Leverage Yourself to Enter the Workforce Part 3: Leadership

PART III: LEADERSHIP

I’m a junior now (Class of 2020) and I can confidently say in my three years here, I’ve never met a Smithie who is just a student. Almost everyone I’ve met on this campus is active in some sort of extracurricular activity, and some even assume leadership positions within these activities. Smithies aren’t just traditional leaders (i.e. serving on  the E-board for a student org or house council). Many Smithies are leaders in different ways across campus - from sitting on the Schacht Center’s Health Advisory Board to being captains of club/varsity team sports, working as dining hall schedule coordinators, to organizing team projects for class. Even within more traditional “leadership” roles, students who aren’t president/chair serve vitally important roles too (i.e. Head of New Students, Student Academic Advisers, Social Chair, Alumnae Outreach Rep).  

Of course, the main reason we attend college is to learn and specialize in areas of study. However, we also know that college is a critical time for personal and professional development. We know that we should be active on campus and complete a couple of internships by the time we graduate. In short, when preparing to enter today’s (and tomorrow’s) competitive labor market, we can’t just be students - we must be student leaders.

The title of this piece is a little deceiving - since leadership isn’t necessarily a skill itself, but rather comprises a subset of many critical skills needed to succeed both in school and at work.

There are a variety of different skills a good leader must possess, but communication, relationship building, and directing others are especially important to develop now as a college student. While it may be easier said than done, developing these skills is not impossible. You can check out the first post in this series to learn more about the importance of communication. As a leader, you should be intentional about the relationships you build, both individually (i.e. one-on-one exchanges) and within the wider community. When it comes to directing others, according to The Balance Careers, you “should be able to clearly formulate directions for others, and then articulate them in such a way as to convey them effectively.”

According to the blog Elevation Networks, leadership skills are critical in the workplace because they help you exhibit three qualities of any great employee - initiative, innovation, and proactiveness. When you take initiative, you’re showing that you’re always thinking one step ahead. When you exhibit innovativeness, you’re showing that you can solve problems in new ways that weren’t considered previously (i.e., a growth mindset). Finally, when you’re proactive, you’re able to put plans into action in order to get things done. You can use these three qualities as criteria to help assess whether or not you are demonstrating leadership potential.

The following are a few Conway activities that can help you fine tune your leadership skills:

Other resources:

Stay tuned for our fourth and final installation in this series which will focus on teamwork.

Fatima KeitaComment