Helpful tips for preparing yourself for a year of service.
Taylor Nelson, 2016-17 Idaho FFA Reporter
It’s that time of the year again when FFA members all over the state are preparing for chapter, district, and state officer sifting! Looking back, I remember being nervous and unsure of the chapter sifting process. As a freshman in high school, I didn’t know what I could possibly do for a chapter officer team, because I didn’t know what skills I could apply. That was when one of the older chapter members gave me a little piece of advice that I love passing on to other members when they’re unsure of trying something new. Sometimes you just have to step out and try your hardest, even if you’re unsure. You never know, you could surprise yourself. Though I didn’t get a chapter office my freshman year, I wasn’t deterred from trying again the next spring, because I had a better idea of how to prepare myself. There are a few things we need to understand before serving as officers.
What is an officer?
Officers are leaders within the chapter that are selected to fulfill a certain role for the year. They often help plan events for their chapter and have specific jobs. At every level, these jobs may change slightly, but really they are a title. Every member of an officer team is an equal, which means that the president and the sentinel each have an equal role and job, regardless of the office they hold. It’s a common misconception that there is a hierarchy within teams, but really they are a group of equally skilled and talented leaders. Really an FFA officer takes their time as a leader to serve not just their chapter, but their community. It’s a great time to grow as an individual and to work on team skills.
I don’t even know where to start on the benefits of being involved as an officer within your chapter. Through my own time as a chapter officer, I was able to better understand what place I want to have in the growth of my chapter and in a future career. It’s so much fun to learn how to plan an event and then, with the help of teammates, advisors, alumni, and community member, to see it happen! Through leadership in the National FFA Organization, you can make lifelong friends and connections to your community that can make impacts in the lives of future members.
So what are some ways to prepare for an office?
At any level, the steps are much the same. Look at the officers in your chapter, district, and state. In what ways are they great leaders? How do you see yourself working with those leaders? Maybe you are a great speaker or debater. Maybe you are organized and can plan ahead. Maybe you are an amazing people person. Perhaps you are a great listener and pay attention to detail. All of these things and more can make great leaders.
Talk to your advisors and current officers. If you have questions about the job of certain officers, or how they can fulfill their role successfully on a team, these people will know the best. They can help you understand the things that make a successful officer team work (they are also great resources for practicing interview skills). Parents and friends can act as cheerleaders and as support as you consider trying for an office. All of these people can help you be more intentional in your service to the office and other members around you. Know your chapter and community. Being able to better recognize needs around you can help you to bring suggestions to the table to strengthen your chapter!
What if I don’t get an office?
For many people, a fear of failing can keep them from even trying in the first place. For example, I was scared to run for chapter office. There were so many amazing leaders in my chapter and I wasn’t sure that I could be like them. With the prodding of my advisors and a couple of older members, I decided to run for a chapter position. While I didn’t get office my freshman year, I had the opportunity to serve in the two years following in chapter offices and to run for a district office. I had to learn that I didn’t need to be like other members in my chapter, I needed to be myself. When we try to change ourselves to be someone else, we can really dampen what makes us great individuals.
Not getting an office is not the end of the world. Teams are often chosen from a group of more than capable individuals because of the way they interact with each other. As a freshman member, I didn’t yet understand what role officers held in the chapter and needed that year to grow more as an individual. Once I had grown more, I was able to work better within a team. That team and every team that followed helped me to grow in many of the leadership aspects of my life. Not getting an office doesn’t mean that you are not capable of being a strong leader in your chapter. It is an opportunity for you to continue to grow in different ways.
A Word on Burning Out.
In school, often we are pulled in many different directions by our interests. Throughout high school, I was a multi-sport athlete, Art Club member, honors student, occasional theater kid, and a full-time FFA member with a part-time job. I will be the first to say that sometimes, it’s exhausting. Sometimes in an effort to be more ‘rounded’ or to experience everything that is offered to us, we can wear ourselves thin. This leads to stress and even burning out. I learned this lesson the hard way.
Prioritizing your schedule and the things that matter most to you is definitely a valuable lesson to learn. If something you are doing starts to cause you more stress and heartache than enjoyment, don’t let it pull the happiness out of your other activities. In life, it’s okay to sometimes take a break and know that you are in control of what you are doing and of your future. We can’t be everywhere at once because we are human. That’s okay. Take time to reflect on the things that you really enjoy and let the joy those things bring you carry you through the rough patches. Don’t let your passions for the things you love burn out!
Just remember that I you really want to be an officer, be yourself! It may sound cheesy, but make sure that instead of trying to be like the officers that came before you, you continue being you. Only you can bring your ideas and individual experiences into the office! Bring your heart of service and your willingness to work and you will go so far! Good luck this spring!