By Joel Delgado ’12 MS ’17
At FIU, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.
From social clubs to student government, there are literally hundreds of organizations where you can get plugged in on campus – and maybe at some point, you may take on a leadership role within one of the many clubs.
A few weeks ago, a group of current and former student leaders on campus participated in “True Life: The Life of a Student Leader” at the Wolfe University Center at Biscayne Bay Campus (BBC) to discuss and share with other students what it takes to take advantage of the opportunities that come with a leadership role on campus.
Here are a few nuggets of leadership wisdom shared with FIU News:
1. LEADERS DON’T LET DOUBTS AND FEARS HOLD THEM BACK
One thing student leaders on the panel had in common, including former vice president of Panther Power Joanna Guillaume, was the regret of not getting more involved earlier in college. Guillaume also started a dance club at BBC where she served as president for two years, but wonders what else she could have done with more time.
“I started joining clubs after freshman year and I regret I didn’t start sooner,” says Joanna Guillaume, who graduated last fall with a degree in health services administration. “There was so much more I feel I could have done and experienced. I encourage people to start right away.”
Sometimes, the thought of taking on more responsibility or leading something can be a bit intimidating. It’s normal to have doubts and question if you are really up to the challenge, but the only way to become a leader is to overcome those doubts and fears.
“I decided I wasn’t going to second guess myself anymore,” says Rogihanne Avin, the current president of Panther Power. “If you’re afraid of doing it, go for it anyway.”
2. LEADERS WRITE IT DOWN
One of the major topics discussed during the panel was time management. Balancing classes, jobs, club leadership and a social life takes intentionality and effort. For these leaders, developing a habit of writing things down – including daily tasks, upcoming events, short term and long term goals – in a calendar or journal was instrumental in staying organized and on top of everything.
“I got through high school without writing anything down and I thought I can do the same thing in college – I was dead wrong,” Guillaume says. “My time management got a lot better when I got a notebook, a calendar and wrote down what I needed to do and what my goals were. Your memory will fail you, so write it down.”
So if you don’t have a calendar or journal, you might want to get one and put it to good use.
“My calendar is my best friend,” Student Organizations Council-BBC Marketing Director Stephanie Carmenate says with a laugh.
3. LEADERS KNOW WHEN TO SAY ‘NO’
While there are many benefits to taking on more responsibilities and leadership roles on campus, it’s easy to reach a point where you’re stretched so thin that instead of thriving, your impact and productivity begin to suffer.
“Yes, it’s important to get involved but don’t take on more than you can handle. If you’ve got to let something go, then let it go,” Guillaume says. “A great leader knows when to step back and let others handle responsibilities. It’s okay to say ‘I can’t do this anymore’ so they don’t hurt themselves and those around them.”
One way to avoid a potential burnout is to determine a few top priorities and make sure your commitments align with those priorities. If they don’t, you may want to consider reevaluating whether that commitment is worth your time.
“If you’re involved and you’re in school, your education comes first. We are students first,” Avin says. “If you think you’re going to miss class or if your grades will suffer, let someone else handle it.”
4. LEADERS COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
Before becoming a student leader, Carmenate described herself as timid and not very assertive. But stepping into a leadership role has helped her become more assertive and has also helped her learn how to effectively communicate with others she’s working with to accomplish a common goal.
She also learned that a big part of being a leader is empowering others to share their thoughts and to facilitating an exchange of ideas among the groups they lead.
“Being a leader has taught me not to be a close-minded person and be open minded to what other people think,” Carmenate says. “Being available and being open to other people’s ideas is very satisfying for all involved. Once your ideas are heard, it can make a difference on campus.”
5. LEADERS AREN’T AFRAID TO START SOMETHING NEW
Leaders don’t always wait for opportunities to come to them. Sometimes, they create opportunities for themselves.
If you have an interest or hobby that you feel other students may want to be a part of, you have the opportunity to take the initiative and take steps to establish a club on campus.
“If you don’t find a club that’s to your liking, you can always start one,” Avin says.
This article is part of our Secrets to Success series.