Bill Clinton. Kofi Annan. Mario Monti. Micheline Calmy-Rey. John Kerry.
I’m just naming a list of world leaders here. But one thing they do have in common. They were once part of AIESEC.
AIESEC may be famous for allowing young people to obtain significant leadership through exchange, but what about the significant leadership that we, as committee members, are able to achieve through our experience delivering those exchange opportunities through AIESEC?
So instead of selling AIESEC’s values and appeal, I’m going to tell you the most challenging thing about being in the organisation.
Annually-changing members in a set structure
I am sure we all have experienced how challenging it is to adapt with new people and new culture. As a youth-run organisation recognised by the United Nations, AIESEC’s structures are established in place internationally. However, it is to be noted that the members in AIESEC change positions annually, including those taking the executive roles - which means minor details of the system is also shifting each year. For instance, the Managing Director in our Local Committee started off her journey in AIESEC as a Customer Experience team member, and a couple of months later, she became the Team Leader of Marketing and Communications. Amazingly, in only six months, she’s now the Managing Director. It surely is amazing to see different people from different experience background can step up as high as they deserve. However, this also means maintaining the sustainability and stability of the whole committee is certainly not another work that can be done with a snap of a finger.
Unpredictable experience through the flexibility of roles
AIESEC is the opposite of comfort zone. When I got into AIESEC, it was not only the role that I was assigned to that I needed to adapt with. AIESEC is a very fast-tempo organisation that produces a number of little opportunities within each term. This could be within local, regional, or even national level. This entails internal and periodical committee for conferences, recruitment and a number of other periodic events. These are called Organising Committees. But don’t be tricked yet! Most of the times when you are recruited as one of the Organising Committee members, they don’t always assign you to your own field or portfolio. Being flexible with roles is certainly a challenge, especially when you think that you are yet to understand with your main portfolio. I was shocked at first, but guess what? I came to realise that being in a different portfolio allows me to understand much more about my main role, better yet, I can ideate better by seeing from another perspective!
Communications and external relations
Now, as expected, as an internationally-monitored organisation, members are not only responsible only to the local directors, but also to the national and the international body. The optimisation of the measure of success has to be within the internationally-established structures. It is evident that you are not just working for your clients that may or may not go on a global volunteering, but you clearly are a part of something much more and bigger! However, maintaining these connections both nationally and internationally is not a particularly easy thing to do. It is not only our individual responsibility that we need to preserve but also understanding who you are as a part of the Local Committee and even National Committee. Plus, as an extra spice, you get to experience how challenging it is to sustain a decent partnership for the organisational sustainability - with the international partners and also university relations.
So you see, AIESEC experience is a pool of challenges. It is a constant and never-ending learning platform. Being a part of AIESEC is not easy at all – but it certainly is a fun that is worth ten years of work experience!
You may ask, “how?”
Well, take a look at start-up companies and try to observe how many years it takes for them to obtain stability. Any Local Committee within AIESEC, having to change the members and micro-structures each year, needs to get their stuff together and reach success within that year! It certainly is a fast-paced work!
Have you heard of role-shiftings or portfolio-shiftings in some of the leading companies? It started being adopted in the corporate world since the millennials entered workplaces. They do this every 2-5 years. The objective of this is to let them learn new things and brings fresh ideas to their main portfolio. And as a bonus, to maintain their momentum at work instead of being bored with their mundane job that they have to do for years or decades. But because we have an annual period in AIESEC, we do this almost every time we have a chance!
Lastly, I think this quote can speak for itself:
“Leadership is about taking responsibility and not making excuses.”
- Mitt Romney
So, are you bold enough to take these challenges?