I’m sure you’ve heard a million times that you need some sort of student leadership on your resume in order to get into grad school, become an audiologist or SLP, etc. But what does that even look like?
For me, being involved in student leadership wasn’t something that I sought out initially. Sure, I volunteered quite a bit at my local animal shelter because I figured it’d look good on paper. However, my true therapeutic qualities came from student leadership experiences that were purely motivated by my interests.
Getting out of your comfort zone is the first step in becoming a student leader.
To become a student leader, I recommend that you first get involved on your college campus. Starting off in college, I was eager to meet other students and get out of my dorm room. During my first year, I became a member of a women-led spirit group, volunteered at a non-profit for individuals with aphasia, became a camp counselor for incoming freshmen, joined my school’s dance marathon team, and became a member of my school’s NSSLHA chapter.
I know what you’re thinking—that is a lot (full disclosure: while appearing introverted, I’m an extravert at heart). I’m by no means saying that you need to join every organization on your campus, but I do want you to explore your interests! Although it was incredibly intimidating for me to try out for various student organizations, it helped grow my confidence and pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone.
Overall, that was the year that I did a lot of learning. As I observed the leadership roles of my colleagues in the same organizations as me, I realized that I wanted to be a part of something similar. Most importantly, I learned about myself and what goals I wanted to achieve throughout my time in college. For me, I loved the idea of being able to achieve something and work in a team. When I felt like I was ready, I took on leadership roles within these organizations.
Being a leader comes with lots of responsibility, but it doesn’t need to be a scary thing.
Personally, I always thought of responsibility as an exciting challenge—What can I learn from this experience that will help me in my future career?
When given responsibility through my leadership roles, I noticed that I gained qualities that weren’t typically taught in the general classroom setting. Specifically, I learned how to
- be an active listener,
- mitigate conflict,
- uphold professionalism,
- enhance my socio-emotional skills,
- grow my interpersonal communication skills, and
- balance additional responsibilities on top of my already-stressful course load.
As future audiologists and speech-language pathologists, it’s imperative to possess these qualities when working with clients and caregivers. However, it’s hard to objectively learn them without having experienced them firsthand. This is why I recommend placing yourself in as many leadership opportunities as you can.
Leaders know how to fail—it’s healthy!
My clinical supervisor once told me that “your worst session is your best session.” What this means to me, is that moments of failure are key learnings in disguise.
I’ll be the first to admit that student leadership is not always easy. I’ve often felt helpless if a situation didn’t go the way I had intended. However, it’s important to remember that much like a muscle, leadership is a skill that requires to be trained. Through experiences of failure, you immediately gain leadership qualities such as increased work ethic, resilience, critical thinking, and historical knowledge.
As I mentioned before, these skills aren’t easy to teach in the standard classroom setting. Student leadership offers real-life opportunities to fail, which is essential in becoming successful in your professional and personal life.