your leadership skills through involvement in organizations, it is crucial that you are able to market them to potential employers.  Your resume, cover letter, and interview answers should all work together to provide employers with evidence of your maturity and skills. You will likely have many concrete examples from your student organization experiences to draw from as verification of your communication, flexibility, organization skills, etc..

Tell your story

A job interview is a great venue to share your leadership examples. Employers are likely to ask you why they should hire you or why you would be a good addition to their organization.  This is a good time to include a short example or story based on your leadership experiences.  Here’s a sample answer to, “Why should we hire you?”:

I would bring my strong communication skills to your organization. I polished my interpersonal and written communication skills as the Secretary of Communications for the local chapter of the National Association of Chemists.  Through this position, I interacted with a variety of constituents, including chemists, faculty, and students from many different countries and cultures.  I was responsible for making sure all of the members were aware of what was going on in the local and national chapters.  I participated in all local meetings, sent over 60 emails, designed and distributed 5 newsletters and posted updates on the website.

Providing this level of detail enables the listener to become aware – relatively quickly – of specific, unique, and impressive attributes that you can bring to the table. Your leadership experiences and skills will be a great asset when seeking jobs and internships, particularly if you can articulate all that you have achieved and learned.


Lori Bielek is the Marketing and Technology Coordinator at University of Delaware’s Career Services Center where she advises students in the arts and sciences through all steps of their career development.  You can connect with Lori through LinkedIn or her UD Career Services Twitter account (@UDcareers).

Related posts:

  1. Attend. Participate. Lead.
  2. 3 Things Students Can Do to Position Themselves to Succeed in a Tough Job Market
  3. Those who Read, Lead

3 Responses to “Lead So You Can Succeed”

  1. avatar Nauka says:

    The demand of a leader prevails in every successful organization development. A leader, whether is of authoritarian or democratic type, should have some leadership qualities. leader must be one who has interests in common with his followers and who is head and shoulders above the others in ability, leadership skill and tact

  2. Leadership skill means the person having the ability to motivate a group of people toward a common goal. Everyone wants to be a good leader but there is some criteria every have to follow to become a good leader. Communication, motivation, planning also create a learning environment, care about the people you lead, be honest, focus on results and let people figure out how to do their work. These techniques help to become a good leader.

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