The Value of Student Organizations
In my first post, I went over some of the ways that students can set themselves up for success even among the onslaught of competing obligations from classes, student organizations, and personal projects. Here, I will take a deeper look at the value of engaging in activities outside of the classroom.
One of the most valuable resources that an MBA program provides is a variety of student organizations. At the C.T. Bauer College of Business there are a variety to choose from such as the Energy Club or the Finance Club.
So, why should you care?
First, it shows that you do more than the bare-minimum. If you have been accepted into an MBA program, then it is likely that you are an intelligent and hardworking individual. However, there are a lot of intelligent, hardworking individuals in MBA programs across the country (and the world).
In order to get the job that you want, it is important for you to distinguish yourself from all of these other people. Membership in student organizations and, more specifically, leadership roles in these organizations help you do just that.
By helping to lead an organization you are demonstrating that you are someone who does more than the bare minimum (even if you have a 4.0 and do the bare-minimum very well). Employers, like most people, respect individuals who go above and beyond basic expectations.
Simply put, when comparing two identical candidates for a job position where the only difference is that candidate A is a member of a student organization related to the industry they are applying for and candidate B is not, candidate A wins the day (and almost certainly the job).
**NOTE: Notice I said that candidate A was a leader of a student organization related to the industry in which she wishes to work. Remember from my first post that it is important to direct your efforts towards your goals. As an example, if you want to work in private equity being the president of the finance club will be more valuable to you than being the president of the marketing club. **
Second, having a leadership role in a student organization and executing your resulting responsibilities allows you to demonstrate that you have leadership qualities. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that a large part of why I am getting an MBA so that I am able to assume greater responsibilities at whichever company I work at next. I also know that companies tend to hire individuals with an MBA to perform more complex, higher-order tasks than those usually assigned to people coming straight out of their undergraduate studies.
Demonstrating leadership early on is an easy way to give your potential future employer that you are up to whatever task they put in front of you (managing a team, organizing and completing a project, etc.). It also gives you a whole other dimension to who you are to delve into both in your resume, your LinkedIn, and eventually your interviews. Remember, companies are going to be looking at how you are different from the various other qualified candidates applying for the same position. It is entirely to your benefit to provide them with as many ways to see you as different and unique as possible.
Third, student organizations give you the opportunity to add to your resume. When you are a member or leader of a student organization you will have tasks that you need to complete. These tasks and the skills that you utilized to complete them can be added to your resume. For example, the SURE Incubator helps up and coming entrepreneurs. The work that I do helping these entrepreneurs can then be added to my resume.
Additionally, the way in which you affect the organization you are a member of can be added to your resume as well. For example, I am the VP of Recruiting for the SURE Incubator, so at the end of the year, if I fulfill my responsibilities, I will be able to quantify the per person growth of the organization while I served that role. This means that student organizations are not magical job getters. Instead, they are, like anything else in life, an opportunity. You get out what you put in.
Fourth, student organizations allow you to network and collaborate with people who have similar interests and goals. Collaboration in your MBA program is a key to success (also in life). Building relationships with people who are planning on entering the same space as you can open up job opportunities. They also can help you in some areas in which you may be struggling. If you are having trouble understanding a concept in your finance classes, it is likely that the president of the finance club will be a good person to ask for assistance.
In my opinion, it seems clear that there are a variety of benefits to joining a student organization. However, it is important to put these benefits in the context of reality. You have a limited amount of time and effort that you can expend. It is important to use that time and effort wisely. As I write this another piece of advice given to me by Alejandro Sanoja regarding student organizations comes to mind,
“Be a leader of one and a member of all.”
This means that you should target your largest efforts towards the one or two organizations that are most relevant to your goals. Also, you should make sure to be involved to some degree in as many organizations as time allows so that you do not miss out on any opportunities that may be tangential to your goals.
For example, if you want to go into consulting it would make sense for you to try to be the president of the consulting club. Yet, because consulting can take many shapes, it would probably be a good idea for you to also participate in the marketing and finance clubs. These clubs, while not as focused on your goal as the consulting club, may open up opportunities that you would not have had otherwise (such as meeting a financial consultant at a networking for the finance club that may open doors for you at her company).
In conclusion, you want to give yourself every opportunity to succeed. This means putting in more effort than the bare-minimum. I recommend organizing your goals and doing anything within your power to achieve your goals. Let consistent, guided action differentiate you from your peers.
Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and reach out for any questions.