With over 1,800 registered student organizations at Illinois, you’re bound to find a group that you enjoy being in. The opportunities are endless—you can try a new sport, build robots, or even just watch squirrels.
Whatever you end up doing, there’s a chance that you’ll find a group that you’re passionate about. You might find yourself wanting to make significant contributions to your organization and to be more than a general member. If so, you should definitely consider running for a leadership position!
At the end of my first semester at Illinois, I found myself in this exact position. I joined a social fraternity, and decided I wanted to contribute to the group. This past year, I served as one of our philanthropy chairmen—my job was to set up fundraiser events and liaise with other Greek Life organizations to raise money for various charities.
I definitely recommend joining the executive board of a group you’re passionate about—here are a couple reasons why.
You gain valuable leadership skills.
There are several leadership skills that are very valuable qualities to possess—you’ll work better in groups and be more desirable to employers. Holding an executive board position is a great way to pick up hands-on experience with these skills.
As a member of your RSO’s executive board, you will be responsible for more than just yourself. Your actions dictate the success and well-being of your organization and the people in it. I personally found that responsibility for others was the hardest part of my job—you’ll be under a lot of pressure. However, I have become a more reliable person as a result.
You’ll also learn how to communicate with others well. When I set up a dinner to raise funds for a charity, I found that it was vital to talk to everyone to ensure that the event would run smoothly. It’s nearly impossible to do everything by yourself—delegating tasks and communicating with others is the best way to get things done efficiently.
You build and form connections.
Part of my job as the philanthropy chair was to work with other organizations to send teams or people to their events. As a result, I’ve met a lot of people and made a lot of connections.
However, keep in mind that the connections you will make will depend on the position you hold. I met mostly other philanthropy chairs and students, and this was fine with me—I wasn’t looking for much else. If you want to make connections that will help after college, a position like alumni relations will be more helpful.
What you will contribute to your organization isn’t the only thing you should consider when working on an executive board— think about what YOU will get out of it too!
It teaches you how to manage your time well.
It’s helpful to have the mentality that an executive board position is like a 3-credit-hour class. Although fulfilling, being a good leader in your organization is a time-consuming role.
Coursework is always my priority, so I force myself to do all my homework before I start on anything else I need to do. Having responsibilities outside the classroom gives me less time to procrastinate and adds structure to my daily schedules.
Additionally, having a leadership position teaches you how to not bite off more than you can chew. All your responsibilities as a leader in your organization are time-consuming, but some might be too much to possibly handle. There’s a fine line between doing your best and being overambitious—being a leader will teach you where to draw it.
Your first position prepares you for bigger roles.
As a freshman, your chances of becoming president are very, very slim. There are students who are older than you and who have more experience than you. Becoming the philanthropy chair was not my first choice—I initially ran for the position of recruitment chair, but two older students were selected over me.
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try at all. Although a minor position, being the philanthropy chairman taught me a lot of important lessons. I know how the executive board functions. I proved myself to be a reliable person. Your performance and dedication in your first year is vital, especially if you plan on running for a bigger role. Take whatever you can get—some experience is better than no experience.
I loved serving as the philanthropy chair of my fraternity. I got to contribute to an organization I care about, and picked up a lot of skills along the way. Holding an executive board position in an organization is challenging, but fulfilling—if you’ve got the time, do it!