The ability to lead – and lead well – is a highly coveted skill in the employment market. Maybe you’ve taken a class with “Leadership” in the title; perhaps you’ve been a captain on an athletic team or the President of a student club. Intern and entry-level candidates devote entire sections of their resume to the details of their elected or appointed leadership positions held throughout their school years. Scan just about any job posting and it is easy to see that employers are consistently looking for candidates that have demonstrated this valued attribute.
However, a leader is not only to be found in the team captain, class president, or valedictorian. When speaking with students in career counseling meetings, I often discuss the difference between the “big and little L” of leadership – those times when you may have been appointed or recognized as the leader – the “big L” – and other times, when you weren’t necessarily or formally “in charge,” but demonstrated characteristics and qualities that illustrate your leadership potential and talents, and would be ideal to share with a potential employer.
John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I encourage you to think of the ways that Adam’s interpretation of what makes a leader resonates with your own life experiences. Consider ways in which you have led by example; when you have helped or taught others; when you have assumed responsibility to do something well or to see something through, even if you weren’t the one “in charge.” Chances are, this has happened often in your life – with classmates, siblings or relatives, co-workers and others. By detailing those experiences, and the personal and professional development gained, you have the potential to be considered an even stronger candidate for the careers you are considering!