Management programmes and schemes are a popular option for graduates. Companies bring them on board to be trained as managers, so they look for candidates who are capable of leading and taking responsibility in order to get the best from their teams. Team management skills prove that you’re a bit more than an entry-level hire.
Being a strong leader with good team management skills is about being able to direct a team to do the best it possibly can. Not to be mistaken for ambition, it’s more about the skills to succeed, rather than purely the drive to do so. The skill involves taking responsibility for the team, sustaining your influence and to delegate appropiately according to necessities.
What are the differences between leadership and team management?
The differences between the two are pretty subtle - team management revolves around getting the best out of your workforce whilst leadership is about leading by example, deciding where to focus your efforts and setting direction for the workforce. When writing your applications make sure to think about which one you are answering/explaining.
Whilst your first graduate job is more likely to involve learning than leadership, it’s a good skill to practice and graduate employers are often on the lookout for leadership potential. The key skills involved with leadership are delegation, talent management, and emotional intelligence.
On an application
Proving you have leadership skills can be difficult. As with demonstrating any skill, it's not about claiming you can do it, but explaining a situation where you accomplished it. For team management you should describe a time when your personal involvement has directly affected and positively influenced the way a group of people have worked. You should include the outcome. Obviously, it’s not a great idea to talk about a negative outcome, because that might create the impression of poor team management skills.
Remember to differentiate between leadership and teamwork - for teamwork competencies ensure you use terms like ‘encouraged’ and ‘supported’, whereas leadership should draw on ‘delegation’ and ‘directing’.
It’s good to say: ‘Whilst responsible for a team that was striving to achieve a specific target, I assigned particular roles to each team member. This enabled them to reach their full potential so that we were able to achieve our target successfully.’ Make sure to emphasise your role within the team as a success factor.
Avoid coming across as a bully, incompetent or incapable! So try not to say anything along the lines of: ‘On this one occasion when my team had a difficult target to reach, I forced them to work overtime so we could make it. It was difficult as there were some discipline issues, but I rooted the cause of it and removed them’. If you’re going for a position where you may be promoted and hence be handed more responsibility it’s paramount to the employer to know you can work within their system!
Developing leadership skills
From captaining sports teams, to running shifts within the hospitality industry, or leading a volunteer team, there’s loads of things you may have done or can do to exercise leadership skills.
If you feel like you don’t have much experience in this field try get some part-time work, volunteering, or run for a position on a student union council to get some under your belt!