The obvious benefit of joining a student society is the impact it will have on your social life. You will meet people who share an interest with you, and you will widen your social network beyond your course and the people you live with.
However, there are also real gains in terms of your employability – the skills, qualities and knowledge you offer to prospective employers, which suggest that you will successfully adapt to life as a graduate in the workplace.
What kind of society will benefit me most?
There are three main categories of student society. Best known are the sports societies, which often involve inter-university competitions. Then there are subject-based societies, which enable you to extend your academic knowledge more informally, through guest speakers, field trips and extra-curricular projects.
Finally, there are the societies which don’t fit either category (like circus skills or cheerleading), and might involve setting up a business or working in the local community.
While each offers its own benefits, all student societies give you a great chance to enhance your employability, and it’s never too late to join.
Making things happen…
All societies depend on events for their success, such as meetings, matches, competitions, trips and fundraising events. Consequently, if you’re an organiser or officer of your society, you will develop lots of experience and expertise in event planning and organisation.
From market research, fundraising and budgeting to promotion and actually delivering on the day, there are all kinds of skills which you could use in a job and which any employer would value.
Even if you aren’t an active member of a student society with an administrative position, you will demonstrate a number of qualities simply by becoming a member. Firstly, you will be a team player who is able to show commitment to fellow members of the society.
Secondly, by succeeding in your academic work alongside your participation in a society, you will demonstrate time management skills and come across as a well-rounded individual.
In many societies there is an opportunity to learn about topics such as health and safety, finance, marketing, and aspects of the law, as well as developing strong interpersonal skills and the ability to take responsibility for money, equipment and people.
Letting employers know…
Employers will only know what you have gained and how you have developed if you tell them. Present the skills and experience you have gained on your CV, in application forms and in interviews.
Use concrete examples (e.g. devising a recruitment campaign, organising an event or fundraising), which will help you be specific and explain the relevance of your experience.
What students say…
Here are two quotes from real students – let them convince you!
“I’m the social secretary of the Civil and Construction Society; we’ve got about 300 members. I organise social events. The committee meets weekly and the big thing is coming up with ideas. Of course, when you’re actually organising an event there’s lots of stuff to do too, such as finding a venue, negotiating a good deal for your members, and advertising the event.
I definitely think it makes you more attractive to an employer: you’re doing stuff like organisation; planning ahead; getting a plan together and implementing it; committing to deadlines; working in a team; managing budgets and working out what people want. I’d definitely encourage people to give it a go: societies actively want you and they’re probably more welcoming than you imagine.” Ed, Civil Engineering Student
“I’m the general secretary of the Women’s Rugby Club, responsible for organising fixtures and merchandise. The really important thing is effective communication; not only sending a message but really making sure that message has got through. You don’t want to let people down or make a bad impression – and because you play matches away (at other universities) you’re very aware that you’re representing not just the club, but also your university.
It’s definitely good to get this kind of experience when you’ve got so much backup; from the president, the rest of the executive and the students’ union. It’s good for my employability too. Employers certainly want to see that you’ve had positions of responsibility, and you can definitely use your experience to show you’ve got communication, teamwork and organisation skills.” Hannah, Economics, Politics and International Studies Student