Welcome back GVSU PRSSA! With the start of a new school school year, it’s a good time to look forward to what’s ahead.
With new beginnings comes a time of transition. I was given total freedom to create my position when it was created last October, but that can be difficult when there is no precedent to follow! My role as VP of Alumni Relations, and the work of the alumni relations committee, is still taking shape after a semester of uncertainty, trial and error, and seeking the wisdom of mentors.
My experience has taught me some valuable lessons that I’d like to share. I hope students just beginning in their new roles can learn from my experience and observations. These tips also apply in the real world, too!
- Find your mentors. Your mentors could be professionals already involved in your organization (shout out to our amazing PRSSA adviser, Adrienne Wallace!), people who have previously held your position or one similar to it, or even someone who has mastered skills you want to apply in your role. People generally love to help students who show initiative, so don’t be afraid to ask. It’s equally important that you respect your mentors’ time. Don’t abuse their accessibility, and don’t ask them questions you can answer yourself with a little more effort. (Respect your mentors’ time AND build character!)
- Ask for help early. The beginning of something new can be scary, but it is also the most opportune time to ask for help. You have the most to gain by seeking the guidance of your mentors and peers as soon as possible when you begin your new position. Having those connections in place early will put you at ease, and having that foundation of knowledge, encouragement, and resources will help you start off strong. Relying only on yourself can make the task before you seem like a bigger mountain than it really is. Let others help you make the climb during your adjustment period.
- Take ownership. If you’re given the freedom to develop your position, run with it! In my case, the blank slate of a brand new role was especially intimidating, but it also meant there was nothing to compare my efforts against. The nature of a leadership position is that different people will bring different strengths and growth to the table when they are in that role. Don’t be afraid to experiment and stretch beyond what you think you should be doing – within reason, of course. If you have a precedent to follow, don’t be limited by sticking to what’s been done in the past. Make the position your own, to your organization’s greatest benefit.
- Be kind to yourself. It’s no secret that I’m my own worst critic. I’m sure others can relate. At a few points, I’ve had to accept that I could not meet the expectations I had set for myself. Indeed, no one is perfect. And as a busy student, you can’t always do it all. A lesson I have to keep teaching myself in these moments: Be kind to yourself. It’s not for a lack of effort that things didn’t work out quite right. Yes, work hard. Be effective. Hustle. But know that even if you are truly putting forth your best effort, there will be times you’ll fall short or inadvertently drop the ball. Don’t be discouraged.
- When you commit, commit. Students can find leadership positions enticing to collect as trophies to list on resumes. The idea is that you’ll look impressive if you were involved in a lot of things. The problem is that the title will do you no good if you didn’t contribute in that role.
There’s a lot to learn from being fully invested in one opportunity at a time. I truly believe you’ll be more well-rounded by focusing on being Student Leader A than on being Student Leader A, B, C, and D, and never fully investing in each role. When you accept a student leadership position, you are committing to be present in that role. It’s not just your own professional development that’s at stake, it’s potentially the health of the organization you have committed to serve.
I am grateful for the opportunity to learn these lessons during my time as VP of Alumni Relations. I hope these tips are helpful to other students getting ready to take on the world as student leaders!