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By Maggie Smith, NCA assistant director of student career advising, serving students in Weinberg.

MaggieDo you ever find yourself wondering whether you should include your leadership experiences and campus involvement on your resume? Maybe you don’t think it is relevant to the internship or job that you’re seeking or maybe you worry that it isn’t “real-world” experience…

The answer is YES, you should include it!

What do employers tell us?

Employers across many industries tell us that campus leadership shows that an applicant takes an active role, is well-rounded, involved, dedicated, respected and trusted by their peers, and able to grow within an organization.

Leadership experiences can be some of the best skill-building opportunities, and they are not any less important than a job or internship. In fact, sometimes, you can learn more in a leadership position!

You might be wondering, what is leadership?

You don’t have to be the founder or president of an organization to be a leader. You might be an active member, and that can still be leadership. Do you feel that you’ve contributed to your organization or to the Northwestern community? If yes, then you’re a leader!

Leadership experiences might include being a member of an advisory board, Peer Adviser, Family Ambassador, Resident Assistant, fraternity or sorority member, treasurer for an organization, committee member, student-athlete, or volunteer.

How do you market your leadership experiences to a potential employer?

Focus on transferrable skills!

What is a transferrable skill?

A transferrable skill is a skill developed in one situation which can be transferred to another situation. You often develop these skills in a student organization or a leadership position, and they are easily transferred to a professional setting. Transferrable skills are common qualifications for any internship or job across many industries.

Common transferrable skills include:

  • Analytical skills
  • Communication (written and verbal)
  • Critical thinking
  • Initiative/self-starter
  • Leadership
  • Project management/organization
  • Technical and design
  • Research and development
  • Team or group work
  • Multicultural competence

Think about what the specific skill would mean to an employer: What does it mean to have strong communication skills or to be a strong team or group member?

Once you’ve defined the skill, begin connecting the skills to your leadership experiences. Think about situations where you may have demonstrated these skills: What situations did you encounter as a Peer Adviser that demonstrated your analytical skills? How did you contribute to a team or group as a member of your school’s advisory board? How did you demonstrate communication skills as a student-athlete? How did you develop organizational skills as a committee member for Dance Marathon?

Now that you have identified your transferrable skills, the final step is articulating them in a professional way. When describing your experiences on your resume, keep the formula ATR in mind for developing strong bullet points: Action, Task, Result.

  • Address the transferrable skill by selecting strong action verbs that convey the skill to the employer
  • Be specific
  • Focus on outcomes and results: What did you accomplish?
  • Focus on the purpose of your work: How did it contribute to the organization or Northwestern?

Let’s see the difference that a strong bullet point can make in marketing your leadership experiences to a potential employer:

Option A:

  • Worked on a team to plan events.

Option B:

  • Collaborated with a team of 6 people to coordinate quarterly campus-wide events that connect Northwestern alumni with undergraduate students.

Option B tells the employer that you know how to work on a team, you’re able to coordinate events, and your work has a positive impact on the Northwestern community.

Identifying what you’ve accomplished and what you have to offer is a critical element of networking and interviewing for internships and jobs. There is something to be gained from every experience. Be proud and confident about your leadership experiences and their relevance to your future!

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