I Don’t Have Leadership Experience Yet… What Now?

If you are feeling stress as a junior or senior in college because you do not have many professional or leadership experiences, you are not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented many students around the world from joining student organizations, volunteering, and pursuing internships in their field of interest. However, there are options to leverage your existing experiences and maximize your remaining time in college to make you competitive for jobs and internships. Here are 4 tips to take the next steps in your career journey:

  1. Focus on the present: You can’t go back and change the past. The best first step toward building your experiences is focusing on how to make incremental progress toward your goals every day. Whether that is reaching out to a mentor or volunteering, each step is moving in the right direction. Remain attentive to the present to take advantage of the resources available to you as a student. The time you spend thinking about your lack of experience or comparing yourself to peers is taking away from your own professional advancement.
  2. Think broadly about your current experience: When working on professional materials (ie. Resume, Cover Letter, LinkedIn), think broadly about how to frame and communicate your experiences beyond jobs and internships. Was there a class project that showcased your skills or engaged with the community? Did you complete any volunteer work? Did you complete any certifications or certificate programs? These are all experiences that demonstrate skills and familiarity in specific fields making them valuable to share with employers.
  3. Take initiative in student organizations: Student organizations offer a great opportunity to gain leadership experience in a supportive environment as well as exercise your creative vision for a project, event, or initiative. Many organizations have open leadership positions due to the unorthodox transition period caused by the pandemic. Thus, there is an opportunity to immediately make an impact and grow your experience. Even if there aren’t open officer or leadership positions, many organizations are willing to support motivated students who want to take the lead on a project. For a full list of IU student organizations see the beINvolved website.
  4. Schedule informational interviews: One of the best ways to find volunteer, internship, or independent project opportunities is through informational interviews. Informational interviews expand your network and can help you find mentors to guide you in your next steps. Strong relationships open new opportunities that may not be otherwise publicized or accessible, making it an integral step especially if you are looking to grow your professional experience. For more information, view the O’Neill Career Hub’s Informational Interview Guide.
By Eric Ashby
Eric Ashby