Q: My son is a freshman at a liberal arts college in New England. He is looking at internships, which list “demonstrated leadership skills” as a requirement. My question is how does a freshman college student acquire leadership skills when many of them can barely secure summer jobs during this pandemic? It seems like a stretch and I am not sure that any of his peers could “check this box” either. Do you have any concrete examples that may serve as a way to fulfill this requirement?
A: It is not an easy time to secure summer jobs, internships or post-graduate jobs. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted a wide range of industries, many of which hire students. Hospitality, including restaurants, hotels and travel, have been decimated by this pandemic.
Students can gain leadership skills in a number of ways. Here is a quick list:
While at work: Summer jobs and part-time roles through high school and college can be one way. If your son works in retail, he may be asked to train and supervise a new hire for the first few weeks.
At your house of worship: There also be opportunities with faith-based groups, leading virtual religious services or organizing an event, like a food and paper goods donation drive.
Student government: If your son is interested, he could explore running for a leadership role in student government.
While on the field: There also may be opportunities to lead in sports. Maybe your son could start a club tennis program or add a virtual fitness program to his college’s offerings.
While a member of a college club: Most student clubs are required to have officers, which are leadership roles.
As part of Greek life: Sororities and fraternities can sometimes offer leadership opportunities. Whether chairing an event or being elected to a leadership role, these organizations can provide an array of leadership opportunities to undergraduate students.
Approach a professor: Your son could begin to build a relationship with a favorite professor, perhaps in his major. Your son could ask his professor if there may be leadership opportunities aligned with your son’s career interests. Examples include organizing a virtual study session or launching a mentoring program.
Post-pandemic, more traditional leadership roles may be more readily available. Serving as a resident advisor or an orientation leader are options that could strengthen your son’s leadership experience.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.