Why it is important for me to be a volunteer?
They often ask me why do I invest my time in AIESEC since I could find a job and get a salary for that job. Even now, when I had to find a job before it was the part of my life plan, if I say “I am the president of AIESEC in Serbia and I am the leader of an organization that has 400 members”, that answer is not enough, because “you are not paid for the thing that you are doing and you could invest that time in something else and get money for it”.
So, let’s start this story actually from the moment when I entered AIESEC. In that period (autumn 2010), my life was completely structured, I had a nice student life, I was passing all my exams on time, I was a water polo coach and in that way my need to be right next to the swimming pool if I can’t be inside was fulfilled, I was traveling with the person I loved, and the most important thing – I had a happy family that supported my each step (that is the thing that actually didn’t change even today). But, my parents were very concerned for my future and they were telling me very often “we are glad that you are happy, but please be aware that you live in Serbia and here without knowing people you can’t do anything, no matter how qualified you are, your life is a closed circle where you enjoy, until the moment when you face the problem”.
I never wanted to be part of some political party, and when my best friend became a team leader in “that AIESEC” that she was talking about constantly for a year, an idea came to my mind – I will join that organization, make my parents satisfied and I won’t disappoint myself, as I will still be non-political person.
That is how I became a member, completely not aware about what kind of journey I am starting, with an idea “I will meet here some very important people, I will collect enough business cards and open for myself doors that I couldn’t in some other way”.
I was never afraid of telling honestly what was the reason why I joined AIESEC because I believe that there is no person that met the organization right before becoming a member and that had a thought “I will change the world now”, but I believe as well that all people that were/are members for a longer period stayed in AIESEC because they were crazy enough to change the world.
The question that I was asking a lot in that time was “how much time I need to invest in this activity” and I am very thankful to older members that replied to me “the amount of time that you invest in AIESEC is equal to what you will get out of it”.
So I assume that it would be interesting to analyze what I got back out of it (four years later)?
At the beginning of that story it would be good to imagine a programmer. If you are not a programmer as well – what is the image that comes to your mind about a social life of that person (I need to distinct myself at this moment, as I consider that image a typical stereotype, but these types of stereotypes I meet every day when I say what is the field of my studies).
Until now I was a member of three teams in AIESEC (one project team and two executive borads), and I was a team leader three times as well (my third leadership experience is happing at the moment actually). These chances go very rare with a stereotype about a programmer. Because of that I often say that during my AIESEC experience I got a knowledge that most probably I couldn’t get on some faculty and I got managerial skills that students mostly learn about, but they don’t get it in a practical way without having few years of working experience.
Let me clarify – I doubt that you will have a chance in any job, without working experience and almost immediately after starting to work, to get a chance to lead a team of people and to manage real financial resources, to see your direct impact on a society through the change of people that surround you and to make strategies for indirect impact that will make much bigger trace.
In February this year I was sitting with my pre-successor Aleksa Nikolić – the president of AIESEC in Serbia for the term 2013/14 in Hong Kong. I remember that we were observing these huge buildings and asking ourselves “how many people from Serbia in their twenties visited Hong Kong and more important – how many of them made that possible only because of their own work”.
Only in the previous year I visited these countries thanks to AIESEC (chronologically) – Turkey, Egypt, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Hong Kong, Macau, China, Switzerland, Tunisia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia again, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands, Russia, Taiwan (it would be more precise to count the cities that I’ve visited, since it is not true that I saw all these countries fully, but certain cities in these countries I did and I got to know these cultures much better).
I always love to set the right expectations – this is not an average year of an AIESEC-er (of course it is not the average year of a Serbian student as well). However, it is not the case that every student leads an organization of 400 members, trying to define with his team which is the best direction where the organization should go, which strategies will support us in that, how to enable the implementation of these strategies and the most important – to make every member aware about the importance of these strategies and how they should work towards that goal.
And if we are talking sincerely about this topic, for me as a person neither the managerial skills neither all these trips are not the enough good reason why I stayed in AIESEC for four years and why I took a responsibility to stay for the fifth year. But the reasons are following:
Impact on the society – Imagine all bad things that are happening. And ask yourself what are you doing in order to change these bad things. Do you think in a way “this is meant for someone else, that can’t happen to me”, or you truly get touched by these things. I am kind of person that takes care about what is happening around and I consider myself as someone that has a strong empathy. It is never hard for me to put myself in other shoes and most probably for that reason everything that is happening around me hurts me easily – peer violence, government health system, educational system, corruption, etc. If these things seem far away and unreal for you, you are a lucky person, but unfortunately I have to say to you that it won’t be the case forever. Until two years ago I wasn’t observing peer violence as a strong problem and then my younger brother came home from a birthday with blood all around his head, only because he was on the wrong place in the wrong moment. That is the moment when I realized that “the wrong place” became the center of my Belgrade and “the wrong moment” was actually Friday evening, when usually in this street there are a lot of people. In the same moment I realized that I spent my high school days in that street and I felt a huge difference between our two generations, even if he is just 6 years younger than me, he is much more insecure and he needs to take care about things that I wasn’t even thinking about in his age. The same brother started his fight for life 5 months ago. Only in that moment when something affects you so strongly you can realize how our health system is pure catastrophe, and how the life of an individual isn’t important in our country. Social problems (whichever we are talking about) influence every citizen, the only question is how much. Instead of waiting for that problem to shoot you right in your head, you have an option to activate yourself and to work on a systematical solution of an issue. That is what AIESEC gave to me – clear impact on society and way before I felt it on my skin I was able to help others. That is something that can’t be paid with any salary.
People – by entering AIESEC I created a network of people that surround me who think in a same way, they have the same values, they are ready to change themselves and to help others to change for a better world. I was always telling that the impact that an individual can make is enormous, I still say so, but by entering AIESEC my potential impact grew exponentially because of people that I have around me.
There are these things that can’t be paid, no matter how much money you have. Luckily, there are more and more companies that take care about social problems, so for that reason the salary stopped being the first criteria in choosing the most preferable employer (about that topic I will write my opinion in some other text).