The first few weeks of the semester always bring a flood of “we’re hiring” and “officers wanted” flyers across campus. If you’re currently struggling to balance your responsibilities or running low on time, but are looking to add a shiny title or two to your resume, here’s my advice: don’t apply. We need less grinders in campus leadership if we want this university to thrive.
Many archetypes populate a college campus — the slackers, the partiers, the teacher’s pets — but none are as iconic as the grinder. We all know this person: they take ten thousand credit hours, run every club, volunteer every weekend, go to work and internships and job shadows, study for the MCAT… and somehow make it look easy. While the rest of us plebeians struggle to balance a handful of commitments, the grinder is doing literally everything. If they said they had invented time travel to get it all done, we would be unsurprised. The grinder is relentlessly productive, well-rounded and experienced; the aspiration of every imperfect student.
But the grinder hides one fatal flaw. They frequently overcommit and underperform, leading to the mismanagement of all kinds of organizations — which damages campus culture for all of us.
The truth of the matter is that the grinder doesn’t care about everything they do. No one has enough soul-scorching passion for 15 different things. Some things naturally fall to the wayside in the great shuffle of priorities. But when the overambitious student, having signed up for several leadership roles that demand huge time commitments, gets busy with what they actually care about —studies, work or internships — then what happens to the less important things? The student organizations they’re on the officer boards of, the nonprofit they founded, the startup they lead? All the great tasks they took on not out of love, but from a pathological need to fatten up their resume like a cow for slaughter?
Startups stagnate. Clubs fade into obscurity, leaving members feeling lost and scammed. Organization names and titles still sit pretty on the grinder’s resume, but they are non-entities. They don’t host events or help anyone, or if they do, they are so dysfunctional it hurts. UTD is no stranger to these ghost organizations; how many clubs have pathetically faded like this? Either from laziness or, more commonly, the grinder-comprised officer board’s inability to spare time and energy to make something great?
As a student org enthusiast, I have personally witnessed too many clubs fail due to unmet commitments. And as a club officer, I have seen what goes on behind the scenes: too many officers with too little time, always looking to unload their work onto someone else. I do not blame anyone; it is rarely a function of laziness. Rather, it happens when entire organizations capsize to the grinder mentality, where the only reason to run a club is to fill a “Volunteer Experience” slot.
Behind the scenes of some of UTD’s most prolific and well-known clubs, one idea reigns supreme: every officer needs to be devoutly committed to the organization outside of school, work and other life demands. Everyone must work long, hard hours to not only sustain the club, but to improve it and build in failsafes for its longevity. Most importantly, the passion and energy driving the club should burst forth from everyone, not a lone visionary drowning in a sea of “too busy this week” and “maybe later” messages from their colleagues.
Everything fun on campus will decay if the only people running it are grinders. If UTD wants to be more exciting and welcoming, we must stop overstuffing our resumes and start chasing our passions. We need people with the time, energy and focus to do great things on our officer boards. And we cannot just wait for those people. We must becomethose people.
For students nervous about joining a club that may be run by under-committed grinders, many officers I’ve spoken with have advice. Every recommendation focuses on spotting effort. Are they active and responsive on social media? Are their events well-organized and crafted with care? Do they make new members feel included? Do they have concretely detailed plans for the year? Sometimes clubs fall short or overextend themselves, but an occasional mistake is easily distinguished from a parade of red flags. If passion, growth and effort are demonstrated, you can trust they will not fall apart once things get busy.
And if you are applying for officer positions, do not be scared away by someone else’s thick resume. Increasingly, leadership teams are noticing that people involved in several activities often are not as committed as those with less experience but more passion. If something lights a fire in your heart, and you are willing to put the time in to learn, you are just as good a contender as a grinder. Stay a visionary with a dream and the power to execute it. We need more of that at UTD.
This semester, do not overschedule yourself in the name of “the grind” or “well-roundedness.” Pick one cause and commit to it. You will be surprised how much you can grow and help others through just one role.
Everywhere you look on campus, you see a jack of all trades. But it is far more impressive to start a bright-eyed, hopeful novice and become a master of one.