Landing that first leadership role without experience

Landing that first leadership role without experience

Trying to land that first leadership role can be a real challenge, especially when you are applying for positions and being rejected because of a lack of leadership and managerial experience. It’s understandable that this can become really frustrating especially when you are ready for that next step and are struggling to showcase why you are ready in your applications and interviews.

So let’s take a step back here and take a look at what you can be doing right now to prove that you are ready to step into leadership. Sometimes it’s not a question of whether you are capable or not, but how you prove to others that you are. We’ve provided here some key things in order to arm you with a strong application and examples to prove your leadership suitability!

Now before you start thinking about applying for leadership roles, the most important thing you have to be clear on is why you want to be in a leadership position. Do you want to inspire, coach and develop others? Do you want to constantly improve the environment others work in? Do you have ideas to improve and grow the business? Do you feel confident enough to present business plans, train others and take full responsibility for your results? Are you prepared to problem solve and work through the challenges that also come with leadership? If the answer is yes then carry on reading!

board meeting

How to demonstrate your leadership capabilities!

  1. Highlight your transferable skills! Leadership isn’t just about having the skills and experience to manage others. As mentioned above leadership is also about business planning, problem solving, training and inspiring others so bring your other skills to the forefront and have examples of where you’ve utilised each one. Maybe you’ve presented a new idea to leadership, managed a project from start to finish, helped train a new employee or handled a difficult situation well!
  2. Knowledge is power! Chances are you are looking into going into a managerial role in an industry you are currently working in, meaning you have the industry experience. Use this to your advantage and don’t forget to show how well you know the industry, how it’s performing, new clients and competitors, new products and initiatives to show you are keeping up with what is going on and therefore able to use this knowledge to develop your team and business.
  3. Don’t forget to consider internal opportunities and assistant manager roles! You may be seeking managerial roles with a new company but chances are your current company know how you work and what your key skills and strengths are so don’t be afraid to show your interest in new leadership roles within your own organisation. Despite maybe being off putting because you may want to go straight into managing, don’t disregard Assistant Manager roles too. These positions are great to develop your skills because you will be leading and managing as well as working alongside another experienced manager who can coach and guide you in your first leadership role. It also gives you the understanding of how to manage other managers having been in that role yourself!
  4. Take on a new project! Get involved and take some leadership responsibility on in a new project or idea! This is a great way to show your determination and passion for not just leading others, but trying something new and seeing it through from start to finish as well as showcasing your ability to problem solve, delegate, motivate, plan and reflect! It is also a great way to build up your experience and have solid examples of how you have actually demonstrated your leadership skills.
  5. Offer to mentor other team members! We all have new team members joining, so could you offer to take on some of their induction training, reach out to them and check how they are getting on? Also think about your own strengths and something in your role you excel at – could you coach someone who is struggling or needs extra training on that element of their role? You could even deliver a training session to the whole team – showcasing your coaching and presenting skills.
  6. Support your current leader and make your ambitions known! Take responsibility for your career and make it known to the people who are most likely to help get you there that you want to take on more responsibility and learn more from them. Ensure your appraisals are up to date and never be afraid to ask for a one to one session to discuss your progression in more detail.
  7. Show initiative! Make sure you are contributing to those meetings, coming up with ideas, addressing problems, offering help and support to your colleagues, asking questions and learning more about what goes on around you – being able to really get your passion and enthusiasm across for what you do is really important.
  8. Think like you’re in the next role! If you want to be a leader, then you have to think like one too! You need to rise above what is expected of you in your current role – being in a position for a long time doesn’t just automatically make you ready for the next step up – you have to earn it. You need to be going above and beyond, contributing more, taking on more projects, asking more questions, coming up with solutions to problems as oppose to just reporting them. Always think to yourself – if I was a leader in this situation, what would I do?
  9. Think seriously about why you want to be in a leadership role and be prepared to explain why! As mentioned in the beginning you need to really be able to demonstrate not only why you are ready but also why you want it! Really take the time to think about what good leadership looks like to you, why it is important and what it is about being in a leadership position that will really drive you.
  10. Never stop learning! There are some great leadership courses that you can sign up for as well as great books, webinars and events to attend all about leadership where you can learn lots about what it takes to be a great leader. Investing in yourself to progress also shows that you are driven, self-motivated and willing to go the extra mile to ensure you are successful, and that you understand the importance of learning!
  11. Prepare well and provide strong examples for interview. Be prepared to be challenged on the fact that actually you don’t have managerial experience. It’s all very well being able to list the skills you have, but have your examples as to where you have demonstrated that skill. It might be that they do have other candidates interviewing with managerial experience but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best person for the job.
  12. Learn to really understand who and what is going on around you. Sometimes when we want to progress, it is very easy to become invested in ourselves to succeed and forget to actually think about our awareness skills. Start to learn how to really listen to others, understand their needs, their strengths, their weaknesses, how they work. When you are in a managerial position you are no longer just responsible for what you do but what everyone else does too – emotional intelligence, people skills and awareness are key to being successful in a leadership role.

Securing that first leadership role really is tough as there really is a lot of competition, but think to yourself about what you would want to see on an application or in an interview which would really make you think ‘this person is who I want to lead me!’

We are always working on new and exciting leadership opportunities within publishing! So do check out our jobs page and we look forward to receiving your stand out application! 

Don't forget to explore the rest of our library for more advice including how to interact with a CEO and how to become a great problem solver. If you are looking for that next senior level role or are looking to hire into your leadership team then do get in touch with our Search Director, Abigail Barclay who heads up our Executive Search division and will book you in for a confidential conversation.

For all other levels of publishing careers do be sure to get in touch with our specialist team! We love meeting with all the brilliant publishing talent out there and supporting you with the next steps in your career! You can also explore all our latest vacancies and apply for roles today right here!

We always want to make sure we are producing and sharing the best content for our candidates and clients, so if there is a topic you would like us to share our expertise on within our library please get in touch with us by emailing and we'll be happy to help!




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