The following blog post is written by Emilie Buckley, a student worker for Rutgers Recreation.
When I think of leaders, I think of responsibility, liability, and tremendous amounts of knowledge on a subject. They are supposed to know everything about anything related to their line of work. Frankly, the idea of leadership roles overwhelmed me. I did not want to stand out and have all the success or failures of a group fall on my shoulders alone. The leader banked all of the risk on the actions of others. That trust in co-workers scared me so I subconsciously shied away from this idea. I enjoyed the safeness of celebrating a group’s success in the background, but not having to stress about what happens when plans fail. I was comfortable attending meetings but not planning or running them, being delegated a task instead of delegating, going home after work and leaving the worry with someone else…and then I “accidentally” became I student leader. Woops!
I began my journey with Rutgers Recreation as a transfer student just looking to earn a few extra dollars as a card swiper at the gym. That job eventually led to me cross paths with Kevin O’Connell, the future Assistant Director of Marketing. I joined his then student group who managed Recreation’s marketing needs including Facebook, Twitter, and in-person promotions. Honestly, I think I only joined the team because this is college and having an internship is just something your supposed to do, right? After a few semesters, the student group was established as an official unit within Marketing, and Kevin got his fancy new title of assistant director. At the beginning of the 2012 fall semester, I was the senior most person on the new team and thus, received the title of Project Manager. I, along with our graduate intern Patty Rivas, was considered a leader amongst the group. Again, all the anxiety of added responsibility came flooding back to me and I did what I knew best – organized. I bought folders and used my trusty label maker to identify everything related to the job. I would attack this position as an organized process. I would attack the position all-wrong. This moment is when I learned that planning, organizing, and preparing do not define leadership. Instead, I discovered that relationships are what make a leader admirable.
In my mistakes and initial mess-ups is when I would truly learn the lessons of student leadership. I’ve always considered myself an outgoing person. I knew a lot of people and was always very social in my personal life. This attribute, and not my label making skills, would surprisingly prove to be the biggest asset I could offer to a leadership role. By habit, I made friends with people on my team. I learned that Britney’s dog is the star of her family, Jay’s a vegetarian, Dylan’s name was not Dylon, and that Val was in the process of moving. These tidbits of knowledge that are completely unrelated to marketing are what made me a successful student leader. The relationships I formed with others became the reason the stress subsided. I looked at being their leader as a negative, risk-based partnership with myself getting the short end of the stick. However, I know see that with friendships come trust and with trust the “risk” lessens. They will give to me what I give to them.
As I graduate and move on from my student leadership role, I take with me these lessons learned at Rutgers Recreation. I genuinely know that the skills gained as an undergraduate, will vastly shape my career. I encourage anyone who is in a leadership role to leverage the possible relationships around you, give more than you ask of people, and listen more than you speak.