ERC testimonial: Maria Kozhinova

 10915121_10203919496208966_775696004704711282_o (1)Maria Kozhinova was Links Coordinator for WSCF-Europe in 2013-2015.

In my opinion, Links Coordinator is the most interesting of all ERC positions (which was exactly why I have applied for it). My opinion on it did not change during these years of serving WSCF.

This position lets you travel more than other ERC members on average. You get to represent WSCF at partner events, and these trips should be mostly funded by WSCF-E. I would say, the Links position suits best a student with some flexibility regarding absences from the Uni. I wish I would have utilised this possibility of attending subregional and partner events more during my term. I have applied for Links Coordinator’s position just before my first post-graduation job started, and I have discovered only on-the-job, that it’s actually not as easy to get those free days off to take part in events, as it was in the Uni! :)

As Links Coordinator, one gets to organise an annual event – Staff and Officers’ Meeting, which is a capacity-building and networking meeting for Staff and Board members / responsible persons from European SCMs. The experience of organising S&O was a huge leap forward in organisational skills for me. You get to learn a lot from this experience, and I loved the experience of building these events from the scratch! (Of course, with the help of the ERC and responsible volunteers.)

Links Coordinator’s position also means staying in touch with SCMs. Links is the “face” of the WSCF-Europe, someone who transmits news, event updates, both official and unofficial updates. During my term, we have even created a Links Facebook Page, which is shadowing the official WSCF-E FB page with more “humane”, worldly updates :) Links Coordinator also is the person who gets information about all upcoming events in the region, and whenever there is a need to transmit a message to SCMs or to gain information, Links Coordinator is the person who operationalises this. Links is the person who has all the latest contact information about SCMs and updates on their status in membership, events etc.

Ideally, Links Coordinator handles an SCM Calendar, which is something what I have tried to implement a few times, but it didn’t work out very well so far. I wanted to collect all event calls from all European SCMs, so that the SCM coordinators would notify me in advance about them – in order to create something like an online calendar, or a section of the newsletter, stating the upcoming events in different SCMs.  This was my dream / vision when I started as Links Coordinator, and unfortunately it is still just a vision, because many SCMs do not have paid staff, and response times / levels of initiative of volunteers may vary a lot.

ERC work is also much more than what is written in Links job description. It is strategic decision making, evaluating, lots of communication, sometimes crisis communication. ERC position is an excellent opportunity to develop one’s organisational, human resources and communication skills; a great way of learning virtual teamworking and a big space for creative initiative. When I joined the ERC, for example, I’ve never thought that my skills and curiosity towards IT and gadgets would come in so handy at one point (actually more than one point!). It is a lot of work at times, some frequent email checking, but I think that this opportunity gives back much more than it takes. I will never be the same person again, after this ERC experience. Now I know my limits of what I can and can’t do organisationally much better. I have learned to dare and to provoke a conversation in a polite and gentle way.

In short, I would recommend to everyone to consider – and apply to – an ERC position. It doesn’t matter if you do not have a lot of experience beforehand – you will learn on your role, and you will have other members of ERC and staff to support you and help you. Being part of the ERC is also fun! It is really worth trying out :)

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The work of WSCF-Europe is financially supported by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe.

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