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Get a Job With a Leadership Role

Get a Job With a Leadership Role

How did you get a job as a leader?

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

A reader writes:

I’ve been working since I was in high school – retail gigs, etc were the norm for me until I went to junior college and started temping in offices. It grew a bit from there, as I learned all the new programs, and because I was a fast keyer, was cast in roles like accounting.

Finally, in 2006, I took the reins on my work world and pursued a bachelor’s degree in HR/Business. From everything I’d read, I thought for sure I could land a job as an HR Manager right after graduating. Not the case at all!

I graduated in July 2009 and have yet to find anything permanent at all. I’ve been temping this entire time, anxious to finally “land” somewhere again! I want a leadership role, and need to know HOW to get experience doing that.

I was in toastmasters for two years, and led committees, took roles no one else and served as an officer twice. I’ve done informal training, etc. I’m back in school again to pursue my MBA. After 20 years of office work and knowing everything I know and doing a bit of everything … what should I pursue???

It sounds to me like your expectations might be a little unrealistic, which is making you feel like you have to keep changing paths.

For instance, it makes sense to me that you wouldn’t land an HR manager job right out of school. Degree aside, they’re looking for people with >real-life HR experience. Targeting a lower-level HR job and giving yourself time to work your way up would probably get you better results.

Leadership roles, too, generally require experience. The best way to get that experience is by seeking out leadership opportunities in a current job — stepping up and asking to take on new responsibilities in a way that will be a help to your employer while giving you experience that will pay off later.

For instance, when I’ve seen employees who I thought had the potential to be great managers some day, I’ve eased them in by having them start small: managing interns, managing an assistant, being the leader of a team project, and so forth. Those are all things that you can volunteer for, and many employers will be grateful that someone is actually excited to do it. Meanwhile, you’re expanding your skills, proving yourself to your employer and colleagues, and establishing a track record of doing well in this area … which will pay off for you down the road when someone has a higher-level opening and remembers being impressed by you. (That assumes you do a good job so, uh, do a good job.)

Also, if you can target a position in a smaller company, you’ll generally have more chances for these types of growth opportunities.

The above is always a good way to go, but it’s especially true in a job market like this one.

What advice do others have?