Student life experience is priceless

I will write about what I know – how experience through student life can be implemented in the daily work life.

While being in University, there are many associations, and organizations that students can be part of. I was an active member of EESTEC and I am still a member of IEEE, Women in Engineering and a Syster. EESTEC is a student organization for Electrical Engineering students, and the words are not enough to explain how grateful I am to have been part of it, because it opened my eyes, and made me think outside the box. What I learned later, as an employee, is that I could use the experience I gained while being part and working in a student organization.

1. Responsibility and Accountability

– No one calls it responsibility or accountability in student organizations. In EESTEC, we call it fun and EESTEC spirit. Student members are not paid to work. By work, I mean organize events, host people, give trainings, write documentation, etc., but they are still actively involved and LOVE it. They nurture the responsibility and accountability but never mention those words. When organizing an event, unless the fund-raising team finds sponsors, there won’t be an event (in EESTEC all expenses for an event go to the organizer, there is no fee for participants). They realize it, get down to work, and manage to succeed. Taking action when realized the need for it, becomes a daily habit, and a natural behavior with time. Understanding the chain reaction of “if-I-don’t-do-my-job” is the best thing a 19 year old can gain from life, and implement it afterwards.

2. Promotion and Networking

– It exists even in organizations. Those who talk more, work more and get involved more, have positions in board, local or international. It is called Promotion in real life, with the difference that as part of a student organization, you must apply to have it, and in your company, someone has to notice your talent, and Promote you. In student organization you can also be promoted (someone else to say you are good), but that is just part of your abilities for Networking. If most of the people you have worked with, say you were good, everyone else (who haven’t met you) will talk about you, and you will be nominated for titles and positions. The best and most competent ones are not always promoted, or became board members! The ones who actually have better networking and self-promotional skills are. That’s just life.

3. Organizational skills

– This is what is expected from all employees in companies, however, in student organizations, the name itself says everything. It is amazing how there are student organizations that exist more than 120 years, even since the Internet didn’t exist, and they still function well nowadays. Documentation, events, meetings, congresses, communication, building hierarchy  – students managed to do it all, and kept the habits for a century. No one told them so, they just simply managed it – while being active students, and studying to finish their degrees. Learning to balance studying and involvement in the organization, while still keeping a normal social life, is priceless. When working, balancing work and private life, still managing to keep the sanity, comes much easier if you have previous experience.

4. Leadership skills and team-building

– The ability to motivate students to do a task, on time, without getting paid, and still to be satisfied and ask for more, is leadership. In student organizations, leaders are developed, because they have years to evolve, while making mistakes and learning from the everyday experience. Student organizations vary in numbers from dozen members, to thousands, and include local, and international members, usually spread around continents. It is an experience money cannot buy, but worth it millions afterwords in the real world, while working in a corporation. The advertised term leadership is not a popular student term, but just cause they don’t use it, doesn’t mean they don’t own the skill.

Teams in student organizations are most challenging, because membership is voluntary, and everyone should be part of at least one team in order to keep them interested for a longer period. Identifying members’ potentials, creating teams and keeping harmony in those teams is not easy. Student organizations have contact persons, PR, Marketing and Advertising teams, logistics, IT, design teams, internal affairs responsible, external affairs responsible, fund-raising and treasurer’s teams, and all of them are coordinated by presidents and chairpersons. This reminds of a company structure, and when taken into consideration what every team’s nature of work is, it is clearly an entry level job, like an internship, with real obligations. Not to mention the experience to work with people from different backgrounds, different habits, religions and cultures, in general, with distributed teams from all over the world, and manage to finish all tasks. The strongest side a student organization has is everyone to act like a team, be happy and satisfied.

5. Problem solving and Knowledge sharing

– When problems appear, finding solution is done in the most unorthodox way. Students are not experienced, therefore they don’t weight what they could lose (position, salary, profit), so they focus on finding the solution, and they act, pushing their limits to the maximum. In that process, they learn, and often document and share the experience on solving the obstacles with the colleagues. Later on, in the working environment and real life, for these people many problems are a déjà vu, and become easily resolvable. People management, lack of funds, travelling, organizing events, good or bad PR campaign, distributed teams, lack of motivation, feedback….part of the daily problems in student organizations, and a good soil for being calm when resolving issues in the business world later in life.

6. Culture

– Different religions, cultures, habits, traditions. It is something student organizations value, and learn to respect. As well, sharing knowledge on how people live, or what projects they are working on, is something worth knowing, as you never know who you might end up sitting next to at an event – knowledge is always welcomed.

7. Clients

– All student organizations have clients – professors, assistants, Universities, companies. Keeping satisfied everyone, keeping their loyalty is not pure luck. It’s hard work. They are not called clients, but sure are a mirror image of the clients people try to handle their entire working life.

8. Daily happenings for a member of a student organization apart from being a student and having friends, and bf/gf 🙂

– Planning, brainstorming, branding, PR, logistics, fund-raising, team-building, motivation, giving a speech, monitoring, feedback, training, learning, evolving, being happy, team-building, hosting friends, organizing events, meeting deadlines, applying for state funds, going to meetings with companies, elevator-speech, writing guides, hosting friends met abroad, being streetwise, getting around a new city visited for the first time, prepare for the unexpexted…..and much more…

9. Stress

– Hm….I very rare word used in student organizations, although a feeling experienced daily. Imagine organizing an event for 25 people.

  • Plan the event subject, explore the needs of the market and the potential sponsors (called Business analysis)
  • Pick a name, and start working on the campaign (called PR)
  • Design and print brochures, posters, t-shirts, pens, folders, bags, umbrellas, key-chains, bookmarks, make commercials, find TV and radio stations, create a website, etc. (Marketing and Advertising)
  • Budget (finances)
  • Organize accommodation, food, transportation, parties (called Logistics)
  • Meet invitees on the train/bus station or airport and show them the city and traditional food (Hospitality)
  • Keep everyone satisfied (??? in the business world)
  • Have prepared speech of opening/closing
  • Keep organizers happy and smiling, and try to make them avoid arguing in front of the guests
Now comes the bad part. Money is not enough, organizers can’t pay the hotel -participants sleep on the street, or don’t eat. The solution is to IMPROVISE. Then, hotel is horrible…find something nicer, or make the food amazing and parties unforgettable. Sleep, and eat on the way, don’t loose the nerves. One of the main sponsors decides not to sponsor the event, the last minute….Improvise again 🙂 Stress is never mentioned when things go wrong…. cause wasting time on a word, is wasting time to actually solve a problem! Maybe grown ups can learn that.

This is just a drop in the sea of what experience can be gained in a student organization, and implemented later in the business world.


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