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October 09, 2007

Want to make an impact, change the world and all that bollocks?

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I haven't updated this blog in sometime as I was manically busy over the summer. I now have two plugs to do, but I will make it interesting.

I've noticed several things over my time here at Warwick (as I have eyes, ears and a brain). 

- The desire of Warwick students and the Students' Union and other bodies on campus to want to 'make an  difference', 'change the world' etc. Many Warwick students are searching for the path to an ethical career, but finding that it is not easy to be ethical (after all, how does one easily assess what is good and what is bad).

- Attitudes towards enterprise and entrepreneurship. There are many Warwick students who aspire to run their own businesses or play a major role in society at some point in their lives. I am disappointed by students of other non-business/economics disciplines thinking that enterprise and entrepreneurship are something that they are not interested in. If you are passionate about people, animals, science, engineering, music, art, theatre, creativity, society, anything – taking that passion further is ultimately linked to enterprise and entrepreneurship – having the guts to do your own thing and ability to work with other like-minded people. Either way, I have found through my degree, that studying sociology (and psychology) gives you far more business acumen then any of my Business School modules and I run two enterprises of my own. Business is a human invention, markets are a human creation, wouldn't it make sense to study individual and social behaviour and practice?

- An interest from students in understanding and experiencing other cultures as exemplified by One World Week, WIDS etc.

So, given those trends, how many people have heard of AIESEC? It's actually the world's largest student-run organisation! The new exec and the exec before that are gradually raising awareness of the society around campus. Most haven't a clue what it is. Some think its just a business school thing.

AIESEC essentially develops people, gives them skills and real-life-experience, through either running or going on our exchange programme. I will look at running and operating the programme first, then going on the programme.

If you've ever had pretensions of running your own business, or social enterprise or anything (or being in any position of importance and seniority) you should get involved with AIESEC, and take up a role in our society where you will run your own small business while being a student. Your product? Graduates from overseas (usually with 1-2 years experience) who wish to gain international experience or start a career in the UK. Your customers? Local businesses, the public sector and charities who could benefit from having from having a graduate skilled in IT or engineering whom they cannot find in the UK or someone with actual sales and marketing experience for a tiny outlay. That company might be an SME who cannot usually get high-calibre grads. Essentially you get a great product to sell as you venture in the world of business. You will attend business meetings, make phone calls, attend networking events, meet and work with managing directors and influential people from all walks of life. You will build up contacts for yourself. You will give presentations and pitches for real products in real life. You will learn not through some skills session run by the Warwick Skills Certificate or some graduate employer, but by DOING. And yes, you can put it on your CV, if you really must feel the need to summarise yourself in a page or two (personally, I think I'm better than a generic and stereotypical document).

As a result of actually running my own enterprise with AIESEC, I have really improved my confidence, my communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills. That sounds rather hollow – what I mean is that I am more confident in my own opinion, more outgoing, I enjoy giving presetnations rather than being nervous, and I am more articulate and concise and good on the phone and write effective emails and know how to sell a proposal and the steps I should to take. I've been in charge of a team of 20 people. Over the summer, myself and our team of 5 were left to run the AIESEC exchange programme for the entire UK (all 23 AIESEC universities). I regularly apply what I've learnt by doing in AIESEC, in my degree and my business and other interests. These soft skills are what employers are CRYING out for. THEY FIND IT VERY HARD TO FIND PEOPLE WITH THESE SKILLS. And if you want to be a businessperson, an entrepreneur, or a politician, or a civil servant or an academic, or a lawyer, a scientist, a doctor, anyone...these skills will be essential. If you want to get anything done in this world, if you want to reduce poverty, spread Fair Trade or conserve the environment, you will need to master the above. You will need to be a good SALESperson. AIESEC has also made me more confident in myself. I've found I don't NEED to be someone else or change my opinions or act differently. I don't have to be cocky or very concise or to the point or impersonal to be successful in business or whatever I want to do. I can be my own strange self.

The second bit is EXPERIENCING our exchange programme, not running it. AIESEC was founded by a bunch of European students soon after the Second World War. They thought that the idea of exchanging students and graduates and arranging work placements for students in other countries might be a good way of getting people to understand others' cultures. As borne out by the 4000 exchanges AIESEC globally does per year, we have found that experience you get actually WORKING in another country is far more affecting and powerful than just going their on holiday. If you really want to experience life in Jordan, Afghanistan, Uganda or China, why not work there?. Interested in experiencing international development? Why not work for a local NGO or charity in a developing country and experience it first-hand on placement set up by students of that country, not some charge-alot-of-money-and-get-some-comparatively-contrived-experience scheme (BUNAC, Camp America) . AIESEC remains one of the cheapest work-abroad schemes out there (around £250, that you pay on selection not application, AIESEC UK, a charity, actually loses money on Work Abroad, we also sort all the hassle with finding and going on a placement – the scheme's by no means perfect, but it is good).

Keep on hearing about how China and India will rule the world and how those countries are the business place to be? Don't just talk about it in some crappy lecture, go there, do it, experience it for yourself!

AIESEC essentially develops people, gives them skills and real-life-experience, through either running or going on our exchange programme. Upon going to a recent AIESEC conference, I realised something. I was sitting in a circle of people who had spent their university days in AIESEC and I realised that they were really amazing people. People who can actually start successful businesses or be politicians and 'change agents' and 'leaders' and what not. People who realise that a graduate job is more than just working for a big accountancy firm – working for an SME, or a charity, or being an academic or running your own show is just as great and fulfilling. People who are informed and intelligent and understanding of others' opinions and knowledge, rather than just assuming or jumping to conclusions or thinking they know better. People who appreciate and understand reality . People who are sarcastic and enjoy irony and who are interesting and funny and have feelings and opinions and who have a PERSONALITY. These final qualities, I feel, are VERY IMPORTANT to the future progress and security of our planet, or whatever you want. Wouldn't you?

So if any of what I've said chimes with you, come along to the final AIESEC intro meeting, tomorrow (Wednesday 10th) at 5pm in room S0.20 (Social Studies Ground Floor). You don't have to be a business student as I have argued above. Yes, losers, AIESEC UK is sponsored by KPMG, UBS, PWC, Deloitte etc. etc. They come in and give us skills sessions which are excellent as they are often run by AIESEC alumni. Yes several AIESEC alumni are handed jobs in swanky companies and organisations on a plate. BUT THAT ISN'T WHY YOU SHOULD BE IN AIESEC (and those CV whores can bugger off). In addition, if you've ever thought of setting up your own business, enterprise or initiative of any sort or putting your ideas into action, Come along to R0.03/4 in the Ramphal building tomorrow, Wednesday 10th October, for a showcase event featuring AIESEC, SIFE, Warwick Entrepreneurs,, the Business Innovation and Marketing Society, the Make Your Mark! Campaign and the WBS Enterprise Hub. Your university years are the most free years of your life. Make the best use of your time here to gain contacts and support!

I won't be there as I am in a business meeting with an environmental consultancy in Leamington Spa, Encraft ( who have an AIESEC trainee (Pranay from India) with them at the moment, developing and marketing software to measure the carbon footprints of individuals and businesses. Now if anyone's saving the planet, Encraft and Pranay are.


>I make no apologies for the length of this post. You can read for God's sake and I reckon reading it was the most useful thing you've done today. These views are independent of AIESEC Warwick and AIESEC UK, registered charity no. 274779 . Organisations don't have opinions, you muppet, however people do. The person who has these opinions is me, so sue ME if you feel you need to. > <

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