5 Tips for Student Leaders Running for a CTSO Office

Posted on February 9, 2015

So you’re a student leader running for a Beta Club, Key Club, Student Council, 4-H, or CTSO office. (In case you’re wondering, CTSO stands for Career and Technology Student Organizations and includes organizations like FFA, DECA, FBLA, FCCLA, SkillsUSA, BPA, HOSA, TSA, and FEA.) Whether you want to be a state officer, a district officer, or a chapter officer, here are 5 tips to help you show up and shine as a candidate.

Tip #1 — Don’t Brag

Don’t brag is the #1 tip to positively distinguish yourself from most other candidates running for a student leadership position. You see, there are a couple of interview questions asked of every candidate and most candidates answer them incorrectly. The questions are:

  • What qualifies you for this position?
  • Why should your peers vote for you?

Most candidates for student leadership positions answer these questions by bragging about their accomplishments. Their focus is on me-me-me. But you’re not most candidates. Instead of focusing on me-me-me, you’re going to focus on them-them-them. Go ahead and share a few of your accomplishments, but then turn the tables and show how these accomplishments will help you bring value to the members of your organization. In other words, instead of just sharing your resume, share how you plan to serve.

Tip #2 — Grassroots Serving

Speaking of serving, why are you involved in your organization? Is it only for what you can get out of it or do you see your involvement as an opportunity to give to others as well? If you want to be elected to a student leadership office and all you’re doing is getting, it’s time to start giving. And you don’t have to wait until you become an officer to give. Start today by asking your advisor how you can serve.

Tip #3 — Simplify Your Message

When it comes to a platform, most candidates over promise and under deliver. But remember, you’re not most candidates. Instead of over promising, why not focus your message on one or two things you can really deliver. For instance, if you’re running for VP of Membership, why not develop a plan to grow membership by 20 percent? Develop a clear 3 or 4-step process that will help you stand head-and-shoulders above other student leadership candidates who have no plans and simply make empty promises.

Tip #4 — Be Memorable

When competing for a position, the most memorable platforms usually win. How can you make your platform memorable? Try one of these ideas:

  • Is there a short, unforgettable story you can share that illustrates your message?
  • Can you come up with a memorable catchphrase? For instance, my business tagline is “empowering teens to show up and shine in life and leadership.” Show up and shine is catchy and easy to remember.
  • Is there a picture or visual that connects with your campaign?

Tip #5 — Be Your Best Self

The moment you step up to any student leadership challenge is the moment you must put your best self forward. Student leadership is not about power, prestige, or privilege. As stated earlier, it’s about serving. As a student leader, you can no longer check out and whine. That’s simply not an option. Leadership requires you to show up and shine every day in every way. Bottom line, student leadership requires your best self.


Part stand-up comedian. Part dynamic story-teller. Totally-incredible motivational speaker! Kent Julian is the master of inviting his audience on a journey of laughter, encouragement, intensity, and inspiration while communicating clearly that each of us can be 100% responsible for our success in both life and leadership by living E+R=O!

—Lisa Firestone, SkillsUSA Indiana, State Officer Coordinator


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