On August 23rd, I had the pleasure of serving as a panelist for the annual Student Leadership Conference at my Alma Mater, Marymount University. I was one of five alumni who spoke to the current students about our experiences as student leaders, and how it prepared us for what we are currently doing in our professional careers. We talked about the good, the bad and the ugly; the things that we learned, things we would’ve done differently and the ways that we’ve grown or evolved from our experiences since our student leader days at MU.
I always tell people that I had the best of both worlds when it came to my college years. I started off my freshman year at Hampton University (huge school/campus, HBCU, played in the marching band), and transferred into Marymount University (much smaller school, diverse, family oriented) as a sophomore. I was a commuter my sophomore year and then moved on to campus my junior and senior years. I treasure both experiences and literally am blessed to have found lifelong friendships and connections from attending both schools.
But it was the short time that I spent as a student leader that paved the way for my career path, and for what I’m doing now. I am really fortunate and blessed to have been able to participate in the student leadership activities while at Marymount. During my senior year, I was the Chair for the Culture Arts committee for the Activities Programming Board (APB). I planned events such as poetry jams and comedy shows on campus. This opportunity provided me with first hand experience at event planning, project management, bookkeeping, and marketing. I learned the true meaning of having and sticking to a budget. The experience also taught me the importance of having a back-up plan, and the value of creative thinking. I know this experience came into play when I was hired to work as an HR Recruitment Assistant (without any prior HR background) for the biggest hospital in the DC area, and then promoted to a Recruiter within my first three months of working (and this was over two other candidates who had been working in my same position for 2-4 yrs). I was told that it was because of my leadership capabilities, and the initiatives I took to go above and beyond.
As a panel, we were each asked about the regrets that we had or things we would’ve done differently. The only regret I had, which I shared with the students, was not starting out sooner and not participating in more. I didn’t start getting to know people on campus and getting involved with campus related activities until I actually moved on to campus. And it wasn’t until my senior year that I had gotten involved with APB. But if I knew then what I know now, then I definitely would’ve loved to have been a part of APB longer, I would’ve become a student ambassador, & probably a RA (resident assistant).
Here are just a few highlights that we shared with the group, & what the rest of their peers should know too:
- Most of us secretly wished we had been an RA. So if you have the opportunity, then go for it! 🙂
- Enjoy your time at MU. It goes quick and pretty soon, you’ll be in our shoes answering similar questions.
- Learn to use your resources and be creative: take advantage of the 25,000 plus alumni that you have access to (visit the Alumni Relations Team for more info)
- Take advantage of the leadership opportunities, but don’t kill yourself trying to do it all. Everything is not for everybody. So find something you enjoy doing, and do it well.
- Your resume sells itself. Employers indeed look at student leadership activities, which gives you an advantage over other candidates who were not involved in leadership. They look to hire future leaders. So what best way to demonstrate that you are one, than by having been one while you were in school?
- Start interning as soon as your freshman year if possible – this counts towards “experience” once you’re ready to look for employment upon graduation. That way, when your “dream” job asks for “2-3 years of relevant experience”, you will already have it.
- The power of networking and relationship building is key in today’s world. You are just a few metro stops from DC, so find local groups and networking events to go to that align with your interests. Stay connected to the people you meet because you never know if they could be your next boss.
- Protect your cyber image. Employers are now looking to social media sites in order to expand or delete from their candidate pool. So don’t put anything up on the world wide web that you would be embarrassed by if a potential employer were to see it. FYI: just because you delete it, doesn’t mean it’s gone.
There was so much valuable information even that I took away from listening to the other panelists. But if I missed anything, then hopefully one of my fellow panelists will chime in and share 🙂
Do you currently serve as a student leader at Marymount? How do you feel this will prepare you for your future career? If you attended the panel discussion, what was your biggest take away?