Campus involvement stands as one of the most beneficial college experiences that every student should have. Simmer down freshman, I’m not talking about greek life. What I’m talking about is the availability of organizations that will not only help you hone your skills for your career, but will also teach you how to take initiative and be a leader. If you care about something—a cause, a subject, a hobby—most likely there’s a club for it. And if there’s not, guess what…you can create a club for other likeminded individuals (your resume light bulb should be flaring here).
Why Join a Club? What is the Point in College?
You may be wondering why I am taking time out of my day to advise you all to join a club. Well…to put it simply, I don’t want you to make the same mistake I made. I want you to be successful and leave college not regretting even one second of it.
Yeah, you can go party every night and enjoy the best four years of your life with no regrets…UNTIL YOU ARE JOBLESS OR TWIRLING A SIGN. It’s called balance my young padawans. On the same token, you could work your butt off every night while missing out on experiences with friends and still get a great job later…
You could, but I doubt you would want to do that. Again, it comes down to balance. Work hard, play hard. So what’s the point? Why join a club or organization?
It’s simple. Every single thing you learn from your organization will benefit your short term and long term endeavors. You never know when the skills you develop in your club will suddenly become useful in class.
It happened to me a few times actually. When I finally joined the Student Finance Group at UF, I began to excel in my finance courses. It was like someone hit the English subtitles button on my professor’s lectures. I began to understand terminology used in class and overall had a better understanding of what was going on.
I was able to ask relevant questions and thereby make a name for myself in the eyes of my professors. And if you’re thinking about graduate school, those relationships with professors will go a very long way.
But that’s not all. The most important reasons for joining an organization have to do with how it will affect your job application process and first few years of your career.
I’ll give you a little secret about the real world…companies care about GPA, but they don’t really care about GPA. What they care about most (I CAN GUARANTEE) is your professional development and experience. If you have a 4.0 GPA as an Accounting major, but you don’t have an internship or aren’t a part of any accounting or business-related clubs, the employer will look at you like “What have you really been doing the last four years other than reading textbooks?” Don’t be that student.
You’re not a lone wolf. This isn’t X-Men, Wolverine. Join a group and be a part of something bigger than yourself. Employers love team players. Prove to them before you even apply that you already are one.
Finally, being involved in some kind of organization (yes, even Greek life) is FAR better than not being involved. Employers would rather see on your resume that you were Fundraiser Chairman of the Ping-Pong club than to fill in the blanks themselves. Most likely, with no involvement, they will question how you spent your time. Oh, but you got a 4.0 GPA. Awesome. Good for you but who cares. There’s another student with a 3.5 applying for the same job but with more experience and drive than you, 4.0 Slick.
The truth is that it looks way more impressive to be responsible in both your academics and involvement. An un-involved student with a 4.0 looks like a bookworm with little to no time-management skills. You want to show employers someday that you can tackle multiple responsibilities and that you can kick butt at it!
Joining the Right Group or Organization
If you are at a major university swarming with thousands of students, choosing a single club or two may be more difficult than it sounds. At UF alone, there are hundreds of clubs/groups out there to choose from. But how do you choose the right one? What if you’re still unsure about your major or about what you want to do in life? How do you know if you’re wasting your time with a club that eventually won’t be relevant to your career?
First of all, no matter what group you join, get a leadership position. Every club/group will, at the very least, teach you leadership and time management skills that are invaluable as a contributing member of society (people who have jobs). I can guarantee you that as long as you are interested in what the organization does, you will learn and retain skills that will set you apart from most job applicants down the road. Hopefully that relieves some of your initial anxiety for deciding on a group to join.
When browsing the many clubs at your college or university, start by filtering out and eliminating those that you know darn well that you will not join. That should help get rid of roughly 75% of them. Now that you are working with a manageable number of groups, think (and here I actually encourage jotting down your thoughts) about what interests you.
You might be thinking, “Dude I have no idea what interests me. I mean, I like cheese, but I don’t see how a cheese club would help me.” Say no more. The answer is simpler than you think.
Leisure Time – What is it that you do on your free time? Answering this question can help take a huge step towards finding out which club to join. When you browse the internet, do you read about sports, about cooking? Are you obsessed with the “politics” section of the Wall Street Journal? Do you spend your weekends hiking? By now, you should know where I am going with this. In case you don’t, recognizing what you do on your free time can be a huge indication for what it is that truly interests you.
