During my time at Penn State, I have been involved in many different organizations. The organization that has had the largest impact on my life, however, has been THON. I have been a member of THON for almost four years. For my first two years in the organization, I was a Finance Committee Member. Then, during my junior and senior year at Penn State, I was given the opportunity to become a Finance Captain. With the title change came an increase in responsibility and the new expectation to be a leader to the Committee Members whose seat I had sat in less than a year prior. It was a scary shift, but I figured I would learn how to be a leader along the way. I didn’t think that I knew anything about being a leader or offering the support system that had been given to me when I was a Committee Member.
When I sat down to write my application for the Executive Committee, and reflected upon my character growth over the past four years, I noticed something very peculiar. While trying to generate examples of my leadership growth throughout my time in THON, I realized that most of what I came up with stemmed from my time as a Committee Member. During that time, when I perceived myself to be a follower, I was actually learning some pretty important leadership skills such as: listening, taking the initiative, showing other you care about them and supporting them in any way possible, and trying to generate a positive environment no matter the setting. Those are all very important leadership qualities that I did not realize I was learning until a few years down the line.
One of the big questions that is asked during the first few years of college is “how do I gain leadership skills?” Companies constantly talk about the importance of getting leadership experience in clubs and organizations on campus. This definitely feels like a daunting task during the first few semesters, but if you approach it strategically then there is nothing that can stop you. Here are some guidelines for gaining leadership experience and skills without necessarily having a title:
- Join organizations that you are truly passionate about.
- Talk to as many of the older members/leadership team members as possible and figure out exactly where in that organization you can see yourself thriving.
- Offer as much assistance to those around you and be a resource to anyone who has questions.
- Remember that there is no job that is “below you” and always be willing to do the smaller tasks.
- Always come in with a positive attitude and a smile.
In retrospect, I now realize that leadership skills are not formed when you are given a leadership title. A leadership title is given when you prove your leadership capabilities. In my opinion, not having a leadership title allows for you to easily develop the most important skill that is required by any leader. That skill is the ability to be a team player and to support the people around you.