College is a great place to learn the ins and outs of your chosen major, but it empowers students to build more than technical skills. You can also use your time in college to develop valuable soft skills that are easily transferable between careers — including those required of strong leaders.
When you’re getting ready to graduate and start finding a job, many of your potential employers will evaluate your potential as a leader. Students who learn, practice, and excel in their leadership skills are viewed by managers as highly capable of taking on diverse positions, contributing more to their companies, and taking on higher-level roles over time.
However, the ability to lead isn’t something you can simply put on your resume. You’ll need to be able to demonstrate the right skills during your interviews to impress the companies you’re applying to. Here are the leadership skills recruiters and hiring managers value most, as well as how you can develop them while getting your degree.
Modern communication skills
Leadership has changed a lot in recent years, but communication remains one of the most sought-after skills across industries. Applicants with strong resumes can lose out to less qualified job candidates if they have poor communication skills. On the flip side, great communicators can win significantly more job offers than their competitors.
Modern communication skills must be comprehensive. In addition to being great at written and verbal communication, today’s leaders need to be technologically literate. Video meetings and other remote communication channels (like Slack and email) are now the norm. Consider joining a public speaking course, speech and debate group, or career prep program in college to practice your ability to choose words and gestures carefully.
Being culturally sensitive in your communications is also becoming incredibly important, especially as businesses implement more diversity and inclusion initiatives. College is the perfect time to interact with people from different backgrounds and listen to their feedback.
While technical skills allow employees to successfully complete tasks, organizational skills make you capable of taking an entire project from ideation to execution. Businesses are looking for organized leaders who can carefully identify goals and keep track of their progress to ensure their projects can end successfully. Leaders should be able to delegate tasks, follow up, and avoid stalled projects with ease.
In college, practicing organizational skills is simple. Challenge yourself to stay on top of your assignments while taking part in extracurriculars. If possible, take on leadership roles within those extracurriculars and work toward ambitious (but feasible) goals each semester.
The business world is shifting faster than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic — which forced many workplaces to quickly go virtual and develop creative strategies to stay afloat — proved the importance of adaptability as a leadership skill. Job candidates who are able to smoothly adapt to new tasks, software, teams, and work cultures (rather than resist change) are highly desirable in the eyes of recruiters and hiring managers.
A large part of being adaptable is the ability to stay calm and work through stressful situations. Since shifts in your work environment can throw you into unfamiliar situations, employers want job candidates who can keep a level head and excel in the face of change.
One way you can develop your adaptability is by finding healthy outlets for stress. For instance, you can implement meditation into your daily or weekly routine to practice healthily dealing with stressful situations after college. Start meditating during your midterms or finals and see if it’s the right outlet for you.
Empathy is another leadership skill that’s increasingly prized in the workspace. As more companies become employee-focused, recruiters and hiring managers are seeking leaders who can contribute to a positive work environment — particularly as the current worker shortage continues to impact their ability to find qualified employees. Great leaders must be exceptional at listening and collaborating with diverse peers and managers.
Volunteering can be a great way to practice your empathy skills in college. Challenge yourself to work alongside and serve populations that you don’t normally interact with and step into their shoes. Practice entering conversations without any expectations and be curious about the people you speak with.
Land your dream job
Landing a job right after college is no longer a simple matter of demonstrating the industry skills you’ve developed. It also requires you to show off your soft skills — the ones that allow you to act as an exceptional leader in any role. Soft skills give you room to grow within a company over time.
Start by developing your communication skills, making sure to practice increasingly prized skills like video calling and empathetic listening. Plus, learn how to be organized in your work and adaptable to new (and potentially stressful) situations to increase your value in the eyes of recruiters and hiring teams.