Why you should join society committees as a brand new member

Running for a position on a society committee might seem like something you only do if you’ve been heavily involved in that society all year and know how it all works, right? Not necessarily – I actually consider AGM season to be one of the best times to get involved with societies!

I’ve been on the committees of three different societies and networks, they’ve all been amazing and my most rewarding experience came from the one I’d had almost no prior involvement in. At the end of my first year I went to one event run by the fantastic Engineers Without Borders (EWB). I was really excited by the group and wanted to get more involved, but when I saw they were recruiting committee members I was apprehensive to apply – I was worried I didn’t know enough, or that I’d take a place more “deserved” by someone who’d done more with the society. I spoke to a couple of the committee and found the courage to go to the AGM, where I got the publicity position I’d applied for. During that year, the secretary left the committee and I took on their role, and at the next AGM I ran for, and got, the role of president.

My two years on the committee have helped shape my life – I achieved amazing things; had an incredible amount of fun; it vastly helped in my applications and interviews for placements such as the one I’m on now, and for a summer school I’ve got a place on this year; met my partner and some extremely close friends; improved my confidence, and it’s given me chance to get involved in faculty level initiatives. And that’s just from one of the committees I’ve been on.

I’m incredibly glad I plucked up the courage that day and can barely believe I nearly didn’t – I now wouldn’t think  twice about it. So I’ve written some responses to the doubts I had myself, and I hope it encourages you to find your confidence and take the plunge too.

I won’t know enough – you can’t run a society if you’ve not seen how it works

I knew enough, I learnt a lot, and I still don’t know everything. You’re pick up what you need to know as there is a handover period with the old committee, and previous committee members often remain involved in different roles. The SU and Societies Committee offer loads of help and support, and some societies are branches of national groups – these have another level of support. No two years need to be the same – your society doesn’t have to operate via an identikit format every year so it won’t matter if you all bring different experiences to the table. Remember that some people start new societies from scratch – they didn’t get chance to learn about how the society works but they’ve done OK!  And of course, you’re not alone – maybe you personally don’t know a lot about the committee, but others will do, and it’s definitely a team effort.

It’s not fair on “actual” members

Societies would be pretty lonely if only people who’d been involved before were still involved! You can get involved at any time. It may seem unfair if a regular member was denied a place in favour of someone new but it may not be as it seems – the existing member may only have been to a couple of socials and decided they may as well go for the committee position, where the new person came in new with loads of experience, ideas, and passion for the society! If this is a really big concern of yours, you could consider asking the committee how much interest they have had or wait and see if there are EGMs – held when not all committee positions have been filled. But we all have to start somewhere, and there aren’t often hundreds of driven people who’ve helped run every single event perfectly all year!

 I could do this but I doubt people actually do in practice

I’ve worked with a fair number of people who have – the most important thing is that you’re passionate and committed. We all start somewhere with these things and not being involved in the first semester of your first year doesn’t mean you can’t ever be involved! Lots of my friends went through first year without being involved in much but took up committee roles in their 2nd, 3rd and 4th years. I started my EWB committee journey by saying to a committee member “I’ve not been involved – I don’t think I can”, and by the end of my year as president, someone said to me “I’ve not been involved – I don’t think I can”. They’re on the committee now, and trust me, you can.

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