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Translating Your Leadership Experience to Employers

College students gain a depth of experience without ever leaving campus. They gain interpersonal and leadership skills through co-curricular and club positions, yet, many student leaders forget to highlight the skills when applying to positions. Leaders of campus organizations often lead large teams, manage budgets, market events, execute semester-long projects, and collaborate constantly with various student groups, university officials, and departments.

Many employers are looking for these transferable skills. Whether you participated in athletics, performing arts, student government, cultural organizations, fraternity and sorority life, or service organizations it is important to reflect on the skills you’ve gained. Reflecting on your leadership experience and translating it authentically to the professional world is crucial to landing your next position.

Here are some key steps and reflection questions to help you articulate your leadership experience on your resume and in an interview.

Step 1: Articulate your role.

Take the time to spell out your role with your co-curricular or leadership experience. Not every employer immediately knows what StudGov, SAC, or IFC stands for.

  • What is your group's name? What does that translate to elsewhere? What category of club is it a part of?

  • What is the group’s purpose?

  • What was your title? Do you need to translate the title? For example, “VP of Campus Relations” could be Public Relations Coordinator to better explain your role.

  • How many people did you lead?

  • What were your responsibilities?

Step 2: Articulate your projects.

You’ll need to talk about the projects you worked on and more importantly, how you supported the progress of the project.

  • What events did you support?

  • What goals did you meet?

  • How did you navigate challenges?

  • What other partnerships did you foster?

  • How did you work with university officials and policies?

  • How did you manage deadlines?

Step 3: Articulate how you’ll make an impact at their organization.

Bring it home for them, and clearly articulate how your past experience will make you great for the job that you’re applying for.

  • How will you use these skills to make an impact at the organization you’re applying to?

  • How will you use your collaboration and interpersonal skills to help the team move forward?

Additional Tips:

There are a few ways you can articulate your leadership skills to future employers:

  1. Create a LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE section on your resume just underneath your RELEVANT or PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE sections. Even if you didn’t hold an “official” title, any experience where you led a project or a team is a chance to showcase leadership skills.

  2. Use the STAR method in interviews to talk about your past leadership accomplishments. STAR stands for “Situation, Task, Action, and Result.” For example, “As vice president of outreach for the Habitat for Humanity club at my university, I was tasked with creating a marketing plan to increase awareness of the housing insecurity we were addressing through our home building. I was able to create a social media campaign that reached 300 new users and increased engagement by 80%. We also recruited 8 new members immediately following the campaign.”

  3. When networking or doing informational interviews, talk about your impact using impact statements. Follow this template to create your own impact statement: “I (insert accomplishment) using my (insert leadership skill) which resulted in (insert impact).” For example, “I cross-collaborated with 12 other campus organizations, using my interpersonal and communication skills, which resulted in the highest attendance rate for a multicultural Day of Inclusion event with 500 attendees.”

Remember, like most skills, translating and articulating your leadership experience to employers takes practice. Make sure to take the time to reflect and then get out there to try sharing your skills today!

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