5 Steps to Joining Campus Organizations

College students attending an activities fair. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Justin Henry 

While doing well on tests and papers is a must to get through college—not to mention all that late-night pizza and coffee—if you want to work in a creative industry, it’s all about what you do outside of the classroom.

Like many aspiring creatives, I was in the conundrum of wanting to intern in a creative field (magazines) but heard that I needed prior intern experience in order to intern. Um, what?

My solution was to join campus organizations that gave me experiences comparable to internships. By becoming actively involved on campus, I honed leadership skills, managed teams and budgets, and polished my professional speaking. Several leadership roles later, I interned in the magazine industry not once, but three times.

Beyond major résumé boosters, campus organizations provided the most meaningful experiences of college. I met my best friends and did things I never would have dreamed of, like getting on stage in front of hundreds of students to announce the fall concert.

From the activities fair to that first internship interview, here are five steps to take you through finding the best campus clubs for you.

Step 1: Join What Peaks Your Interest

In my freshman year, I signed up for anything and everything—French Club, the Outdoors Club, and my school’s branch of Ed2010 (a national group for aspiring magazine editors). Signing up didn’t mean I was contractually bound to the club, but it did get me on the email list to learn about information sessions, meeting dates, and fun events.

Step 2: Test the Waters

You’re not going to know if a club is right for you immediately, but by the third meeting you will have a feel for the organization. After much trial and error, I pursued Ed2010, the student newspaper, and the event-programming group.

Step 3: Take the Lead

As an executive board member of three campus organizations during my sophomore year, I simultaneously helped the success of several clubs and paved my professional future. To get those leadership positions, try to find ways to take the lead on different projects and volunteer frequently to show your commitment. These will help make you stand you during end-of-year elections.

Step 4: Interest First, Career Second

If you’re not truly interested in an organization, you’re not going to get anything out of it—even if you think being a member will help your career. I struggled as an editor and an event coordinator because both demanded so much of time. I realized I was more excited to plan the fall concert than to lay out a newspaper page. Even though I wanted to work in magazines, I stepped down from my editor position the following semester.

Step 5: Speak to Your Experience

Each club is different, but leadership is the same across the board. Thanks to my involvement, I gave examples of problem solving, managing, and putting together something creative for the campus to enjoy during internship interviews.

How have campus organizations shaped your college experience? Share in the comments!

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