As an undergraduate, I wanted to join a student-run organization on campus to volunteer and build other meaningful relationships beyond my classmates. I found AIESEC, an international platform for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential and instantly, fell in love with the organization.
A few months after I joined, I moved from being a member to a project manager for the Female Empowerment against Violence and Abuse project (FEAVA) and then President of AIESEC University of Lagos chapter, all within three years. Sure, I had lots of fun, travelled a lot and made lifelong bonds with different people from all over the world and outside my classmates, just like I originally wanted. I wasn’t surprise to find that in addition to the real-world skills gained, my experiences in AIESEC actually helped me get great jobs right after school. This was one of the benefits sold to me before I joined.
So, why is volunteering while on campus so important?
First and foremost, like all student-run organizations on campus, AIESEC had some of the characteristics of a business. It had a mission to develop leaders and activate their leadership skills. It is tied to projects, which means as members, we had to develop and implement projects just like in the real world. We then find sponsors for these projects while working under a very tight budget.
One of the organizations’ objectives was to build our membership base which in the real world, means to attract more customers. To do this effectively, we develop and execute marketing plans. We also raise more financial support through sourcing for strategic partners, and negotiating contracts for financial and in-kind gifts. Here, our alumni body comes in very handy.
With all these, members who actively participate automatically learn about business and the work environment from the inside out even before they graduate. When faced with interview questions relating to business problem-solving, an AIESECer usually has plenty of examples to give that will demonstrate they understood how businesses and the workplace operates. My AIESEC experience helped me get an offer of employment right after school and later served me well in jobs, even with starting my own business; Nzuriaiki.
To passersby, who saw us dancing and planning conferences, it would seem that all we did was raise money and have fun. But in actuality, we ran a full business enterprise.
Today, I encourage students to take advantage of student-run organizations while they are still on campus and learn what they can because it will benefit them in the future. The beauty of taking an active role in AIESEC when I joined is that the more I gave to the organization, the more I got out of it.
I started building my career in the nonprofit space in Nigeria by volunteering and that has helped me to gain and master business, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills that are so highly coveted by employers. My career success would never have been possible without volunteering. As an undergraduate, you too can start building your career by volunteering on campus.