I mean, how many people do you know who spend their free time doing things they don’t like? I sure don’t know any. And when you have the answer, finding an organization that shares your interests should be easy. Again, if you can’t find it, START IT. This will be a HUGE resume booster when you throw in that line saying “Founder of…” allowing your leadership, time management, and organizational skills to shine through.
Ambitions - If you’re one of those students that miraculously knows exactly what he/she wants to do with his/her life early on because you had no childhood and grew up too fast, more power to you!
I tease, I wish that were me (I’m obviously the jealous type). Still, if you know you want to be a lawyer, join the law society! If you want to start your own business one day, join the entrepreneurship club! The information you gather and the network you create at your organization will be incredibly rewarding and result in a seamless transition into adulthood.
By now, you should have a better idea of how to select an organization. If you still don’t, have no fear because I have the answer. JOIN SOMETHING ANYWAYS. Here’s why: if you spend your first two years just studying and switching majors and not joining a club because you have no idea what you are even doing in college…you are already less competitive for that job you’re going to want one day.
JOIN SOMETHING ANYWAYS. If you have a list of ten unrelated clubs—let’s say one is related to engineering, another to sports, another to law, etc.—pick the one that just sounds like the most fun to you. The reason is simple: if you join that math club because you think it sounds fun and then suddenly after a year you hate it, guess what! It sounds like you hate math and if that is your major, then maybe it’s time for a switch before it’s too late. Joining that math club did at least one thing for you—it helped you realize you don’t want to pursue a career in that.
Isn’t that better than attending college club-less, graduating, getting some job in math, and then regretting your life for the first few years of employment when you realize math isn’t your passion?! You tell me. (Sorry for all those that are math-lovers. I love math, I just chose it randomly to pick on.)
Key Takeaway: Figure out what your interests/ambitions are as soon as you can and get on it. If you can’t figure that out in time, join SOMETHING that at least sounds like it could be fun.
I Joined an Organization. Great! Now What Do I Do?
So you’ve joined a college organization, huh? Looking to boost that resume of yours before everyone and their mothers takes a look at it, right? Well, you’ve made the right first step. But, now that you’re in it, the real fun begins.
Contact the president or someone on the executive board! Before you step onto the big stage of your first club meeting, contact (via email) someone on the executive board. Question what you can expect to see or do in the meeting. Ask them if there is some dress code (especially important for business organizations). Be inquisitive about anything you want to know. The more you know, the more you look like a prepared B.A. walking into that first meeting.
Hudson, the originator and founder of this website touts the 6 p’s—Poor prior planning leads to (other word for urine) poor performance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a meeting as one of the few unprepared people. Finally, I learned and changed my ways, but boy were those some embarrassing moments. Let someone else take that spotlight, you don’t want it.
One goal in mind – No matter what group you joined, you should have one goal in mind. You should be eyeing that presidency or other executive position until you get it.
Not the leader type? I doubt it. Everyone can be a leader. If you joined a club you really care about, becoming a leader will be a walk in the park for you. That leadership position won’t happen over night. In fact, it may not happen until senior year. But better late than never! On your resume, it will do wonders. Employers typically raise their bushy brows in curiosity and intrigue when they see “Treasurer of the Hoo-Haa club.” Forget the last part, it’s jibberish. But you get my point! Heck, “Vice president of the beach club” is way more impressive than “Member of the Engineering club.”
The word “member” is so…boring. I cringe at it. And so do you. Members sit and listen; leaders stand and get things done. You are a leader. YOU ARE A LEADER. Make it happen. (And if you want to know how, feel free to leave a question in the comments. I’d be more than happy to help with that too.)
Do your part – Up until you get that leadership position, your job is simple—attend literally as many meetings and events as you physically can.
Ask the executive board how you can help. Socialize and make friends. Raise new ideas. Ask questions. The organization you are in consists of other clueless college students. Just kidding boo, you’re not clueless. But you are all in there on similar ground!
Don’t be afraid to speak. Someone else likely has a similar question or idea. Don’t let them beat you to it…you have an oval office to claim.
Joining an organization is much better than just studying and praying that one day you’ll know what career path you want to take. Do some mild research, think about your interests and ambitions, and join a dang club or two. You have the time, that’s no excuse. You have the ability and you have the drive. It’s there. Don’t think about it too much, just go join something! And if it doesn’t work out, try another. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Now go out there and show them what you’ve got!
Conquer College and Dominate Life!