Proven Ways to Demonstrate Your Leadership Skills Without the Experience

Proven Ways to Demonstrate Your Leadership Skills Without the Experience was originally published on Ivy Exec.

For your next position, you’re looking for a management role. You know you could lead a team of people, devising strategy and inspiring them to do their best work.

There’s only one problem: you haven’t actually been a leader before.

This is a common catch-22 in job applications. To win the position, you’re often asked to already have experience in a similar role. But in order to have experience, you first have to land the job!

How, then, can you make sure your application stands out for managerial positions?

Here, we’ll share some of the management skills, resume phrases, cover letter ideas, and interview strategies that should do the trick.

Identify the skills you already have.

It can be intimidating when you’re reading job postings that require certain management skills you don’t feel like you have. But it’s likely that you do have many of them, even if you haven’t developed them in formal management roles.

“If you’ve assisted with new hire onboarding, presented at a company training, collaborated on a new departmental policy rollout, pitched a new initiative to leadership, or planned and executed an event from start to finish, you’ve already got some legitimate management-level experience under your belt,” said Jaclyn Westlake. 

So, the first step is identifying management skills and resume phrases that keep cropping up on job postings. Then, make a list of specific experiences and accomplishments you have that can speak to these competencies.

Share examples of when you’ve led a team in your resume.

Once you’ve figured out relevant leadership skills, you want to include them in your resume. As resume expert Virginia Franco said, “A compelling resume that demonstrates your initiative, accomplishments and strategic insight is key to persuading a hiring manager that you are more than ready to take the plunge into management, or catapult to that next level of leadership.”

Here are some competencies and language you should include:

  • Strategic planning – share examples of when you worked on long-term strategy and planning in your current or previous positions. This demonstrates that you’re not just following someone else’s vision, you’re creating your own.
  • Your accomplishments, not your required tasks – creating an accomplishment-focused resume, where you discuss your (ideally) quantifiable successes rather than your responsibilities, is particularly important here. You want your resume to indicate that you’re focused on success rather than just on completing assigned tasks.
  • Informal leadership roles – again, you might be bogged down by the idea that you don’t have a “manager” in your job title, but it’s likely that you have informally led a team. For instance, have you ever led a project? Mentored a new colleague? Offered specific expertise to solve a problem? If so, these are incredibly relevant to include.

Add leadership skills into your resume.

Now that you have your ideas, add them to your resume. Some of the best management skills resume phrases to include the following from Indiana University Southeast:

  • “Excel in achieving outstanding project results
  • Improve the effectiveness of communications and interactions with others
  • Effectively commit resources of staff, funds and time
  • Discover new approaches
  • Uses the most penetrating and objective evaluations to arrive at decisions
  • Effectively assess employees resources”

Demonstrate your enthusiasm and willingness to build your leadership skills.

After you have figured out the leadership skills you do have, you also want to mention that you’re interested in developing these capabilities in your cover letter and at the interview.

Lisa McQuerrey shares some ways to convey an interest in developing your leadership skills:

  • While I do not have direct management experience, I have always stepped up to accept challenges and assume leadership roles in group activities.
  • While I have not previously held the title of manager, I have been the department lead for five years, during which time I reorganized our staffing procedures, developed a peer review process and led small-group initiatives.
  • I believe I have earned the respect of my peers, who view me as a reliable and consistent presence. They often ask me for advice, due to my coordination skills and conflict-resolution approach.

If you’re not landing interviews, build your leadership skills.

Even with these approaches, you still might not find success in winning a management role. So, you also want to build your management skills – both so you can add to your resume and so you can develop your ability to lead. For instance, you could try:

  • Asking your current employer to lead a projectSharing your interest in management can help you secure more opportunities to be in charge.
  • Volunteering or taking on part-time or temporary work. If your current role doesn’t give you many leadership opportunities, consider looking elsewhere. You can management skills resume phrases in reporting volunteer or part-time experiences.
  • Taking classes that give you a background in the skills you’ll need. Taking leadership classes and adding them to your resume is a great way to show your initiative and willingness to learn.

Becoming a Leader with Management Experience

Every leader has to start somewhere, whether they’re promoted internally or win an external role.

That said, there are many ways to gain leadership experience, even if you don’t have the word “Manager” in your title. For instance, it’s likely that you’ve already developed strategic plans, collaborated with others, created budgets, and given presentations – you just need to make sure to translate that experience into your application materials.

If you don’t have the experience you think will earn you the job, then you can ask to take on new projects in your current role, take on a temporary position, or enroll in a class.

Your ability to demonstrate transferable skills and your enthusiasm to build your leadership skills will go a long way in winning you a management role.

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