Being a “rep” builds skills, looks good on your CV, is great fun and is your chance to make a huge difference to your course.
We all know the feeling. Your lecturer asks if anyone would like to ‘rep’ this year and an awkward silence envelops the lecture hall. Gingerly you raise your hand before it dawns on you that you are on your own. Or maybe you knew you wanted to be a rep, but having started with an unbridled passion and enthusiasm you realise that have no idea what on earth you were thinking. Perhaps you have it all sorted but just need some more ideas. However you ended up with the role, don’t worry. We’re here to help!
How to Rep
At the start of each academic year, tutors and lecturers will ask who would like to become a course rep. This is your cue. Raise your hand and make the first step in the pursuit of your destiny. Well maybe not quite, but you will be leading your course in the right direction and adding important skills to your resumé.
Every meeting, whether it’s with other students, your lecturer or with the student union council, is a chance for you to make a difference. If the library is missing books: who can sort it out? You! Half-way through your second year and no mention of placement, who can change that? You! Your mate is having an issue with the module options: who can help? You!
As a rep, you will be dealing with 3 distinct groups: your fellow students, the staff and other reps. Each group requires a slightly different approach.
A common question asked by many staff or student reps is, “Who do they represent?” So be sure that when you speak, it is for the whole class. In getting feedback be sure to involve as many people as possible. It could be that for large groups you try this formally but for smaller groups, informal chats will be perfect. Also, try utilising email for good feedback; if you can persuade your lecturer to announce your details (semi) regularly you can expect good feedback.
Finally every student’s best friend (and revision enemy), Facebook, is infamous for networking. Try setting up a group and invite your course mates to it, even if it’s just a way to keep you updated on any hopefully infrequent problems.
- Ask yourself, how can you approach your class? If you’re not comfortable asking lots of people start with just your friends before moving on.
- Give your contact details out! Use technology to contact people- Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Carrier pigeon?
Communicating to staff can be intimidating; after all, they mark your papers, right? “I can’t criticise because…” etc. ad nauseam. Don’t worry about it, the staff aren’t there to argue with you (mostly, but they do want to hear well thought-out plans and ideas). So be prepared.
Like we said earlier, staff want to know what the students want! The key word being students, so be sure to be prepared with a variety of suggestions in order to be most productive and when you talk, talk on behalf of the class (although don’t claim that you are if you’re not). Also remember that if you do get nervous when talking in public to write down your suggestions. That way when you take your ideas forward you won’t forget anything.
Finally remember that constructive criticism goes a long way! The truth is that the staff want to improve their courses and if approached in the right way will be more than happy to help.
- Introduce yourself,
- Speak on behalf of the whole class. Be representative
- Remember some staff will be better and more helpful than others
- Be calm and don’t panic. Repeat after me, “the staff are your friends”.
When you don’t know what to do you can always ask another rep. There’s one essential reason for this: numbers. The Students’ Union can campaign more effectively if they have more information. It’s most important that information flows regularly between your institution, the union and the classes. By keeping other course reps, the faculty and the students informed you will begin to be more effective.
Ultimately this all comes down to great communication skills, which are the single most important skill you need in business. Therefore don’t worry right now if you’re not the greatest communicator. It’s a skill which has to be learnt and by being a rep you are on the fast track to learning. So keep with it and represent your class well.