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A friend called me recently with a question I was not expecting. He said, “Why is it that all the resumes I get from recent college graduates are packed with their leadership experience? I don’t care about that. I want to know what they can really do for my company, work wise. What are their skills?”

To give a little context, my friend is a hiring manager who employees engineers. He would never hire someone right out of college to manage other employees at his company. He’s looking for entry level workers. He’s searching for engineers. After a new hire proves themselves, they might be promoted to management in a few years, but not right away.

What he’s seeing isn’t just showing up on one resume or another. It’s a consistent theme coming from all recent graduates. And, apparently other hiring managers are seeing the same trend.

For example, if the job applicant took a manufacturing course, they might state that they were the team captain of their work group rather than what they manufactured. The hiring manager wants to know what tangible engineering skills they gained, rather than who they led.

It seems there may be a disconnect in the expectations of some recent graduates. Some young professionals believe they will be in management roles immediately upon graduation. Although some people begin managing sooner than others, it rarely happens right away. It’s not clear if this disconnect is happening at the college level or somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong. Leadership skills are important. Young professionals should continue to step up and volunteer when opportunities come available. It helps to build work skills, and is a nice addition to their resume. But, when it comes to finding a job, a young professional shouldn’t assume they’ll be a manager right away.

On the resume, highlight your leadership experience, but also showcase your nitty gritty skills. As an entry level worker, what do you have to offer? List specific computer programs you know, or other industry specific skills you’ve learned. If you talk about a project you worked on, talk about what you accomplished and what you learned.

If you’re still in school, try to get an internship or two. Even if it’s unpaid, a real corporate or nonprofit internship can make all the difference when it comes to looking for a full-time job. Don’t assume that a job at as a restaurant server will make sense to your post-graduate corporate employer. Pursue opportunities that will enhance your future career. Even if those opportunities are low paying or volunteer now, they will lead to a more impressive resume – and possibly a better job later.

Unfortunately, a college degree alone doesn’t guarantee a full-time job. At many places, it can be little more than a minimum requirement. It’s what you do with the degree, before and after graduation, that matters. Be willing to roll up your sleeves to get real world experience and hiring managers will respect you that much more.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at

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