College: it’s the best of times and the worst of times. The best because all your friends live within walking distance, your social calendar is always full, and you get to spend the majority of your time learning about things that you care about (well, ideally, anyway). The worst because you have no money, no idea what you’re going to do when you graduate, and no one who wants to pay you to figure that out. Right?? Not necessarily…
Another option we haven’t really covered until now is student ambassador programs. These programs work differently depending on the company or organization that’s sponsoring them, but they tend to have some features in common.
Usually companies have particular campuses that they’re trying to target and they look for students who can help spread the word about their products or services. They ask students to put in a certain number of hours or participate in a specific number of events on a weekly, monthly, or semester basis. Some companies provide payment (usually just a set amount that’s paid at the end of the program), some hook you up with free stuff like computers or cameras, and some of them also give you a budget so you can plan kick-ass events that’ll draw in lots of students.
Sound like something you might want to get involved in?
Here are five signs that you’ve got what it takes to be a successful student ambassador.
1. You’re outgoing
Are you the kind of person who loves to start conversations with strangers? Are you always sharing your opinions on the hottest new app with anyone who’ll listen? A majority of the work of a student ambassador is talking to people you don’t know, so if you feel comfortable speaking with strangers both one-on-one and in front of a group, that’s a good sign.
Some companies might ask you to give formal presentations, some might want you to facilitate group discussions or problem-solving sessions, and some might want you to take more of a grassroots approach and set yourself up as an expert on campus for a particular product or brand. You don’t have to be a public speaking pro when you start, but already having the confidence to present and talk to strangers will be a huge advantage.
2. You’re creative
When you attempt to solve a problem, are you able to come up with lots of different solutions? Are you the type to pull together an amazing party on a teeny tiny budget? Companies generally look for students who can come up with interesting and innovative solutions to problems.
In a Chronicle of Higher Education article “Tech Companies Expand ‘Student Ambassador’ Programs,” Jeffrey R. Young gives the following example: “One of the Google student ambassadors at Emory University, for instance, helped conduct a survey of students about whether they were satisfied with the university’s current e-mail system (which is not provided by Google). The student representative, Emily Rubin, then showed the results to campus administrators, stressing that the survey indicated a hunger for new features like those offered by Google.” Google did not ask Emily to do the survey or make the presentation to administrators—that was all Emily’s initiative. Do you have the same creativity and ability to follow through?
3. You’re well-connected on campus
Are you active in student groups and clubs on campus? You don’t need to be the president of every club. In fact, some people who run student ambassador programs like Ashley Collins at AgCareers said that students who do too much are not ideal candidates since they won’t have enough time to dedicate to their student ambassador duties, but having those connections makes it a lot easier for you to organize activities and reach larger numbers of students.
So if you haven’t already, find a few different groups that appeal to your interests and get to know the people who run them.
4. You’re independent
Companies usually provide support through initial training sessions, regular phone calls, and online communities, but for the majority of the time, you’ll be on your own. That means working without a direct supervisor, staying motivated, and following through on projects. Sound like something you’d be comfortable with? The great news is that if you can swing all this on top of your classes, studying, and your social life, you’ll really impress employers when it’s time to apply for jobs after graduating.
5. You want to build your résumé in a fun way
If everything I’ve described so far sounds more like fun than like work to you, there’s a good chance you’ve got what it takes to be an awesome student ambassador.
And if you’re not sure, that’s okay, too. Participating in a program like this gives you a chance to build your résumé with some real-life skills like event planning, presenting, working on a budget, and formulating and executing your ideas with minimal supervision. You’ll learn a ton about yourself and what you’re capable of.
So what do you think? If you’d like to learn more about some specific student ambassador programs, here are a few for you to check out:
- Google’s Student Ambassador Program
- Apple’s Campus Reps
- Microsoft’s Student Partners
- McGraw-Hill’s Student Ambassadors
- Mozilla Firefox’s Student Ambassadors
Homework time! Are you interested in participating in a program but the company you like doesn’t have one on your campus or even at all? Why not come up with a proposal and suggest that they let you pilot one? You never know—you might impress them with your initiative. For some ideas on how to approach this, check out our post on pain-spotting as a job search technique.