Looking at the laptop and thinking what now?! Is it hard to find a job, to network and to gain the experience you want by just staying at home? I get it! For what it is worth, one good thing coming out of all that is happening right now is that we are being forced to be innovative and challenge ourselves!
So if you want a network, if you want the space to develop, if you want to test your skills, then challenge yourself: join a student organization!
Almost two years ago, I stumbled upon a Facebook post about this student organization offering free courses in digital fields. At the time, I had just finished one elective at KU after quite a hard time struggling to find a course that would give me the tech skills I wanted while also beginning from scratch.
Of course, as I had no remote interest in student organizations, the planets had to completely align for me to squint and produce anything but a ‘Hmm…’ from the corner of my mouth. But the stars did align, I saw the post, I needed to stimulate an interest in tech, and on top of everything, I was working on learning in the field of technology. What more can I say? I guess Jupiter and Neptune were a match made in heaven that day!
I really don’t see why only tech students should have access to tech subjects and tech learning opportunities – isn’t tech like… everywhere around us?
And so I found out that this specific organization had an intro event. Great! I attended. My interest was both in taking a course with them and also involving myself: making sure I take a stand for accessible tech education. (I really don’t see why only tech students should have access to tech subjects and tech learning opportunities – isn’t tech like… everywhere around us?!)
But what started as a ‘Hmm..’ grew into a whole new perspective. Maybe most of you know or have experienced what I am writing about. However, I must say, I do have a feeling that there are other students who are as clueless as I was when I joined this organization – who can’t really explain why joining a student organization may be one of the best moves you get to make at uni.
And right there, in my last sentence, is the reason why I’m going to reveal the Top 5 reasons to join a student organization!
1. Invest time in a cause
What drove you to study? What is the root cause of your career? Are you passionate about something outside your academic life? Whatever sparks some fire in your heart is something worth investing in! And… the more time you invest in something that drives you, the more satisfied you fall asleep (or so I believe…)
You may now be thinking ‘Yes… but where can I express my passion for hula hooping and juggling oranges?” Not to worry! There are plenty of organizations to choose from. Maybe CBS Dance does hula hooping some evenings, and even if not: you can start your own! Just post on the ‘CBS Connect’ group, and I’m sure another fruit juggler will soon get in touch to be your next partner … in your new student organization endeavor … (you wanted me to say ‘business’ or ‘crime’, just admit it)!
2. Regain your autonomy
As students, we are often just starting out: our studies, our jobs, our life is just starting, which often means we get guidance, and we have someone giving directions. Lecturers give us instructions, TAs guide us, senior colleagues teach us about the job: it is all a game of guidance.
Take your autonomy back! Be your own expert. Get the first feel of working completely on your own!
Being a volunteer is a lot about that and a little about guidance. We all experiment, I experimented a lot: sometimes with great results, some with mediocre results and sometimes none at all. But that is fine. Being a volunteer is not about being an expert, it is about finding your way of working when there are no boundaries.
And trust me, it is the best feeling in the world to know that you had studies, you had a job and you also managed to do something (not a lot), but SOMETHING that kept an organization’s marketing team afloat
After almost six months with the organization, through what I like to call ‘very random circumstances’, I was suddenly offered a leading role in the Marketing Department. As the Head of Marketing, I was supposed to make sure tasks got assigned to the correct people in the team and that they were delivered. The marketing strategy was part of the role as well, but in theory it was limited, as it was mostly developed by the Board Member representing the team.
One thing followed another, and another ‘very random circumstance’ occurred. Less than a month after becoming Head of Marketing, I realized I had to be the board member directing myself.
I’m not going to lie, that was a frustrating period, but looking back at it, I find it more of a blessing in disguise. Suddenly, I was directing the team strategy, bringing my vision into our marketing campaigns, and discovering there is really nothing that can go that badly if you try.
And trust me, it is the best feeling in the world to know that you had studies, you had a job and you also managed to do something (not a lot), but SOMETHING that kept an organization’s marketing team afloat. All that with zero marketing experience.
Who said throwing yourself in the Ocean doesn’t teach you how to swim?!
3. Build those skills
What am I studying?! International Shipping and Trade. What area was I volunteering in? MARKETING. I did not start in Marketing, but I sure did end up in Marketing! And if I was to start all over again, I’d throw myself into marketing (or any other area I had very limited knowledge about) from the start.
But if you just want to expend yourself somehow, just go for the unknown
It sounds a bit irrational, and yes, depending on your scope, this may not be the exact direction you should take. If you want to work with business development, it may be good to volunteer in the business development team of one of the organizations.
But if you just want to expend yourself somehow, just go for the unknown.
While staying with the marketing team, I learned things that I don’t see how I would have otherwise. From working with design, to finding out the best times for social media posting, to strategically planning what information is sent out on the social media channels and when, I learned a lot.
Suddenly, the internet knew about my flirt with marketing. Instead of the usual ‘70% on all the jeans” ads, I started to see all the ‘Digital Marketing for Growth’ courses. ‘Best Practices for your Social Media Presence’ was something that came out of the mouth of almost every person on every YouTube ad, and I was not annoyed. Frankly, I had no clue what I was doing in the beginning, so YES, please! I want to know those best practices, but No, thanks! I’m not paying 200 USD to get that good at my volunteering job. In this economy?!
But either way, forget about my experience: all you need to take away is – volunteering can and will give you the space to build a new skill. Try it out! Take the chance to get that new skill. Fill that gap in your CV with an experience that proves you worked on building that new skill you want to show off.
4. Network and teamwork
One more thing: you will work with others who believe in the same thing as you. That is one of the best parts about organizations. And no, it does not mean you will get along and share friendship bracelets from day one, maybe not even from month one or more.
What this means is that you will learn how to cooperate even though you don’t always see eye to eye: you will learn to accept that your differences do not mean that you will not work to reach your common goal. It will simply mean that you will learn how to communicate and plan so the ways in which you work are what everyone agrees on.
Another aspect of that involves meeting others who know your interests, others who know how you work and what you are capable of. Who knows, they may even be your next case competition buddy, your next master’s colleague (for those of you who are bachelor students), or maybe your thesis buddy.
5. Find your reason to join an organization!
OK, I don’t have five reasons for you. So what?! The last one is yours to find. Take this like a treasure hunt.