More Than Just a Number: How to Distinguish Yourself in a Large Committee

WRITTEN BY: Andrew Pace, University of Toronto Sports and Business

The immensity of the University of Toronto’s student body can be daunting to students as they struggle to leave an impression and contribute to the greater community. The multitude of clubs at U of T offer an outlet of expression for students while also allowing them to meet people with similar interests. Students utilize the club network to develop their skills and build their resumes. Being an effective contributor takes more than merely signing up and it is easy to fall by the wayside unless you make a conscious effort to have your voice heard within your club. This is an unfortunate reality of being one of many committee members but this is not an excuse to coast.

Each individual and club is unique but there are some general tips that can help nurture success and allow yourself to be influential in a large committee. Apologies for any ensuing corniness or clichés. Many of these suggestions are obvious, but it is astounding how many people fail to consider these simple steps when looking to serve a meaningful contributor to a clubs cause.

Listen. As a new committee member it is easy to let your eagerness get the best of you. Learn from the more experienced members of the group, even if it means simply sitting back and observing the first meeting or two. It is important to listen so that you can give yourself the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate the organization’s position. Once you do start to contribute you will have a clearer idea and will be add in the most meaningful way possible. This exercise will allow you to familiarize yourself and help build your confidence to contribute.

Be respectful. This may seem like a given but it is always important to consider. Once you have built your confidence and are comfortable in the group, remember not to overstep your boundaries. Being respectful is not just spoken either, show up on time, greet your club mates when you walk in and once again, listen when others are speaking. By being respectful of others, they are more likely to reciprocate when you step forward to provide input or feedback. This not only helps in achieving personal goals but it creates a healthy environment for discourse.

Never be afraid to ask. As a new member in a club, it is not uncommon to be overlooked on certain tasks or to to be unclear on things. Do not be too proud to ask other people for help. If you feel like you are not contributing, do not settle. Ask your club leader what you can do to help and make a difference. Most of the time they will be happy that you asked as it is not uncommon for club executives to take on the brunt of the work. If you ask, they might be relieved. This also shows great initiative on your behalf.

Play to your strengths. When asking to contribute in more a significant way, do not shy away from suggesting how you can help. You will not stand out if you are forced to tackle something you struggle with, especially if you feel there is an area where your talents would be best applied.

Try new things. Part of what makes clubs at U of T so great is that even within a specific club there are a wide array of skills that are needed to function. If you are contributing in a writing capacity, do not be afraid to ask if you can help with marketing or finance as this is an opportunity to diversify your personal skill set.

 These are all simple suggestions to take into consideration. At the end of the day the onus is on each person to find their niche and do what suits them. Too many people expect opportunities to fall in their lap or assigned to them once they join a club or organization. Unfortunately the work never stops; show your drive, passion and skill and you will shine no matter how large the club may be. This big school of ours can often times be intimidating but by putting yourself out there you will find that a bigger school means more opportunities to meet new people and form worthwhile relationships. Do not stay on the sidelines, jump in and show people what you have to offer.

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