Just because you’re in the entry level stage of your career doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be preparing yourself for leadership roles in the future.
In fact leadership starts with taking responsibility for your career and ownership around becoming the best you can be within your areas of responsibility on the job. Leadership skills are abilities that you learn, not ones you are born with, and your development of them can never start too soon.
So, what can you do as an entry-level employee to build your leadership skills right now?
Begin by objectively analysing all the skills and expertise your role requires and bring them all up to excellence. Acknowledge your areas of weakness and focus on ways to improve your performance. Knowing yourself and being aware of your personal strengths and weaknesses is a real leadership asset. Ask for feedback from others and take advice from those you respect. Seeking out someone to mentor you and be available for a regular career chat is another excellent way to grow your skill set.
You may like to consider some specific professional development? There are a number of excellent industry specific or leadership focussed courses offered through the TANZ eCampus platform that allow you to study completely online and at your own pace.
Leadership involves being a great team member and cultivating relationships with your colleagues. Seek out ways to help your company and fellow staff, and simply strive to do the right thing in any situation. Take the time to learn the role each person plays and how you can best contribute as part of the team effort to the common goals and responsibilities of the department. You’ll be surprised how your awareness and quiet commitment for the common good are infectious and bring the best out in your colleagues.
Show initiative and look for ways to pick up responsibility for jobs that need to be done but that others are avoiding. Look for opportunities that could make your team’s work-flow better and run them past your manager for implementation. Don’t make a fanfare about your initiative, rather, quietly assume the responsibility and see it through to completion.
Be an employee that is eager to learn. Instead of being just another employee in your entry level job, strive to learn about the industry and your profession as much as you can. This will prepare you for a better job in the future, or even for a new position at the same company.
Build your communication skills. Leadership literature is filled with the importance of being an astute communicator. Funnily enough, the crucial skill for great communicators is to develop the ability to listen. Professional listening skills include listening for the message, listening for any emotions behind the message and considering relevant questions about the message, before you open your mouth!
Once you have listened carefully, a clever communicator will hone the skill of adapting their communication style, based on the needs of the recipient. Remember, whenever possible, to deliver your messages in a friendly open way; that includes both written and verbal formats. Try to always keep your communication positive and respectful but avoid the waffle trap.
Your leadership journey starts the minute you enter the workforce. It’s never too early to take control of your professional development pathway so that your career aspirations can become a reality. It is better to upskill for the role you want, rather than the role that you have.