The Standout Skill
By Peter Weddle
Do you want an advantage in the job market? There is one skill that CEOs today believe is both in critically short supply and critically important to their organizations' success. If you have this skill, it is virtually certain that you will get the attention you deserve from employers—regardless of your profession, craft, or trade. What is this standout skill? Leadership.
Leadership is the ability to engage and then organize others in the successful accomplishment of a common purpose. In other words, leadership is not the position you hold, but the work you do. As we all have experienced, there are supervisors and bosses who are clueless about leadership and individual members of a team who are superb at it.
Leadership is a universally accessible skill. It is not reserved for special people, but is something that just about everyone can bring to their work. While there are natural born leaders, the vast majority of those who demonstrate the skill learn it the old fashioned way; they study its essential elements and practice them over and over again.
What does that mean if you're in transition? It doesn't matter whether your occupation is sales or finance, customer service or engineering, systems analysis or teaching—you can be a leader. And if you can prove that you are, you'll capture a game-changing competitive advantage in the job market.
Leadership is like catnip for employers; it will set you apart from other job seekers and make you all but irresistible. In fact, a record of leadership will transform you from a job seeker to a job star—a candidate employers believe they simply cannot afford to overlook.
For many of us, however, that presents a challenge. How do you establish a record of leadership on your résumé, even if you've never held a leadership position?
How Can You Present Yourself as a Leader?
All leaders demonstrate a range of similar traits. Among the most important are:
- A sense of responsibility for both the organization's mission and the wellbeing of one's colleagues,
- The ability to communicate complex issues in terms that everyone can understand,
- A commitment to modeling ideal values and behaviors in one's own actions,
- The ability to motivate others to perform at their peak, and
- An unwavering belief in the importance of honesty and fairness when dealing with others.
The key to establishing yourself as a leader during a job search is to ensure that your résumé depicts roles you have previously filled (or are currently filling) where you demonstrate all or most of those traits. It's not enough, however, to say you led this group or managed that activity; you must illustrate the traits in action.
For example, if you led a special project team for a previous employer, describe how you pulled together a diverse group from around the organization, clearly communicated the team's mission so they all bought into it, and then motivated them to accomplish that goal on time and under budget. Focus on the leadership traits you showed and the results you achieved, not the title you had or the position you held.
That reality, of course, begs the question: what should you do if you've never had the chance to demonstrate leadership on-the-job? The answer is admittedly easy to offer, but a challenge to implement. What you have to do is extend the boundaries of your job search to include taking on a volunteer leadership position in your professional association, alumni organization, or a local civic or social service group.
Pick a situation where you can do some good and create a record of using those leadership traits in the near term, then describe that activity on your résumé. The fact that it's occurring in the middle of your job search won't detract from its perceived importance. In fact, taking on a worthwhile leadership role during your job search may well add another credential to your record. It's likely to paint you as a person who takes initiative, and that, too, is a trait that CEOs value.
About the Author
Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including WEDDLE's 2011/12 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet; The Career Activist Republic; Work Strong, Your Personal Career Fitness System; and Recognizing Richard Rabbit.
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