The main reason that students become Israel advocates is that they feel passionate about Israel and want to make a difference. But the skills you learn as an advocate are also indispensable to life and career. Here are my top 10, in no particular order: (1) Building subject matter expertise. While not everyone needs to be a walking encyclopedia of Israeli trivia, being an Israel activist demands a base level of knowledge. Few things are more important in work than achieving a level of subject matter expertise.
(2) Talking with diverse target audiences. The best Israel advocates target the people and groups they want to get to know, and work tirelessly to develop relationships. They learn to speak with people who are different than themselves. That’s exactly what’s required in nine out of 10 careers.
(3) Team building. Running an Israel advocacy group requires team work: taking stock of who’s good at what, and dividing and conquering. Plenty of really smart and otherwise talented people crash and burn in the workplace because they don’t work well with others. Being good at team building will give you an instantaneous advantage in the working world.
(4) Marketing. Everything we do as Israel advocates boils down to a form of marketing. And guess what? That’s exactly what most people do at work.
(5) Recruiting. Israel advocates are constantly on the lookout for “talent,” people who are passionate and effective in carrying forward the agenda. That’s how we ensure that we leave a legacy. Companies and organizations have the exact same need.
(6) Organization building. When campus activists create an organization structure, develop and execute on a budget, put together a plan, and evaluate their impact, they are organization building. Straight A’s don’t hold a candle to that skill-set.
(7) Raising funds. When you approach The David Project or Hillel for a funding request, or you write a proposal to a local foundation for an Israel advocacy initiative, you are learning and employing one of the key skills required in the professional world. It’s not only nonprofits that need fundraising. The first order of business for any high-tech start-up is raising the necessary funds to get off the ground.
(8) Public speaking. Israel advocates learn how to speak. Is there a successful professional anywhere who doesn’t have to speak—and speak well--in public? Very, very few.
(9) Writing for public consumption. Learning how to write an effective op-ed for the student newspaper may be the most important assignment you’ve ever taken on. The written word is the granddaddy of career skills. Employers constantly complain that young employees come bereft of writing skills. Writing a term paper (albeit essential) doesn't stack up to developing a 700 word essay on a subject you are passionate about that’s designed to persuade. If you can do that at work, you will be way ahead of the curve.
(10) Being creative. I hate to say it but college professors tend to frown on creativity. Good students give professors what they want. In Israel advocacy, as with the working world, being creative is a difference maker.
Share in the comments below what resonates with you, or any additional skill you have learned from from being a campus advocate.