Five Ways to Develop Professional Skills While Strengthening Your RSO

It’s a new semester, the perfect time to explore new opportunities on campus. Whether you’re graduating in May or hoping to apply for a summer internship, you’re likely beginning to think about expanding your résumé and preparing for interviews.

photo 1(1)Involvement in Registered Student Organizations can provide a multitude of professional benefits in addition to being a fun, social experience. If you’re already involved in a student organization, increasing your involvement this semester can allow you to build valuable real-world experience that you can draw on in interviews or cover letters. And if you’re looking for an organization to join, the RSO Involvement Fair this Wednesday, Jan. 27 from 11 to 3 in the Illini Union (Illini Rooms A, B, C, Courtyard Café, and South Lounge) provides the perfect opportunity to begin to capitalize on personal strengths, expand your skillset, and make new connections.

As you plan activities for your RSO in the semester(s) ahead, keep in mind that serving your RSO can also serve you in your future career search. Here are 5 ways that you can develop valuable professional skills while strengthening your RSO:

1. Master social media skills

Believe it or not, making a clever point in 140 characters and attracting multitudes of “Likes” are valuable skills for today’s job market. Promoting an organization through social media gives you legitimate professional experience that may appeal to future employers. Has your RSO’s Facebook page fallen into a state of disrepair? 15 minutes every day will go a long way. Don’t have a Twitter or Instagram account? Start one for your club! As a social media coordinator for your RSO, you can engage in dialogue with club members and other organizations, educate your network about what your organization does, and enable your group to reach a larger audience. As an additional bonus, all that time you spend on social media will no longer be procrastination, but instead an investment in your future career! Win-win.

2. Fundraise

Fundraising can be challenging, and raising money on behalf of your RSO is a great way to begin to learn what works and what doesn’t. To gain experience in fundraising, you might educate yourself about the University’s Student Organization Resource Fee (SORF) funding, and put together a proposal to earn financial support for your organization’s next event. Additionally, you might request financial sponsorship for an event from campus departments or community organizations. You might also embrace your inner entrepreneur, and organize a fundraiser outside the Illini Union selling food or other items. In the process, you’ll learn about formal procedures for fundraising and about marketing strategies, which could be applicable to a variety of future jobs. Treat each fundraising initiative as an opportunity to gain practical, real-world skills that you may need later on. In future job interviews, you’ll be able to discuss both the learning experience and the practical outcomes of these RSO fundraising endeavors.

3. Plan an event

Jobs in many fields—from communications to education to business—will appreciate applicants who already demonstrate a savvy for organizing an event. To acquire such experience, volunteer to help plan an event for your RSO this semester. Working to put together any kind of event—a panel discussion, a public reading, a community service project—can teach you important lessons about the responsibilities that come with event planning. In the process, you’ll learn a great deal about how to effectively find presenters, reserve a venue, schedule activities, attract attendees, and more. In planning an event you’ll also likely gain experience in on-the-spot problem-solving, which can benefit you in any career.

4. Promote an event

When you’re competing with 979 other student organizations, not to mention over 150 programs of study, it’s a real challenge to make sure people come to your RSO’s event. Embrace this challenge, and use it as an opportunity to gain experience in publicizing and marketing for the good of both your organization and your future professional interests (whether they lie in advertising or non-profits, librarianship or politics). You might experiment with different strategies, combining print materials with social media and in-person outreach to determine what approaches are most effective. You might innovate creative new publicity campaigns that enable your organization to stand out among so many others. You might choose to collaborate with other campus organizations to reach a wider audience. For each event, set goals for attendance, and afterwards keep records of both your strategy and its outcomes so you can cite specific examples of events in which your publicity initiatives resulted in significant increases in the number of attendees from one year to the next.

5. Run an efficient meeting

Members of the working world love a well-run meeting. Being president of your RSO can give you great experience in effectively organizing and conducting regular meetings. Put together a logically organized, readable agenda, and adhere to that agenda during the meeting. Set an end time, and stick to it. The meeting itself provides great practice in public speaking (a skill widely valued across professional fields), and, as we learned in last semester’s public speaking event, you’ll become increasingly comfortable with public speaking the more you do it. You might also arrange for relevant speakers to come talk to the organization, giving you experience with outreach and collaboration. Such practice will likely serve you well in your future career!


If you’d like to get involved in great organizations within the English Department, check out English Student Council, Sigma Tau Delta, Creative Writing Club, Montage Arts Journal, and Re:Search!

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