Parties versus profession: The story of a Student’s Union president

Credit: Laura Duffy

The time of year has come again, when students across the country judge their peers for running in what most see as a popularity contest. Yes, I am talking about student union elections.

Those who are running as candidates are often seen as real life Van Wilders, the Ryan Reynold’s character who refused to leave college and its lifestyle behind.

Despite their reasons or naivety entering into their role, there is no chance your student elect escapes the year without working and improving on attributes worth noticing in a potential employee.

And even if they are running for an unlimited supply of free condoms, campaigning in itself is work. It involves more than just walking around the Nubar with posters of their faces. Candidates are required to produce a manifesto, debate their ideas against their opponents as well as discuss them in front of varying amount of students in the classes that they choose to address. This alone draws attention to desirable professional qualities like organisation, writing skills and public speaking abilities.

Last year’s SU president Kim Sweeney was very aware of the stigma that came with the role. “Some people are of the opinion that SU positions are just another year in college but I always make sure to explain it was my full time job and explain the work involved” she said. “People are always interested to hear about your experience but you must be able to use your experience to answer competency based questions which most companies will ask you”.

Like anything you put on your CV, what is important is what you can take from it. Your lemonade stand back in the day probably has not made your resume, but even it highlights some positive qualities such as independence, initiative and drive.

Kenneth Browne, DCU SU President 2014/2015, sings the same tune. “I don’t think it matters whether you have a 1.1 or a 2.2 these days – what have you done to demonstrate initiative and independent growth that sets you apart from the pack?” he asks.

Having emigrated to America shortly after his term ended he soon realised even the reputation surrounding the words Dublin City University carried little meaning.

“The Americans I’ve met have no idea what DCU Students’ Union is or the role of the President” he said, “On paper I may as well not have included it. I think it’s the elements that you can’t quantify on paper though that are the real assets – such as public speaking, confidence, leadership skills, [and] management skills, how you carry yourself in room full of seasoned professionals – all of these personal developments have been invaluable”.

Kim started an internship just two months after leaving her position and is now fully employed as a business analyst within the same company in Dublin. Kenneth now makes Television commercials for an agency in Chicago, and has his own production business on the side.

Before you leap to criticise this year’s candidates, calling them ‘time wasters’ or ‘memory chasers’, consider how your CV will look next to theirs.

Michelle Martin