Kim: Striking a balance as a student leader


Elias Hatzandonis

Student organizations and leadership roles can begin to overwhelm you. How do you balance generating resume items with maintaining your sanity?

Won Hee Kim, Copy Editor

One of the hardest parts of having a leadership role in a campus organization is time management. As the spring semester winds down, many clubs have started the process of electing and training new officers, transitioning power to other, usually younger, members. As someone with senior status and experience as an officer, I can’t help but be worried: Are they ready? Will they be responsible?

It’s not a lack of faith in underclassmen that makes me ponder this but rather my own troubles with leadership in the past. I have been in leadership roles for clubs since my first year. Some of the titles were nominal, and I didn’t actually do much before I eventually stopped going to club meetings. Others I have remained loyal to and have perhaps dedicated too much time into them, to the point where the role interfered with my ability to do schoolwork.

But it wasn’t supposed to be this way. Leadership positions in college should be mutually beneficial for the club and the person in the role.

Students become leaders for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s because they truly care about an organization and its future. Sometimes they become leaders on a whim, or because the organization needed a warm body in the role. Sometimes, it’s because they—or their parents—think that it would look good on their resume.

Leadership roles are not supposed to be about the titles or the little section of a resume that says “Leadership” or “Extracurriculars.” When students focus too much on the title, they end up overloading themselves in their search to add more titles, or they ignore the things that they can gain from being in a leadership role: skills.

My personal experience as president of Writers Writing Words, a creative writing club, has taught me professionalism, copywriting skills and confidence talking in front of people. As event coordinator, I learned to create and finish projects, to coordinate people, to make sure things get done and to make posters. My roles helped not only in expanding the club but also in teaching me applicable skills that have prepared me for my part-time jobs and a career in the real world. It was mutually beneficial.

On the other hand, it shouldn’t be a full-time job either. Especially in my first two years, I had trouble. I didn’t have the support structure that I do now, and because of that, I ended up dedicating too much time on things that I shouldn’t have. It was useful to the club, but it also drained me. Students are people too, and they have responsibilities beyond their clubs, one of which is their education.

Being a leader is all about striking a balance, but it’s difficult to keep this in mind when you’re busy.

Instead, what you can do is take care of preparing your successors now, as the transition of power happens. Whether you are a current, past or future officer of the club, you need to have a conversation about what the club officers get out of it and what they are putting in. Remember the goals, and after a semester or so, review them and see if the goals have been met. If there is something concrete in your agenda, then it’s more likely that it will be seen to.

Also, for what it matters, I apologize to the clubs that I have ghosted in the past. I’ll make sure not to include you on my resume.

Won Hee Kim is a third-year English major with minors in creative writing and economics.