10 Things I’ve Learnt Leaving AIESEC

You have a wardrobe of AIESEC teeshirts and a jar of favourite sugar cubes. A stack of AIESEC wristbands and numerous fond memories. Yet all great things must come to an end.

People don’t care.

A friend of mine describes outside of AIESEC as the wild. Everyone is busy fending for themselves and will spend their energy on themselves and those closest to them (which is probably not you).

Moving from an organisation focused on leadership development can be a slap in the face. You’re lucky if you land a role where your manager and peers care about you as a person.

And that’s ok! Whether they care or not, you are responsible for yourself. Self development — after all, isn’t this what we learn in AIESEC?

Dumb down your titles in your CV.

You were Director at xyz AIESEC entity but to someone that doesn’t know AIESEC’s operations, you look like a child in their parent’s clothing.

An ocean full of people exaggerate about their experience to look good. If you’re going for an entry level position, you can seem ‘ too good to be true’ and HR is trained to weed you.

At the end of the day, your titles don’t matter but your experience does. Dumb down your title but highlight your achievements.

It’s about how can you translate and transfer your experience.

Maybe you were in the back office departments so explaining what you did in AIESEC is easy, “ I was responsible for HR/finance/marketing.”

Or maybe you were in outgoing Global Talent? Global Volunteer? Global Entrepreneur? Operations?

Ditch the internal terminologies and learn new ones. Exchange operations can been described as talent recruitment and development through overseas internship placements with a focus on soft skill and personal development (depending on the product).

Ask yourself, “ what are the transferable skills and experience I’ve gained?” Then, “how can I communicate that?”

Some skill sets and experience won’t be used for a few years.

That awesome experience you have managing big accounts, designing national strategies, overseeing several local chapters, training and coaching probably won’t come into play for a few years until you reach at least a management level. Of course, this might be earlier if you work in a start up instead.

Be patient. It will be useful when you need it.

‘Ceilings’ exist.

AIESEC is a relatively equaled out playing field where elections and promotions are based on character and achievements over religion, gender, sexual orientation etc.

Outside of this field, social and workplaces rules are rigged to favour certain traits above others. Workplace diversity and equality can be a buzzword. It’s a sad but brutal reality.

The more minority statuses you tick off ( gender, race, income, sexual orientation, nationality etc.), the more ceilings you should expect.

Use your connections but don’t expect too much.

Once and AIESECer, always an AIESECer. Sure, you will always feel a kindred spirit in an AIESECers and they’re more likely to help a fellow out. But be realistic about limitations.

Don’t expect them to answer your questions, to be able to spare their time or to have strong connections themselves yet. There’s so much they can help you.

Don’t limit yourself to just your cohort and generation of AIESECers either. Diversify your network.

Slow down.

It’s not 2020. You don’t need to rush into the next thing. Life is compressed into a one year term anymore.

You know what you have plenty of? Time. Take a break to regather yourself and look at the bigger picture.

You’re not the same person you were when you joined AIESEC. Who are you even now? What are the hard lessons you’ve learnt since? Who do you want to be? Especially if you’ve worked full time with AIESEC, now’s a good time to have your quarter life and essential crisis and reorient yourself.

Learn to be present and start working on invaluable self-management skills like financial management, understanding the tax system or practicing discipline to execute a work life balance.

It’s ok to not know!

When I was a new member I thought recent AIESEC alumnus, especially national directors and above, had their lives together. They seemed to know everything in AIESEC and AIESEC = life. Been there, done that (twice) and nope, most are lost too.

The thing about life is that everyone is opinions and fluctuating ideas on how to run it but no one is certain. The only certainty is that everyone faces uncertainty. The difference is in how you approach your fears.

Your AIESEC experience will give you a good idea of your strengths, preferred working environments, passion and values. You will have been exposed to the power of growth mindset and “yet”. This is a great place to start.

People will leave.

AIESECers are amazing. They can be honest with you and if needed, help facilitate a life self reflection and goal setting session. However, your AIESEC friends may not be your life long friends.

In fact, most of your AIESEC friends were just your friends during AIESEC.

You may have had the most deep and meaningful late night conference conversations but when you’re no longer spending large amounts of time together and life changes you in different ways, it’s natural to drift apart.

Remember that people come into your life to play a role and once this role finishes, they will leave. That doesn’t diminish what you shared. Don’t let this demean the connections you’re yet to make.

What you achieved is amazing.

It may seem normal to an AIESECer but the average AIESECer is anything but ‘normal’. Do you know what the average 20 year old person does? Definitely not saving up to go to a leadership conference over the holidays about the role of youth with the Sustainable Development Goals and implementation strategies targeting youth in your country. Seriously.

The average 20 year old has not empowered others to work towards one direction without using financial incentives, executed international exchanges without government support, inter-country diplomacy and relation building, established a new organisational chapter abroad or coordinated large scale training with only a projector and laptop.

For those days you feel pathetic and helpless, remember that you are amazing. You’ve overcome and you will overcome again.

Don’t make AIESEC the best chapter in your life.

AIESEC was a highlight for most. A place of discovery, kinship and refuge. It was a stepping stone to becoming the best version of yourself.

But don’t let it be the best. If we go with the statistical average, you still have around 60 years left in you. You’re still got a lot ahead of you. It’ll be sad to have already lived your best years.

Be present, practice gratitude and remember that the best is yet to come (if you let it be).

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