MINNEAPOLIS - “Ordinarily, we’d be happy to promote someone who has given as many years to this company as you have. Unfortunately, you just don’t have the leadership experience we need.”

Sound familiar? If a lack of leadership experience is standing between you and the next rung on the career ladder, you don’t have to stay “stuck.” Ted Chalupsky, President of the staffing firm The Right Staff offers five ways to test your mettle as a leader and demonstrate that you have what it takes to step ahead:

  1. Offer to take the lead on a project. Every company has work that needs to be done and no one with the time or inclination to do it. Keep your eyes peeled for a project that needs a leader, such as researching a new concept or creating a new resource – anything that will require the work of a team. Then, offer to “head up” the project. Your bosses will see that you’re willing to lead, and when you do the project well, they’ll also see that you’re capable.
  2. Volunteer in a leadership role. If work projects are scarce or there’s a charitable cause you feel passionate about, consider volunteering in a leadership role. Volunteer work helps you build essential leadership skills like communication, advocating for others, time management, and financial savvy. Even if joining the board of a local nonprofit is too much to add to your schedule, simply planning projects or events for the cause can help you develop your leadership skills in a public way.
  3. Take a professional development class. Employers value leaders who are always learning. Demonstrate your commitment to education and your passion for your work by taking college classes or certification courses that help you develop your leadership skills and management abilities. Ask your employer whether they offer tuition reimbursement or other support.
  4. Start something. Sometimes, “becoming a leader” just means leading! Start a weekend sports team, a business, a blog, a charity drive, or another project or event. Even if your first attempt isn’t a huge success, you’ll learn lessons about leadership you’d never learn in a classroom, and demonstrate your drive to your employer.
  5. Consider a job change. Even the best professionals may find themselves in a company where leadership opportunities are scarce and the chance to climb the corporate ladder seems nonexistent. If you’re feeling stuck at a dead end, talk to your recruiter about which companies are offering better leadership opportunities in your area.