Going to school in Chicago, there are many frigid cold days that you don’t want to step out of your dorm room. But I’m urging you to act like everyday is a beautiful august afternoon, and see what the world has to offer you. As a student, on-campus organizations can reveal a whole new world of internships, scholarships, and other valuable opportunities. But remember to pace yourself when getting involved- it’s a jog, not a sprint.
Many students wait until they find their major, or key interests to get involved on campus. It is so important that you begin involvement early, even if you have no idea where you’re headed professionally. On-campus organizations can help you find your potential career. When you join an organization, you are exposed to their online network that will introduce you to scholarships, internships or volunteer opportunities. On the personal side of things, getting involved early is a great way to make new friends. Success is nothing without someone to share it with! Go out to dinner before meetings, or follow volunteer opportunities together. This is an important factor for freshman, and it helped me make my two best friends.
I stress to anyone reading this, being involved is not a waste of time. You are able to absorb valuable knowledge from professionals who come to speak at meetings, and network with them afterwards. You are also in an environment where people push you to do your best. Especially if you get involved freshman year, by the time you’re a senior, you are a step ahead of everyone else. Just recently I found out about a scholarship through The Public Relations Student Society (an organization I’m involved in) a week before it was due. I thought ‘why waste my time on something I may not be able to finish? I could be studying for finals right now.’ But- I went through with it anyway and worked really hard on it for that week, and I received the scholarship. Money is never a waste of time. I also received a membership to the Publicity Club of Chicago where I am able to network with professionals and other students. I met a woman, Jane, whose career I wanted to learn more about and instead of meeting for coffee, she invited me to give back with her in this holiday season and pack bags of necessities for women in need. One organization led me to a scholarship, volunteer opportunities, and networking. This all happened within less than a month. Think of what being involved for eight semesters can do for you.
If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this–do not wait for someone to notice you, put yourself out there and get involved. Introduce yourself to anyone that will listen. Set goals and tell people about them. Goals also work as a great icebreaker while networking because many professionals use them in their own lives; it’s common ground. Say something so interesting that you make them listen. It will all pay off.
Lauren Polito is a Public Relations and Advertising student at DePaul University. She is an avidly involved student who enjoys the food that Lincoln Park has to offer. You can find her on LinkedIn.