Top Ten Tips For Incoming Student Executives
With the first week jitters out of the way, it’s probably finally sinking in that you are a student leader. Congrats! This is what your hard work has culminated towards. Those long election hours, however, can’t compare to the real thing. You now have business cards, a new shiny office and a student body counting on you to make important decisions.
Now is the time to start formulating a plan that will ensure you follow-up on your promises and surpass your targets. After all, it’s equally important to succeed in your position as it was to secure it.
Before you cower under your desk, hiding from overwhelming responsibilities, read S&J Training Solutions’ Top Ten Tips for Incoming Student Executives.
1. Don’t try to do everything yourself.
There are only so many hours in a day no matter how hard you work. Make a habit of asking your staff and team members to help, splitting up big projects into smaller ones, and assigning individual tasks to make the end goal more manageable. Delegating tasks will guarantee that your team achieves their targets faster and with better results.
2. Over Communicate.
Groups and organizations tend to chalk up their issues to miscommunication. Therefore, teams need to not only communicate but to over communicate. Use Slack, Whatsapp, or other messaging tools to create a consistent flow of information and an opportunity for open communication amongst each other. Talk about the ideas you have, your on-going projects, any assistance you need, obstacles you’re facing, and more.
Over communication works well not only with your team and staff but also with the student body. It might seem a bit of an overkill, and that you’re spamming people’s inboxes’ with reports, but the more you communicate the more you’ll engage people in your projects and increase your success rate.
Don’t neglect the staple of the business world: email. Being a strong email communicator is an understated skill. Sending off a quick “thanks for meeting with me” email goes a long way. Following-up with a student, vendor or admin from your school demonstrates not only professionalism but that you genuinely care; a follow-up can also pave the way for future opportunities. You can brighten someone’s day from gestures as little and simple as these.
3. Have an Owner Mindset.
One of the biggest difficulties that student executives face is shifting their mindset from that of an employee to an employer. Most student executives have never owned a business or been an employer before this opportunity. Going from student to decision maker involves a shift in your philosophical approach to getting things done and building relationships.
With an owner mindset, student executives are able to look at each difficulty and challenge in a new way, from a perspective that considers their staff, the student body, and their office. Executives who embrace the owner mindset find huge success in being able to gauge student union challenges with a well-rounded perspective.
Tip: Be aware and care about the brand associated with your students’ association. What should and shouldn’t you and your teammates be posting on social media?
4. Set goals.
This isn’t groundbreaking advice, however, setting specific goals is an important aspect of being a student executive. While your position has an outlined role and set of duties, try getting your team to think about the future of your student union and setting engagement or financial goals. For day-to-day work, use a task manager or online calendar to manage your to-dos, and keep progress notes of your long-term goals. No matter the form, crossing completed goals off a list is satisfying.
Resource: Try Asana as a task manager, and get the whole team to interact with each other on the platform.
5. Be where the students are.
Your student union probably runs a student business, perhaps a coffee shop or bookstore, but the only time you hear about its activities shouldn’t be from pushing paper in the office. Get out to these spaces regularly to show face and hang out. Students want to see you out and about and these spaces are great locations to tell everyone what you’re working on.
Tip: Set up shop and advertise where your team is going to be. “Come see us between 2 and 4 pm in the student commons,” shows students you are accessible and ready to listen.
6. Find an activity that gives you energy, and do it regularly.
You have budget lines and deadlines, yes. But are you a superhero? Burnout is a reality for student executives, especially in the first few months. Take the time to prioritize yourself and your well-being, as it will be easy to find excuses to do so when you’re busy. Some student executives hit the gym in the morning, others give themselves one day away from their inbox a week. Shoot hoops, meditate, go for a walk — find something that works for you and your mind and body will thank you.
7. Seek out a mentor.
There’s no doubt that you’ll be put in difficult positions this year or have to grapple with confusing issues. While you might not have all the answers, there’s probably someone out there with some sage advice. Call on a former boss, a full-time staff in the office, or your predecessor to help you navigate this wild journey.
Tip: Reach out to past student executives on your campus via email or LinkedIn. You would be surprised at how many individuals would appreciate the effort to connect and would be interested to hear about how the Student Union is doing.
8. Build your team.
Intentionally seek out opportunities to build bonds with your team. As a student executive, you are going to be asking a lot of your teammates, a lot of your staff, and a lot of the student body. Leaders must be able to build strong relationships in order to build a strong following and get others to buy into their vision. Create team engagement opportunities such as monthly get-togethers, team activities or even silly little icebreakers — they all go a long way.
To build a team, you must build relationships and trust, and this includes staff. Student unions can be busy places with a high turnover of part-time student staff, especially in the summer, but this shouldn’t stop you from heading down the hall to meet the crew. For the next year, your staff will be around for the better or worse. Introductions are important; getting everyone on board for your vision of the upcoming year is a lot easier when you’re all acquainted.
Resource: We know you might not have time to pick up a book, but check out this quick video for a primer on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
9. Stay obsessively organized
Organization is extremely important as a student executive. You’ll have many meetings, many tasks to accomplish, and an ever-growing to-do list. Using project management apps, to-do lists, and shared Google Calendars will allow you to stay on top of everything that has to get done.
Try to spend two to three hours at the beginning of every single week planning out your meetings, tasks to complete, and deadlines. An overly organized week will allow you to go into full operation mode, getting as many tasks done as possible without stopping to ask yourself, “what’s next?”.
Don’t delete emails, keep important notes, and never throw out any forms. It’s not uncommon for a student union to review something, from an interaction to a project, months later. After every event write a quick post-event report, or begin your training document for your successor from day one. By keeping a record, you are setting yourself and your successor up for success. But don’t just collect, make sure to organize and file so when it comes to finding that email, you know where to look.
10. Have fun with it.
As I am sure a few (hundred) people have already told you, you will always look back on this year fondly. Being a student executive is a once in a lifetime experience. Be sure to take every opportunity that comes your way. The people you meet and things you see will shape you for years to come.