Your Leadership Experience Isn't as Important as You Think It Is, Young Graduate

A friend called me recently with a question I was not expecting. He asked, "Why is it that all the resumes I get from recent college graduates are packed with their leadership experience? I don't care about that. I want to know what they can really do for my company, work-wise. What are their skills?"

To give a little context, my friend is a hiring manager who employs engineers. He would never hire someone right out of college to manage other employees at his company. He's looking for entry-level workers. He's searching for engineers. After a new hire proves themselves, they might be promoted to management in a few years, but not right away.

Recent Grads Emphasize Leadership Experience Too Much

What my friend is seeing doesn't just show up on a couple of resumes here or there. It's a consistent theme he's noticed across resumes from all recent graduates. And apparently, other hiring managers are seeing the same trend.

For example, if a candidate took a manufacturing course, they might state that they were the team captain of their work group, rather than what they manufactured. The hiring manager wants to know what tangible engineering skills they gained, rather than who they led.

It seems there may be a disconnect between the expectations of some recent graduates and the expectations of hiring managers. Some young professionals believe they will be in management roles immediately upon graduating. Although some people begin managing sooner than others, it rarely happens right away. It's not clear exactly where recent grads' flawed expectations are coming from, whether they're learning them in college or somewhere else.

Showcase All Your Skills – Not Just Your Leadership Experience

Don't get me wrong. Leadership skills are important. Young professionals should continue to step up and volunteer when opportunities become available. Leadership experience helps you build work skills, and it is a nice addition to your resume.

But, when it comes to finding a job, a young professional shouldn't assume they'll be a manager right away.

On your resume, it's a good idea to highlight your leadership experience, but you also need to showcase your nitty-gritty skills. As an entry-level worker, what do you have to offer? List specific computer programs you know, or other industry-specific skills you've learned. If you talk about a project you worked on, talk about what you accomplished and what you learned.

If you're still in school, try to get an internship or two. Even if it's unpaid, a real corporate or nonprofit internship can make all the difference when it comes to landing a full-time job. Don't assume that a job as a restaurant server will make sense to your post-graduate corporate employer. Pursue opportunities that will enhance your future career. Even if those opportunities are low-paying (or no-paying) right now, they can lead to a more impressive resume – and possibly a better job later on down the line.

Unfortunately, a college degree alone doesn't guarantee you a full-time job. At many places, it's little more than a minimum requirement. It's what you do with the degree, before and after graduation, that matters. Be willing to roll up your sleeves and get real-world experience. Hiring managers will respect you that much more.

A version of this article originally appeared on The Memphis Daily News.