Thinking of Running For a Students’ Union Position? See If You’re Up For the Challenge

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How much do you know about your students’ union?

When I was at university, I didn’t have a clue about the workings of my SU. It was a mystery that I didn’t look that closely into.

I didn’t have a clue about the workings of my SU back then. One of those mysteries that I didn’t ever look that closely into.

Fast forward to today, and I wish I’d known then what I know now. I would have been more involved, that’s for sure.

I’ve interviewed a number of SU officers about their roles for TheUniversityBlog. But it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those. Since I had Beth Moody and Liam Bligh giving some great input on making friends as Freshers last week, I’ve asked them to let us know what challenges they face as exec officers.

Just to remind you, Beth is VP Welfare and Community at Portsmouth Students’ Union (UPSU), while Liam is President of of Northampton Students’ Union.

Now, if you’re thinking of campaigning to become an officer at your SU this year, do you know how different the experience will be to your student lifestyle? What challenges might you face?

I asked Beth and Liam to give a flavour of the challenging, even scary, things about being an elected officer.

After all, getting voted in is just the start. Only after that does the real work begin!

Liam on the transition from student to SU employee:

“So far I would have to say changing my way of thinking from Student to Elected officer; just the lifestyle change between post-exam student and full time worker is massive to say the least. Hearing the alarm clock in the morning never gets any easier!” – Liam

Beth on taking up the challenge:

“Being an elected officer, I feel that I have amazing predecessors which leave a lot to live up to! I feel a duty to them to carry on everything that they did, and to work twice as hard as they did to prove myself. Coming from being unknown in the University to sitting alongside some very well-known students is intimidating too.” – Beth

As you can see, there’s not only a culture shock, but also some big boots to fill.

Talking of big boots, Liam was concerned that he might literally lose his footing:

“I had to do some speeches at the graduation ceremonies. I’ve never had an issue with public speaking, but having to do it in front of that many people is really scary. Especially when you are determined to not trip over your robes or remember whether you are supposed to have your mortarboard on or not!” – Liam

At the same time, both Liam and Beth are up for the difficulties they’ve faced so far and the challenges ahead of them. Here’s Beth:

“Whenever I start to find it difficult or like I am up against a brick wall; I remember that the students chose me to represent them. I really love this job, from helping an individual student to organising welfare related events or making a change in how the university operates, there is nothing else I would want to do, and that gets me through all the challenges thrown my way.” – Beth

An elected role in your SU need to be taken seriously. That can make the difference between shying away from the work and tackling it with confidence.

More than that, if you don’t take the role seriously, you could even be held accountable. Liam is braced for the impact of a new development at Northampton, but he’s also glad the challenges are there:

“We’ve also made it easier for sabbatical officers to be held to account, which puts a lot more pressure on us to do the work the Student Councillors expect of us. However, this additional pressure is a good thing as it motivates the elected officers to keep going and achieve more! So this year be sure to ask your officers about changing things and make the change happen!” – Liam

If what Beth and Liam have said doesn’t put you off…In fact, if what they say enthuses you even more, then you may love the opportunities awaiting you as an SU exec officer.

There’s just that small matter of getting enough votes from your fellow students now!

What do you think? Will we be seeing you in an SU election this year?