It’s that time of year again when exams are drawing to a close, the January blues are almost over and you’re already planning a new way to challenge yourself…right? Well either way, you might have noticed that the campus is plastered with red and blue because our elections are back and nominations are officially open!
Our previous Officers are as keen to share this opportunity as we are, so we gave some of them a chance to talk to us about their experience of campaigning, what they got out of it and why they’d recommend every student to run.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting one-to-one interviews with City Students’ Union’s previous officers to give you an insight into what it’s really like to campaign, so keep your eyes peeled.
Firstly, we heard from Zain Ismail, 2016/17’s Vice President Education!
So Zain, do you think you got a lot out of campaigning?
Definitely, definitely. The majority of students will come to Uni and a lot of their time is spent in lectures, in tutorials, in the library... so, you don’t actually get that much time to talk to students. Especially those who aren’t on your course, it’s quite impossible. So, I think it really boosts your confidence because you’re putting yourself out there. You’re trying to promote yourself to students with your message and in a way, indirectly at the time, you don’t realise but you’re also empowering yourself. Because if I’m not confident in the message that I’m giving out to the students, then they’re not going to be confident in it either. I need to show them that I believe in it, I’m credible to deliver on it. I’d definitely say, it boosts your confidence, 100%. You meet so many students, hundreds, thousands from all different courses, all different years. So, it’s a really interesting experience to meet them.
It also helps with things like being put on the spot. You need to think on your feet, remember things. You need to do lecture shout outs and speeches, so that develops your public speaking. The first few days you’re a bit nervous but once you actually start campaigning and get the hang of it your confidence gets higher. You actually feel like a leader because really that’s when you start to experience things and think “I could be the guy!” When people start saying, “you’ve got my vote”, you know what, you’ve earnt something there.
It's safe to say Zain was happy to be elected at 2016's election results night
Imagine that you hadn’t been elected. How would you feel?
I think even if I didn’t win, what I’d take away from it is that the only really negative thing is that I didn’t win and there could be a lot of reasons for that. But people will appreciate that you tried. And I think at University, the wider experience is not just about coming here to learn about your course. You learn about coming out of your shell, you learn about doing something you’ve never ever done before. A lot of students come to University and they don’t know what a Students’ Union is. Taking part in that process, even if I hadn't been elected, I would still have remained involved in the Students Union because I ran for a position in leadership but there are so many other things to do day to day at the union. It’s amazing.
What sorts of opportunities do you get as an Officer?
As an Officer, especially a full-time officer you not only get to sit on school level or professional service level committees, you sit on the very top committees in the University where important decisions are made like how much fees are going to be, how many students the University will be recruiting and what actions are being taken forward by programmes to make students more employable. A whole load of stuff that the University are focussed on and the Union want to support in partnership. The discussions you have are very strategic. It’s through attending all those meetings that, you learn how to get support for your views. If I didn’t run to be an Officer, I wouldn’t have had that experience. You also get to go to a lot of events throughout the year and a lot of high profile ones.
You learn how an organisation like a University operates. As a student, you mainly come across your lecturers, your programme director but that’s about it. But as a Sabbatical you actually learn about how different services work, how different schools work, what they would like from you, want they want your view on and so forth. So, there’s a big networking element there, making contacts, people who I’m still in touch with today, people who still help me today.
Other opportunities open to Officers include petting small fluffy animals on occasion
What do you think you’d say to students who are thinking about running but don’t consider themselves to be very confident?
I’d say to them, I hear you, I was one of you at the time and I know you sit down and you think to yourself, “I’m not sure if I can do this”. After all of my experiences, all of the projects I was successful on, I know that your University experience will be soooo much better if you put yourself out there and you try something new, that’s all. Students Unions’ are there to make your experience at University better. You don’t see much of it if you’re not involved but this is your chance to be involved.
You might also not feel represented. That’s another reason to run. I ran because I didn’t like what my SU was doing, I didn’t like what I was seeing, what was going on. You can be the person who changes things, who students trust to take their issues forward. The feeling when you actually do something that they wanted, I can’t describe it, you have to actually …it’s amazing and there’s nothing like it! There is nothing in this world like being an Officer! It’s an opportunity you only get when you’re a student, it’s an exciting time for Higher Education right now and the rewards can be exceptional, if you put your head to it. These are positions where there’s a lot of trust and responsibility, which feels scary and you’re not sure you can do it but I’m telling you, you can. You honestly can. The support mechanisms are there and a few people will help you. But the first thing is you taking the step forward and once you do that people will also put themselves forward to help you.
Glad to have you back on campus Zain, if only for a short while!
Find out more about our elections, see all 18 positions available and nominate yourself now.