Maybe you were in scouts in high school, or you were a captain on an intramural sports team through college. Perhaps you took the leadership role in every team project you have ever encountered. These leadership experiences made you who you are, but, when it comes to writing your resume, you need to list professional, pertinent experiences to ensure you qualify for your target roles.


Gaining leadership experience you can list on your resume isn’t always easy. Here are a few ways to boost your leadership knowledge and skills — and prove it on your resume.

Volunteer or Mentor
Most people want to spend their free time relaxing, socializing with friends and family or otherwise avoiding responsibility. Therefore, when you are willing to devote your free time to volunteering for an important cause, like local nonprofit work, you stand out as someone with a go-getter attitude who is passionate about improving their community. Usually, the type of volunteer opportunities you take is less important than commitment to them. However, some volunteer positions lead to more senior roles, like heading projects or planning events, which provide even further leadership experience for your resume (in addition to allowing you to contribute to your cause in a more significant way).

If you don’t have any interest in volunteering in the traditional sense, you might consider mentoring. Mentors provide guidance and support to those looking for guidance on a similar career path. Many people require responsible adult mentors, and business students or employees in your organization might also look forward to your sage advice. As with volunteering, mentorship demonstrates that you care about your community and are willing to commit your time to help others. Yet, mentorship also has meaningful benefits for you, like building your business network and training you in one-on-one leadership and communication.

Intern or Shadow
If you are still in the early stages of your career, you can spend time interning at different organizations. Internships rarely provide many opportunities to lead, but pursuing them demonstrates your initiative in learning and gaining work experience. If you have internships on your resume, employers recognize that you are highly motivated and likely to advance quickly. You can find internship opportunities through your university’s career services, or you can ask members of your network for help finding relevant internship programs.

Then again, if you already have some work experience under your belt, you can always shadow someone in a higher position. Shadowing involves accompanying a professional throughout the course of their workday, observing their practices to understand their role and responsibilities more. You might ask to shadow your immediate supervisor, or if you are at a smaller organization and have a relationship with upper management, you might try to shadow a higher executive for a day. You can add shadowing under your work experience, providing contact information for the professional you shadowed and listing tasks you observed or completed during this opportunity.

Take a Leadership Course
Some people learn best in a more formal educational environment, with a highly knowledgeable and skilled professor offering tried-and-true lessons for leadership success. You can find all manner of online leadership programs and search for courses from top-tier universities with curricula that match your goals and interests.

Start Something New
Any time you start something, you are demonstrating your leadership skill. Undoubtedly, you can gain invaluable leadership experience starting something in a field similar to your target career, like a business, a nonprofit organization or a consulting firm. However, you don’t need to involve yourself in something quite as substantial if you don’t have the capability yet. You might start a freelancing business as a side hustle to your current job; you could form a club or sports team, gathering people with a similar interest. Whenever you create something new, you are showcasing your abilities as a leader and your willingness to take on challenging projects.

Even established leaders need to add to their experience now and again. Whether you take a class, ask to mentor (or mentee), shadow a superior, or do something completely new, you will practice leadership abilities and enjoy a career opportunity worthy of your resume. As is always true of items on your resume, you should be willing to discuss your leadership experiences with your interviewer and explain how they will guide you as a leader going forward.