One of the things future employers check for is whether you did something during your period in university that makes you stand out from the crowd. Playing professional sports or having an IQ similar to Steven Hawkins is only something that applies to a select crowd of people, but there are more ways to become more interesting to your new boss. A board (-or committee) year is highly recommended and you can find out why after the read more.
Most students associate volunteer work that is education related with nerds, uptight over-achievers or social mis-fits; at least when you watch your typical hollywood High-school movie or tv-show. I will not argue whether this is a correct image or not, I can merely say it is not always like that here in the Netherlands. Although a lot of people that are involved in extra-curricular activities fit the above mentioned three groups, joining a board or committee can also have advantages for those people who just want to develop themselves and still are semi-normal.
You will learn to work to with other people in a setting that doesn’t feel as artificial as forced group assignments or practicals that you could just as easily have done yourself. You will have to work with different personalities that can clash with each other. It will teach you how to give feedback and how to solve problems as they are in the real world. One of the disadvantages of studying at university is the lack of practical experience. Reading a book does not help you develop the social skills that is needed to sell your products. If you feel like a Sheldon when you are in a group setting, reading another book won’t certainly enable you to become a slick salesperson.
When you want to join a board, club or committee you often have to go through the same dreadful application procedure as you will going to have to do when you apply to become just another paper pusher. First you write a motivation letter that will be accompanied by your resume. The motivation letter should make you think critically about what you want in life and why you are actually doing this application instead of just hanging out with you no good friends. If you sincerely don’t know why you are doing it but still would like to crank up your resume like a proper kiss-ass it can also improve your lying skills (not a fan of this by the way). On top of this it has the awesome side-effect that it will oblige you to keep your resume up to date. The next step will be an interview by the people that are in charge of recruiting the new members. Interviews feel pretty awkward and a lot of them use the same questions. When you already have had some interviews, you will be able to handle yourself better in the future. Practice makes perfect.
When you are in a board or committee you often have to have meetings within your board, with external parties like the university or sponsors. It will teach you how to behave in both formal and informal meetings. It will also expand your network. Despite the fact that I think it is horrible to kiss up to someone you don’t like or don’t want to talk to, I am fully aware of the benefit of it. Sometimes you just have to withstand the inner pain of listening to just another boring business type with cash. Because you will meet a lot of new people, who sometimes are just as motivated as you, chances of you meeting someone beneficial to your future life are rather high.
I assume (or hope) that those who join a board do it because they have affinity for what they are going to do (although I am fully aware of the fact that other motives can play a role). You are willing to invest a lot of time in the greater good. This will on one side cost you a lot of time that you normally could invest in chilling or doing less relevant stuff. So if you like to sleep a lot and spend all your free time on tv-series don’t join a board. On the other side this time will repay itself a thousand million time by the experience you will gain.
Last but not least in some cases it will earn you some cash. The university has appointed grants to specific boards such as ESN, UNSA, AIESEC, Tragos, Circumflex etc. If you will work for them you will get a small contribution to make up for the time lost that you could have spent studying.
So to summarize, board or committee work will gain you valuable experience you also use in your professional carreer, it will allow you to develop yourself and it can give you a bit of cash. The only downside I could think of was the loss of time or loss of coolness depending on the ignorance of your friends, but in my opinion this does not even come close to the benefits this has to offer
At this moment a lot of boards are recruiting new members. You might want to check websites of organization you might be interested in and just contact them or you can keep an eye out for the UMnews. The organizations often put adds in there. During my two board years I learned just as much, if not even more, than I did during my entire study, especially regarding social skills and group work. A true recommendation for everybody that is serious about their own future.
I was born and raised in a town called Geleen, sited between the hills of the Dutch province of Limburg. I'm a 25 year old Psychology Master student and a member of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). I will enjoy shedding my critical light on life itself and share it with you while I am at it.