What do you do when you’re done with the work for the day?
Some people simply relax doing anything that helps them to relax. Some people do freelancing work. Others take language courses, go to gym, work on their startup idea, blog and so on and so forth…
However, maybe I would interest you in another way of spending your time? How about doing some extra work… for free?
(this is repost of my article on LinkedIn)
According to UK-based Institute for Volunteering Research around one quarter of Englishmen and women volunteer on regular basis (at least once a month). It’s also more or less the same in United States, according to US Department of Labor. In Poland this figure stands at around 18%, based on research of Klon/Jawor Association.
Of course volunteering has many faces – charity, religious, healthcare, educational and so on and so forth. Today I’d like to write about my personal experiences with two organizations I was part of during my life.
The biggest irony of being in an age of student, is that you need to make choices that will define a couple of next years of your life, probably crucial ones, whereas you’re more probably than not nowhere near being ready to make such choices. Therefore you end up learning stuff you’re not quite into, but sounded like something that could earn you a buck in the future.
That is my story. Now it could go very awry resulting in almost 5 wasted years. If only it wasn’t for one colleague of mine that was active in of the dozen of student organizations on my university. This organization was called AIESEC and what happened next was around 4 years of amazing learning experience.
This organization was called AIESEC and what happened next was around 4 years of amazing learning experience.
Long story short – AIESEC is international organization which main area of activities is facilitating process of exchanging student internships. Organization around this and other processes was – and still is – enormous. Especially for a student right after high school.
AIESEC network consists of 126 member countries (source: http://aiesec.org/about-aiesec/aiesec-structure/). In Poland there are 16 active local branches, each run by students. Since 1948, when AIESEC was established, it helped to develop literally tens of thousands of young people, who now create network of alumni – businessmen, politicians, succesful entrepreneurs etc. ready to help former or current brother in arms from AIESEC.
One of the key aspects of AIESEC is cooperation with companies of various size and specialities. These partnerships provided priceless knowledge, especially in terms of developing competences crucial for members and their responsibilites – as well as future endeavours in ‚mature’ professional life. AIESEC members have also glimpse of how various businesses are oganized, how structures are being managed, how knowledge is being upkeep and transferred, etc.. This knowledge is giving AIESEC organizational maturity on truly impressive level.
On the other hand AIESEC is also a place to make mistakes. Like I said, my period there, apart from meeting people I’m proud to call friends up to this day, was first and foremost a learning experience. Succesful conferences and failed projects. Great networking and lost elections. Valuable trainings and personal conflicts. It was all there. AIESEC could give you a sense of purpose, sometimes a feeling of superiority over colleagues not doing anything apart from studying and partying, only to give you humility lesson next day.
AIESEC could give you a sense of purpose, sometimes a feeling of superiority over colleagues not doing anything apart from studying and partying, only to give you humility lesson next day.
I took a couple of responsibilities, including being responsible for organizing conferences for 200 people. Been to almost 20 conferences myself, including ones abroad. I’ve contributed to successful exchanges of more than a dozen people. Fair to say I’d then put a little bit more effort I could’ve achieved and learn even more, but then again – failure was a lesson in itself.
So if you’re still a student or maybe your kid is, I strongly encourage you to go to http://aiesec.org/ and learn what this place can offer you.
My experience there eventually led me to another place with somewhat similar feeling…
Project Management Institute
Many years after leaving university, my then-fiancee-now-wife kept mentioning about this organization called PMI. At some point her whole professional life started revolving around project management. So eventually her goal was to establish local branch in city we live in, Szczecin.
Project Management Institute is a global organization, which goal is to be a centre of good practices regarding – yes, you’ve guessed correctly – project management. Ever since its foundation in 1969 PMI is striving to provide knowledge in this area, of which pinnacle is the Project Management Body of Knowledge. PMBoK is set of frameworks for each area of project management, widely regarded as one of the standards of the industry. PMI also offers one of the most recognized certifications for project managers on various levels, including Project Management Professional (PMP).
Around these goals there’s a number of initiatives PMI volunteers can contribute to. Organizing local seminars, conferences on national or international scale, leading charity or CSR projects, attending workshops, etc.. Possibilities are wide and as usual, it only depends on volunteers’ will and imagination what would be his or hers story in PMI. For me it’s a story of being responsible for the marketing and communication of local branch. This would also allow me take part of annual meeting of leading teams of branches from whole country.
Eventually I’ve been able to meet many fantastic people on various levels of professional experience, from various industries and companies. Being a little bit more aware of how I’d imagine my professional life, this is another great learning opportunity, especially in terms of broadening my professional horizons and areas of self-development. Also in contrast to AIESEC years, pretty much all PMI volunteers have full-time jobs and families, in many cases with kids, to take care of. So their involvement in PMI comes down to pretty much one thing. Exact motivations differ from person to person, but most people simply want to enjoy being a volunteer and whatever comes with it.
Yes, eventually it’s all about this – enjoyment. We all have our fair share of chores in our everyday’s life. Yes, we’re somewhat willing to spend more time working – for free – on the things thay may or may not give us certain benefits. Also looking from pragmatic point of view, it would probably look good in your resume. But in the end if it doesn’t give us feeling of accomplishment, fullfilment or simply put – fun, we’re in the wrong place.
I gave you two examples of my volunteer experience. I’m sure tough, that there are countless posibillities around you and at least one of them would be a great place for you! Give it a shot, who know, where it may take you?