Because one word: leadership. As a teaching assistant, course instructor, or lecturer, you’ve run the gamut from mentoring to motivating to reprimanding students. You’ve encouraged them to exert more effort in class, helped them do their best work on assignments, led and facilitated their group discussions, enforced deadlines, and ensured they stayed on track throughout the semester. Moreover, it was your job to assess the quality of their work and to evaluate their overall performance, to praise them for what they had done well and offer suggestions on how they could improve. In short, you’ve had experience using many of the leadership skills that managers use every day out in the “real” working world.
It’ll be up to you to draw the connections between teaching students and managing employees in your interviews and to convince prospective employers that you do in fact possess the requisite leadership skills to supervise others. Do this not only by referencing the particular skills that carryover from the classroom to the office, but also by briefly describing times when you had to use those skills: what actions you took when Amy repeatedly missed deadlines, for example, or what you did when you noticed an unexpected decline in the quality of Dan’s work. Talk about the positives as well, such as how you helped a struggling student pass a challenging course or how your mentoring helped a student win a prize for her essay. Finally, if possible, point out the ways in which you added value to the course or to the university as a whole, whether it was by creating a more effective means of student assessment, by creating new learning tools, or by leading professional development sessions for other instructors. Specific examples such as these will show that you’re a change-maker as well as a problem solver.