Being Vice President Activities has been without doubt the most incredible experience of my life. It has been eye opening, challenging but most of all very enjoyable. In this article I give a brief insight into what it’s like to be a full-time officer and give some advice to those who are thinking about running for one of the roles.
I thought I had prepared well for the elections but it turns out that there was still a lot of preparation I should have done earlier on. You need to be thinking about your manifesto far in advance of campaigning. You can create your posters, t-shirts and flyers before campaigning starts so that once it does start all of your concentration can be on talking to students. When you make your manifesto it’s important not to make too many points and just stick to a few main ones. Campaigning for election is an emotional rollercoaster for everyone. Although it can be tough it’s also a really rewarding experience that teaches you a lot. I made some really close friendships with other candidates when campaigning and the skills that I have gained from it such as public speaking have proved invaluable. It’s going to be challenging but try and stick with it if you can.
Winning an election is the most amazing feeling, to know that hundreds of students believe you is quite something. Once you start it’s a bit of an information overload but as you go along you pick things up really quickly and the staff are absolutely amazing in supporting you so it’s important that you utilise their knowledge and experience as much as possible. Before freshers starts you will travel around the country going to various NUS training events. This is really fun and a good opportunity for you to network and get ideas from other officers so make sure you make the most of your time at these events.
You’ll also have a residential with the other full-time officers and the senior management union staff to set your team objectives as well as your individual objectives for the year. You can change or modify your individual objectives throughout the year so don’t worry about them being set in stone. However, you can’t really change your officer team objectives so make sure you put a lot of thought in to those and express if you aren’t happy with any of them whilst you decide. Looking back it was valuable to socialise with each other outside of work and this can help you build good relationships with the important people you’ll be working with throughout the year.
A day in the life of VP Activities
The thing I probably like most about the job is that you do something different every day. You might be talking to students, attending a Unipol board meeting, shooting a video, having lunch with the Vice Chancellor Group or chairing societies forum. Some of these things can seem quite daunting at the beginning but they come so frequently that it just becomes the norm and I don’t really find anything too daunting anymore. One of the things you will have to learn quickly is to prioritise. You will find out once term starts that people will be asking a lot of different things from you and it’s important to keep in mind what will benefit students most. After all that is your aim in one sentence, to improve the lives of students. Try to think am I the most appropriate person to being doing this? Is this something a member of staff or another officer should be doing? And do I really need to be doing this at all or could I focus my attention on more important things?
It’s important to develop relationships with students such as society leaders, the media committee and volunteers. They will be able to give you feedback about your changes and policies, after all they are the people that your changes will affect. They are also more likely to come and talk to you about issues and they will likely give you some really good ideas too. It’s important that you listen to feedback but also believe in yourself and don’t be put off if people are negative about what you are trying to accomplish. There are always going to be people that aren’t happy with change.
Throughout the year you will spend a lot of time with the other full time officers and they will become like family to you. It’s important that you look out for each other and are honest with one another. When people spend so much time together there will inevitably be disagreements or arguments and that’s fine. Don’t let issues linger, address them quickly. Make sure that you are aware of what the other officers are doing and that they know what you’re doing. You’re all in the same boat and you will achieve more if you work together.
Being a full-time officer gives you so many transferable skills and really sets you up well for whatever you want to go on to do afterwards. Not many people can say that they’d been a leader of a multi-million pound organisation at the age of 21! If you have a passion for the role that you’re going for I’d strongly recommend going up for election because that’s honestly all you need.