Which leadership position should I run for in grad school?
September 23, 2014 4:33 AM   Subscribe

I'm having a hard time deciding which positions to run for that'll be manageable with my school load. I'm currently in grad school, no job, no family to take care of. I have a 3.7 GPA and I'm very organized. I plan on pursuing a post-grad program that is very competitive so leadership roles would help me standout. Currently I already have 1 leadership role in a student organization and I'm looking to get another one. Here are the two options that I'm debating about:

1. Membership Committee - recruit members, collect dues, plan orientation events, etc. This job is time consuming at the beginning of each semester but not so much throughout the year. I'm very comfortable with public speaking and I have lots of prior experience so I'll do a good job. However, there are 3 people running against me and they are good candidates also

2. Event Committee - oversee all events including volunteer and social. This individual can delegate tasks to other people to do actual planning and hosting events but will have to make sure that the events go smoothly. There are about 4-5 events/ month. Again, I have lots of prior experience with planning events. As for time, it can get pretty stressful if the chair of the event doesn't do a good job so I have to step in to do it. No one is running for this one yet.

I'm having a hard time deciding on this because they both have their pros and cons. Now that I'm in grad school, I don't like competing with my classmates for leadership roles so therefore choice 2 is good because there's no competition and I'm guaranteed to get it. However, choice 1 is more doable in terms of time. Please share your opinion on what you would do if you were in school. Thanks so much! I really appreciate your time.
posted by missybitsy to Education (14 answers total)
Well, what do you want to do after grad school (maybe after the post-grad program you mention)? You should run for the leadership position that will best augment your resume when it comes time to apply for post-grad school jobs.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:36 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Maybe everyone is competing for the position that looks better on a resume.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:13 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

From my experience, Choice 2 would be your best bet if you can solidify a dependable committee to delegate tasks to and clearly explain that events management is a team effort. On events I have worked on for my NFPs we have an events chair, a co-chair and the event committee lead (which is the position you would run for). This will help you if one event chair slacks off then the other can step in.
posted by heavyp08 at 5:16 AM on September 23, 2014

Have you talked to your advisor about how to make yourself as competitive as possible for the program you want to apply for? You haven't said what kind of program this is, but most things I can think of won't care at all that you led the membership or events committee (those are things admin staff do, not people with graduate degrees). What they will want to see is your research and publications. Put your time there and not in service, unless your advisor tells you otherwise.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:53 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Agree with penguin -- one published journal paper outweighs like ten leadership activities. One activity won't help you stand out very much especially if your competition is publishing. Focus on research experience if you can.

I recall a major fellowship (nserc) actually gave their weighting. For grad fellowships it was something like research experience and academic record, 40% each; communication and leadership, 10% each.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:05 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also 4 to 5 events per month is a huge time investment, even if you can delegate. If this werr me I would tell my current advisor th. I want to do some work that will lead to a paper to help boost my record, and I have some time to commit on top of my current workload, and see if they have a project for you.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:08 AM on September 23, 2014

This is dependent on what your area is and what type of program you are applying to post-grad, but have you considered being an advisor to an undergraduate group? Some universities allow graduate assistants be staff advisors (some don't) and depending on the group you choose it could be very time consuming if they need a lot of advising/hand holding, or it may not be (depending on how many meetings/events they host). Advising not only shows leadership skills but also management and mentoring skills.

YMMV, but that may be another option to consider as well.
posted by MultiFaceted at 6:12 AM on September 23, 2014

From your question, it's really not clear what the relationship is between your field, the student organization, and the post-grad program you're looking to get into. Graduate admissions are not like undergraduate, where they want to get a sense of you as a well-rounded person. Graduate admissions committees couldn't care less if you were captain of the tennis team or president of the drama club. They'll only seriously consider this sort of extracurricular work if it's directly relevant to the program you're applying to. And even then, it still probably carries less weight than getting a decent paper published in a middling journal.
posted by firechicago at 6:17 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is this student organization directly related to your profession? Have you discussed with faculty in your program what sorts of activities make a standout candidate for the post-grad program you want to pursue? I'm kind of questioning the wisdom of putting all your efforts into a single basket of leadership positions in a student organization rather than research/publication or involvement in academic/professional organizations.
posted by drlith at 6:21 AM on September 23, 2014

Response by poster: I'm sorry I should have been more specific. I'm in a healthcare professional grad program and the organizations are healthcare oriented. After graduation I'll be pursuing a residency program. I agree with you all and I will be doing some research in the near future which will be a boost. But residency looks for people who are well rounded and can handle the rigorous load of the program.
posted by missybitsy at 6:42 AM on September 23, 2014

I think there's no competition for position 2 because it sounds like a huge amount of work.
posted by mskyle at 7:11 AM on September 23, 2014

The typical split for academics is 40-40-20 (research-teaching-service). If you're not teaching, but are in coursework, spend 40% of your time on coursework and the other 40% on independent research that furthers your career, if you can. That leaves 20% of your time for service. Which of these jobs sounds like it will take up to 20% of your work time?
posted by sockermom at 7:57 AM on September 23, 2014

The event coordinator position sounds like a huge quantity of work for not much return. Maybe there's a third option?
posted by leahwrenn at 9:03 AM on September 23, 2014

can delegate tasks to other people to do actual planning and hosting events but will have to make sure that the events go smoothly

Well, if you can just delegate planning and hosting to others what's left for you to do? There really wouldn't be any making sure they go smoothly left to do.

I think if this position really was that easy, someone else would be running for it. Do these nebulous "other people" who are willing to do the planning and hosting actually exisit? Check on that.

If no one else is running for committee #2 but you, you aren't going to have anyone else to plan or chair the events. On the upside, you'll save a bit of time on committee meetings.

Planning four or five events a month sounds completely undoable with a heavy school load to me, but I might be overestimating the complexity of the events.

Run for the committee #1, don't worry about people running against you for a committee, there's going to be more than one person getting elected. If you don't get elected and no one has run for committee #2, getting onto that committee should not be a problem unless they decide not to do events for lack of interest.
posted by yohko at 1:43 PM on September 23, 2014

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