“Don’t ever question the value of volunteers. Noah’s Ark was built by volunteers; the Titanic was built by professionals.”
– Dave Gynn, Coleman Professional Services
If you’ve recently been selected to serve in a student leadership position… Congratulations!
Now it’s time to get to work. One of the chief characteristics of a student leader is the knack to get others involved. A student leader manages tasks and leads people. That means it’s time to put your team together. And that means – recruiting.
Recruiting is the process of attracting and inviting people to consider being involved with your organization or cause. You can’t do everything by yourself (otherwise you wouldn’t be leading!). You need to put a team together. That means selecting the right people to help you get things done. You must get others involved. Which immediately raises some questions:
Where do student leaders find people?
Which people do they choose?
What’s the best way to choose people?
For the most part, students tend to get involved by invitation. Someone has a club, organization, task, or idea and invites other students to join. Asking is a crucial component. Successful recruitment happens when you (and others as they join in) can identify the kind of people who will be interested in what you’re doing and then creatively and imaginatively invite them in a way that is compelling.
But before you can run out and start asking people to get involved, you need to do your homework. It’s important to know what you’re recruiting people to, what kind of positions you need filled, and what you expect people to be doing if they join your team or cause.
Half the job of successful recruitment is knowing what needs to be done. Every recruiting effort needs a plan.
As you put together a successful recruiting plan, there are a couple of things that are essential.
First, you and your recruiters need to be enthusiastic about those you invite to join. Most students have a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and more than anything – want to be involved in something that’s meaningful and worthwhile. They’re also very busy. Be sure and acknowledge their time investment. Encourage, praise, and support them as they join the team.
Next, your recruiting team must constantly instill within each person they approach with the belief that what he or she will be doing is valuable. Help them see the importance and significance of each task and how it makes a difference. Without this sense of enthusiasm and significance, your recruiting efforts will be met with blank stares and people running the other direction.
If I were just starting out in a student leadership position, I would take the time to discover and think through what needs to be done before I started recruiting the people to do it.
1. Get to know your organization and prioritize the tasks that need to be accomplished.
Talk to former student leaders and current advisors. Find out what the main things are that need to get done. Decide on which problem areas need to be made better. Figure out what you already have on hand (people, resources, capabilities). List out the tasks and prioritize what your team can realistically accomplish in a year.
2. Create a vision for your area big enough that it can’t be accomplished by yourself.
Don’t simply imagine what one person can accomplish in a year, imagine what can happen with a team of people. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
3. Identify the key characteristics and skills needed to accomplish your prioritized tasks.
Once it’s been decided on the kind of tasks that need to get done, figure out the kind of people needed to do them. If the only requirement is a pulse and the ability to take up space, you are probably aiming too low in what you’re wanting to accomplish. Write out the specific skills necessary to be successful.