In this #summerseries, I share posts explaining what you can do and learn during your summer break. In this post, I encourage taking up a leadership position on an organizing committee. Though school has officially ended, there’s a still a quiet buzz going on; faculties, student unions and student clubs are in the works of putting together multiple freshmen camps, concerts, parties and contests such that when Freshmen arrive in August, the University re-opens with a bang.
Running these events require quite the army of an Organizing Committee, typically consisting of roles such as Chairperson, Finance, Marketing, Programs, Public Relations and Sponsorship. During the Summer of my Freshman Year, I was a Sponsorship Director for the Organizing Committee of my student club’s talent show. I learnt many lessons about myself, about working with people and I’ve become very close friends with the people I worked with. In this post, I explain what you can learn from taking on leadership roles in Summer events.
Working towards a goal rather than a grade
In a group project, you’re usually working towards a deadline, or a grade. But in an Organizing Committee, you’re working towards creating an experience that you want your target audience to take away. It could be inducting the Freshmen into the school’s culture, leading your schoolmates to discover a new found talent or raising a certain amount of money for a charity. With grades, you’re working towards something that is still pretty much for yourself, but when you’re working towards an experience for your target audience, you’re working towards something much bigger than yourself. With yourself removed from the picture, serving your school/those around you opens you up to whole new way of doing things. For example, when I was Sponsorship Director, I had a list of contacts that was passed down to me. That list had all sorts of “weird contacts”, for example, my event was a talent show but there were random “petrol stations” listed as contacts. Clearly, the list was outdated and simply irrelevant. There are two ways that I could go about doing this, I could mass-email this “random list” of irrelevant sponsors, and sure enough, receive their rejections, and then go on to my Chairperson and explain “everybody on the list was contacted but no one wants to sponsor”. Or, I could source for more relevant contacts who had the same target audience as us: University freshmen. I chose the latter;I got in touch with someone who could sponsor Havaianas slippers, and the other arms of her company were willing to sponsor apparel and other retail services. This got the ball rolling; I was getting in touch with more relevant sponsors all of whom were generous and very pleasant to work with.
When its no longer about doing what’s the easiest/fastest for yourself, but what’s the best for your beneficiaries, you will notice you’re learning much more and improving leaps and bounds.
Working with people; working through conflict
In our team of 18 different people with different personalities and different styles of working, clashes were inevitable. Working through conflicts and gridlocks demanded tremendous negotiation and compromise. When conflict arise in group projects, its tempting to ignore the issue and just carry on for the usually short while more till the project is complete. Doing so in organizing committees is a lot more detrimental because not only does the group dynamics suffer, but poor group dynamics can thwart the efforts taken to sustain the whole event. Conflicts were resolved through many ways during my time with my organizing committee; ranging from open honest conversations to a hostile airing of grievances. Unfortunately, not all conflicts could be resolved and difficult decisions, such as relieving certain team mates had to be made. Otherwise, we just had to grit our teeth and tolerate team mates who were not as invested and passionate in the team’s objectives.
Through this experience of working with people and conflict resolution, I learnt the true meaning of “professionalism”; to be able to conduct oneself with desirable traits even in times of conflict.
You will notice that these two lessons I’ve highlighted here are the “real deal” : this is what happens in the workplace, where there’s no F- or A+, only a team of colleagues and a mission to carry out. Experience in leading in a student committee is stepping stone for greater responsibility in other student leadership positions, and ultimately the working world.