How do I secure my first leadership position?

Ask a recruiter article: “I am keen to take on a leadership role in my next position but have limited management experience. What do you suggest I do to strengthen my case?”  By Mike Colton (Published in IOSH magazine August 2017)

First of all, you might have more management experience than you think! Don’t overlook elements of your career where you’ve demonstrated leadership. For example, have you ever managed a project? or been involved in training new staff? Have you covered your manager’s role when they’re away from the of?ce? You may not have managed people directly but perhaps you have managed projects where you have had to co-ordinate colleague’s activities and lead the project through to completion. If you’re delivering training then you’re demonstrating leadership by providing insight and knowledge on your areas of expertise. Look at your experience through a different lens and identify examples where you have demonstrated leadership and taken on responsibility.

Re-write your CV Your CV is often the ?rst opportunity to make an impression on a future employer. It’s always important to spend time making sure it’s the best re?ection of your skills and ex

perience regardless of the scenario. However, when trying to secure your ?rst management role this can be even more important. Think about re-writing responsibilities which are too focused on small details or the routine elements of your role and emphasise the examples where you have shown in?uence or have managed change. Highlight where you have taken on extra responsibilities.

So how do you ?ll the management skills gap? Start with the easy wins. Talk to people in your company about your career goals and how you can gain more experience to equip you for the ?rst management role. You might ?nd your HR department have training courses or mentorship schemes operating internally that could help or may be available to you. Many large organisations will run programmes that help to develop their future leaders. Find out if yours does and how you can get involved. Check out the IOSH Blueprint, it’s a great tool to help create a plan to progress your OHS career.

Get involved in more projects, make your name known within the leadership team and grow your network. Are you known as a go to person for your HSE expertise? Maybe you are demonstrating leadership outside of work? For example, are you involved in a sport club, charity or any other organisation where you hold a position of responsibility? Make sure this is on your CV and highlight it in interviews. It’s up to you to take the initiative. Seek out a mentor, someone you aspire to, the kind of leader or manager you’d like to be. They could offer valuable advice and support along the way and help with the challenges you face. The health and safety industry is a friendly place and there are probably more people than you think out there willing to help and support you. Finally, don’t lose heart, every HSE director in the world had to start somewhere!

Mike Colton is a Director at Irwin & Colton, and specialises in recruiting HSE professionals on a permanent and contract basis Nationally across the UK. T: 020 7096 1622 E:

Posted on Tuesday Sep 19