Enactus’s bold yellow font and unusual name caught my attention as I saw an advertisement for a career development activity they were running.
Out of curiosity and hungry to boost my business knowledge, I applied and joined their Exco.
What was initially a decision to ‘boost my CV’ turned into an adventure, setting me up for a whirlwind conclusion to my undergraduate life.
In my short one year stint, I met like-minded passionate people from all over the world working towards the mission of empowering people through entrepreneurial action. In this diversity, I learned to appreciate my own culture, broaden my exposure to other cultures and to the different world views of my fellow volunteers.
Lesson 1: Say Yes To New Opportunities
Our society was competing in a sponsorship competition where one of the stages required us to create a video to promote our society within a week. We saw this and gulped.
No one knew how to create a video from scratch and time was ticking. Were we going to say no and give up?
As I was the society’s photographer, I felt it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to create a video. In one moment of craziness, I put myself forward to create the video; getting involved in its filming, scripting and post-production.
I walked back that day, self-doubt starting to kick in.
“Could I really do this?” I had no prior experience with video software and had never done anything like this before. Plus, people were counting on me to deliver within a week.
Thankfully, we live in the era of Google and YouTube, where information is easily accessible at a click. Nonetheless, there was a lot of head-scratching and swearing at the computer as Adobe Premier Pro seemed an uncooperative mess of sliders and buttons.
Our committee rallied together to narrate, script and film the video. The finished product was instrumental in winning us $10,000 worth in price money for the society.
A crazy decision and a frazzled week turned into one of the most memorable achievements of my undergraduate life because I took a calculated risk and said yes.
Lesson 2: Get Out There and Explore Your Interests
University life is one of the best times to explore your interests and develop new skills within a supportive environment.
In our meritocracy-driven country, it is all too easy to get bogged down in acing those exams, trying to get the coveted First Class Honours or stay on top of the bell curve.
Yet, we also need to remind ourselves that academic performance is but one element of your university life.
There are other elements that cannot be developed from books and academics alone. My university experience would not have been as enriching had I not taken the opportunity to explore my interest in volunteering to join Enactus and other non-academic related projects.
A lot has been said about the importance of soft skills in the workplace. One way to develop soft skills is to expose yourself to non-academic activities and to take on positions of responsibility at university.
Some skills I actively applied in Enactus are:
· Interpersonal skills: working with people from different cultural backgrounds and worldviews
· Resilience and adaptability: finding alternative ways to get things done when obstacles stand in your way
· Sales pitching, communication and listening: customising your project pitches to the needs and motivations of the audience during recruitment events.
· Professionalism: representing Enactus as an organisation and my university on campus and during meetings with external parties.
My experience on the Exco of Enactus Manchester laid the foundation for these soft skills which are crucial in my current workplace.
We often ask ourselves what we are passionate about or we want to do in the future. One way to start answering that question is to go out there and try things. You never know where those experiences will take you in the future.
Lesson 3: You Learn Time Management Skills Only When You’re Forced To
During the run up to the Enactus UK National Competition, I was also trying to complete a dissertation project, prepare for final semester exams and recruit people for the incoming Exco team.
There were many occasions where I wished fervently for 48 hour-long days.
Unfortunately, the universe does not bend to your whim and fancies and I was forced manage within the 24 hours as best as I could.
There were moments when our team collectively felt we were doing more Enactus related work compared to degree work (our professors might not be too happy to hear that). Juggling multiple discussions through Whatsapp, preparing for Nationals and stressing out over multiple academic deadlines.
It was a hectic few weeks before Nationals.
Yet looking back, I would not have traded that for anything else. I firmly believe it is through these hurdles and challenges (and constantly being stressed) that you grow as a person.
You learn how to manage your time and energy to somehow get everything done to the best of your ability.
And trust me; the feeling when your team completes Nationals in one piece is priceless. By joining Enactus Manchester, I unlocked a wealth of life-altering experiences that have stayed with me to this day.
In Enactus, I saw first-hand the power of a common cause uniting driven and passionate people from all over the world.
I saw the collective creativity of these brilliant young minds put into action to empower the disempowered.
I saw in this short one year how much I grew both personally and professionally through Enactus.
Although my time as an undergraduate is now over, my Enactus journey has just began.
Joshua served as HR manager and photographer / videographer for Enactus Manchester from 2014–15. He is now working in a marketing agency and handles content production and social media marketing for the Enactus Singapore team