Q: What is something you wish you had known when starting college?
A: The importance and benefits of joining/being a part of a student organization
I am not going to state the obvious (I totally will: Your degree will not guarantee you a job) but what I am going to tell you is that the more involved you are with student organizations on campus, the better your chances of landing a job out of college or in the case of international students even getting sponsored by a company for your H1B visa (if that is your ultimate goal as an international student). My only regret about college was that I didn’t join student organizations right from year one!
*(image credit: http://www.wordwritepr.com)*
Here are 9 more benefits of joining student organizations
- Gets you out there: Every student organization usually ends up having a faculty advisor. These advisors see 100’s of students every day but if they see your face 2-3 times in a week and work with you closely, they are bound to remember you, which will help you with #2
- Letters of Recommendation for grad school/jobs: Having worked closely with you, these advisors are then very comfortable writing letters of recommendation for you whether it is for a job or for a masters/Ph.D program.
- Practical experience in teamwork, leadership, events management or other soft skills: Reading a Harvard Business Review article (or any other article for that matter) won’t teach you as much about this as real life application will. When we were recruiting new members for our student organization, we would ask everyone who would come one question: ‘Where did you hear about us’. The answer to this one question made us realize that we were wasting money putting posters around campus as most of our audience came through class presentations, social media promotions and word of mouth. Working with a tight budget, it also saved us a lot of money next time.
*(image credit: https://chipsifraternity.files.wordpress.com)*
- You get to apply the skills you learn and in doing so get better at it: I have seen this happen first hand. One of my very close friends joined the Student Alumni Association with me and started doing all the graphic design work for them. The more she practiced her craft, the better she became at it. Soon she had a good enough portfolio and a great story with it to get admission into the California College of Arts (one of the best art schools in the country)
- You can also learn new skills: Consider this scenario – your student organization needs a website and none of the members know how to build one. What do you do? You go learn how to do it – that’s what you do.
*(image credit: campus.albion.edu)*
- Opportunities to strengthen your weaknesses: You can also use this to step out of your comfort zone. In my case, it was public speaking. I was scared to death of public speaking, but I knew this was a barrier I had to overcome if I wanted to succeed so I used this as an opportunity to improve on my public speaking skills. If I ever get second chance at this, I am definitely going to try work on my selling skills (I would have said dating but I don’t think that there are student organizations that permit you to do that yet).
- The network and the relationships: If you don’t already know this: Who you know > what you know. Most of the people still get hired the informal way (that is through referrals from people who know the person) and that is why networking and forging relationships is such a big deal; Big enough that there are coaches who have made this into a career. A lot of my friends in college got their first jobs through those relationships that they forged in these student organizations.
- Chances of getting an internship or a job increases: My only internship in college was due to the student organization I was a part of. My first job out of college was with a company that was owned by my friends dad. A friend who was a part of the same student organization in UGA that I was a part of at Georgia State University.
- You get to try different things: You can be a part of the marketing team one semester and the recruiting team in the next. There really is no limit to what you can try if you are willing to jump in. In doing so, you might even end up discovering something you are naturally good at but never knew about it.
Lastly, don’t forget to have fun! Some of my best learnings and fun experiences came from participating in, organizing and volunteering in student organization activities. Consider this as your laboratory: Experiment, Learn, Fail, Build and Repeat.