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How to Run for Committee Positions as a First Year

Consider running for office within your favorite college club, even if you're a freshman. Here's how!

Maya Moritz

April 18, 2016

How to Run for Committee Positions as a First Year
You definitely went to the fresher’s fairs, put your email down for at least ten clubs, and maybe went to one or two of the events. You probably checked your email and saw that those clubs are hosting their yearly elections and (gasp) some of them have already selected next year’s committees. Don’t panic. You won’t be left the only one without anything going on and you won’t be the only person with nothing on your CV for sophomore year, at least not if you act now.

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Step 1: Examine Your Options

Take a deep breath and check those emails marked “AGM” or “Vote.” See which positions are available. As a current freshman, you may wish to run for one of the less prestigious position, as President and Vice President tend to be reserved for juniors or very active sophomores.

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Think about what you would say in your speech. Do you have any related experience that could win you votes or make you the best choice? Also, what do you want to do? Run for a club whose events are enjoyable and a treat to attend or that will give you important connections and experience for your career. Ideally, find a club that embodies both options. If you don’t wish to join the club that centers on your career, it might be time to rethink your future plans.

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Above all, choose something that you feel enthusiastic about. Voting members and committees can tell if you’re just there for a position through your hesitation and body language. A reliable test is to think of why you want to run for the position. If your explanation focuses on the faculty of the role or filling in room on your CV rather than actually improving the club, you may wish to skip the vote.

Step 2: Consider Your Schedule

I know people who have successfully juggled ten committee positions (10!) and a full course load and I know students who cannot handle a single other commitment apart from school. Most people fall somewhere on that spectrum, and by freshman year you may have a vague idea of your needs. If you don’t, a good rule of thumb for most students is to have two committee positions on two unrelated but meaningful committees. Two positions show dedication, the ability to multi-task, and a sustained focus on classes (the reason you’re at university). Unrelated committees show variety and diversity. Most employers wish to hire vibrant, dynamic people who can discuss something other than work. Kill two birds with one stone by making the non-career committee a sport in order to keep active or a charity in order to feel spiritually fulfilled (and give back). Some committees revolve around housing, a useful way to ensure you have somewhere to live next year and can control the environment in your living space. Also, consider running for multiple committee positions in case you don’t win the two you desire. If you win those, you can always drop out of the race (and make your opponents very happy).

Step 3: Take the Initiative

Once you’ve decided which committee and position you’ll campaign for, don’t simply send in your application. First, message the current student in that role. This was one of the best moves of the year for me! Meet for coffee and ask all your questions. What’s the time commitment like? Do you have to invest any of your own money (think non-subsidized events)? How often does the committee meet? Three things could result from this meeting: (1) you decide you don’t want the position and don’t run; (2) you run and lose; (3) you run and win. This meeting will make option 3 more likely as you can discuss campaign and speech. If the former options occur, you’ve still made a great connection (and a friend who you already have something in common with) and have a better chance of winning next year.

Step 4: Run!

Send in your application by the due date, connect with people in the club, and research the club’s past and present. Write your speech beforehand, but don’t make it too rigid. These events can run over or people may wish to leave early, so decide on some points that can be thrown out if time doesn’t allow. Don’t feel embarrassed and don’t fear competition. If you lose, you lose, and you must be a good sport. Also, dress appropriately. The Art Club will want you to show off your personality and creativity while the Fine Food and Dining Society may want you to look spiffy in your nicest suit. In your speech, find a balance. I’ve seen a haughty speech and an overly humble speech that have both been bested by a relatable and simple introduction. Definitely mention ideas for the future, but don’t overstep your bounds. Never criticize the society’s past (people who ran those events are probably voting) and stick to what you’ll be able to do within your role (otherwise you’ll sound like you’ve done no research). Most importantly, don’t give up if you lose. Join the club again next year and see if there are any positions that open up in the fall. People like to vote for a familiar face, so just keep coming to events and making connections.

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