How Being a Student Leader in College Catapulted My Career

Being a Student Leader in College or University can catapult your career.
Senior Year of High School Football. People told me the cold glare wasn’t cool… I didn’t listen.

In High School and my first year of College, Football was everything. I had found my passion for improving myself and learning how to gain a physical and mental edge in my game. Though I always knew Football would never be a career for me, I learned many strategies and skills that translated to more than just football. After only one season playing in College, I decided to commit more towards my academic and career goals and started looking for what my life would be like without competitive sports.

I had heard about Student-Leadership opportunities from an older sibling, who was a Resident Assistant when they were in College. I decided to also pursue the opportunity, since free rent seemed like a pretty sweet gig. I got the job and immediately realized the impact that the position brought, for those I worked with and for myself personally. I remember sitting through the Fall Training, learning about communication skills, leadership, event planning, marketing my programs, and I quickly began making ties to my career. I wasn’t learning how to be an awesome RA, I was learning how to be successful. This position taught me the life skills needed that you don’t get from College Courses, there is no Life Skills 101.

Lightning Struck

Call it luck, coincidence, whatever, but the school I was at had an undeveloped Residence Life program. A new Director brought a new, and widely used at other Institutions, structure that meant a new student-leader position was being created. I saw an opportunity to pursue growth and jumped at the chance. I got the job and found myself after one semester as a Resident Assistant, supervising a team of Resident Assistants. I went from peer to Supervisor in between semesters, which had its own challenges, but that is another story.

This new position brought in an opportunity to learn supervisor skills, and higher levels of conflict mediation, customer service, and business organization. I couldn’t get enough! There was so much growth to be had and I was in full sponge-mode, soaking it in as much as I could. I quickly saw myself growing into what I didn’t think I would become for years in only months.

Lightning Strikes Again

That following summer, fate struck again. I was working for the department’s summer programming, and as part of my Director’s strategic plan for continued growth, a new full-time position was created in the department. At first, I had no intention of applying. My train of thought was simple, “Cool! I wonder who my new boss will be!”. The summer cStudent Leader, Resident Assistant, Be an RA, Res Life, Residence LIfe, Recruitment, Student Leadership, Scholarship, College, Universityontinued on, with no new boss. When I asked my Director how the search was going, the reply was that they were really trying to be deliberate in finding the right person for the role. I had reviewed the job posting simply out of curiosity early on, but decided to revisit it at that time. I instantly noticed a change in the qualifications. Where “Bachelors Required” once stood in the education requirement, now read “Bachelors Preferred, Associates Required”. That was it! I was immediately filled with hope, passion, confidence, and other positive emotions. This job was exactly what I wanted my first step into the career world to be, I just didn’t see it happening for a few years. When I saw the requirement change, the limit of waiting was removed. I was qualified, even if on paper I only met the bare minimum, I know that my worth is better portrayed in person than on paper. I applied.

After a stressful few weeks of late nights preparing for my interview and presentation I had to prepare, I found out that I got the job! It seemed so surreal. There I was, 22 years old and starting my career in the field of Higher Education. I was headed to, what was in my mind, the “big leagues” while my friends were still cutting class.

Multiply Your Time

That was four years ago, and my drive to develop myself has only grown stronger. I continually reflect on how I got to where I am, and attribute everything to what I call multiplying your time. When you multiply your time, you make tomorrow better because of your actions today. Below is a list of a few suggestions how College students can multiply their time while gaining an education:

  1. Become a Student-Leader (Resident Assistant, Student Government, Ambassador, etc.)
    Student-Leader positions are created to provide students opportunities to receive valuable leadership and development opportunities. These look great on resumes and give your character and work ethic a boost on top of the gains from obtaining your education.
  2. Join a Club
    If a Student-Leader position isn’t in the cards, join a club! Clubs create great ways to get involved in your passion. You will get opportunities to work with others, learn more about communicating, team work, event planning, and more. The skills are there, most people just don’t realize that is what they are doing.
  3. Connect Your Classes
    Ask yourself the following questions as you start each semester:

    1. Which of my classes am I excited about the content? (this doesn’t mean they are easy, but you are motivated to learn)
    2. Which of my classes do I know have direct ties to my career? (these don’t have to be ones you are excited about)
    3. Which of my classes do I know I will have to spend a little more time on? (Is math really your thing? Be honest…)
    4. Which of my classes am I not going to have a problem with? (1-credit golf class anyone?)

When you take the time to connect your classes to your career, it helps you find the motivation to work hard and invest your time. When you run into tough times, you will know that the class is important and will benefit your career. When you start a semester knowing extra time will have to be dedicated to a certain class, you start the semester investing more time from the beginning so you don’t fall behind. By reflecting, creating a game plan, and committing yourself, you are set up for success. The only thing left is to take action, but that is up to you.

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