If you’ve just graduated and are starting a new job, you’re probably pretty low on the career ladder right now.
However, it’s never too early to start demonstrating that you have what it takes to be a leader. When your organization assigns promotions or gives out a big assignment, you want your name to be a part of the conversation.
Here’s how to get a head start from day one.
1. Decide what kind of leader you want to be
Look at leaders you admire in the workplace, at school, or in your community. Do they do certain things that you find effective? Maybe they give you a lot of freedom, which gives you a sense of ownership. Maybe they continuously follow up with you, making you feel supported. Whatever it is that they do, observe closely and take note.
2. Know your stuff
Become an expert in your role and the projects you manage. Leaders are put in charge because people trust them. If you don’t know something or if you make a mistake, be honest. For instance, saying, “There was an error in my Excel formula, but I fixed it” can go a long way in establishing credibility.
3. Share the wealth
Seek opportunities to coach and mentor others, like the summer intern that was just hired, or even someone at your level in another department. Good leaders develop other leaders. Also, working one-on-one with someone will allow you to gain the confidence and skills required to lead larger groups later on.
4. Put up your hand
If you have the capacity, volunteer for a committee or a project that’s outside of your normal job. Pick one “extra” initiative and do it well. This will expose you to new people you don’t normally work with, and demonstrate that you’re proactive. Don’t worry if it’s not directly related to your job – pulling off the best holiday party of the year will show that you’re organized, detail-oriented, and creative.
5. Know yourself
Figure out your strengths and weaknesses if you don’t know them already. You can do this by regularly asking for feedback from your manager. Asking “How did I do in that conference call?” or “How can I handle that Q&A better next time?” will show that you’re always looking to improve. Then, play up your strengths and develop an action plan to attack your one or two top development areas.
Most of all, remember that good leaders are genuine. Throughout all of this, develop your own leadership style and let your personality shine through. You’ll be the best leader possible if you stay true to yourself.