When I enrolled into my first year of faculty I was completely clueless as to where I was actually heading and what was I to do with my career. As I believe were a lot of my peers.
I was than advised by my older sister to join and volunteer in AIESEC, the world biggest student run organization. She said I would meet a lot of cool people, attend some seminars and workshops and develop some practical skills. So I did join the organization and I did get all of that. The next year I decided to involve myself even more. By the end of my studies I was finishing my term as Vice President for External and Public Relations in the national committee of AIESEC in Macedonia.
And there were times that it felt more like a full time job than just volunteering. I had spent more time in the AIESEC office than on lectures.
During those 4 amazing years I did get a lot of practical skills in areas from sales and marketing to recruitment. I had meetings in companies, organized national promotional campaigns and facilitated conferences.
Even though all of these activities have been highly beneficial for me as a future professional and employ, other more delicate and subtle gains from volunteering were far more rewarding.
While faculties equip us with a lot of theoretical knowledge and expertise (which is none the less important) volunteering has given me the chance to define myself as a person and a professional. It made me realize how capable I am to contribute to matters important to me and to my community. As a person it made me come to terms with my own insecurities and prejudges.
Not all the people I worked with shared my opinion or supported my ideas. But we would agree to disagree and still find mutual respect and collaborate with one another. I did not always work on activities that I found interesting or directly beneficial for me. But they were important to the organization and they helped my teammates.
Being part of different cross-functional teams has taught me about mutual dependency between functions and people in one organization or system. This has made me more sensible and understanding to other people’s needs and motivations. Therefore more aware on how my actions and work may inspire one person while being opposed by someone else. This has also made me feel more conformable and objective when facing criticism or negative feedback.
One other very important gain from volunteering while still at faculty is that I also got to experience failure at an early stage of my life. There were projects that were not successful or that did not meet the end result expected. But as a volunteer and in a NGO failures and mistakes are approached more as a learning experience than just mistakes as in more strict business and professional environments. Volunteering organizations leave more space for reflection and learning from unsuccessful events.
Becoming more comfortable with experiencing failure and making mistakes is one of the best personal skills that I developed throughout my volunteering and has made me more resilient in both my personal and professional life.
Even more important is that my volunteering has contributed to giving other people the chance to have this experience as well. Seeing that what I do contribute to other people development as and seeing the change in them has been one of the best feelings so far.
Volunteering has pushed me further away from my comfort zone each day and by that made me grow and strive to become more. It has made me more self aware and aware of my environment and the opportunities offered. And every day I still see how my volunteering experience and the things I learned, shaped my attitude to everyday ups and downs, made me more prone to change and a better citizen in my community.
Author: Bojana Zavkova is a young account management professional, proud AIESEC alumni and Mladiinfo volunteer. She is passionate about sales and marketing and dedicated to continues personal and professional development. She believes in leadership by example, personal accountability, humbleness and willpower, sustainability and collaboration.